Derek Gee feels mixed emotions a few days before the start of the Tour of Italy, which will be given on Saturday.

The only Canadian in the running, Gee is excited to take part in his first Grand Tour. But the 25-year-old Ottawan has a lot of respect for what’s to come: 21 stages and 3489.2 kilometers against the best in the world.

“A good dose of excitement and nervousness,” he said. For many reasons in both cases. It’s very exciting to join such a big competition and to be able to do it in my first year as a pro. At the same time, it is very intimidating, both in terms of the duration and the level of competition. So it’s a healthy mix of emotions, I think. »

Gee is part of the Israel-Premier Tech team. Former Canadian cycling star Steve Bauer is the sporting director of the team, which has Canadian founders and several other natives of the country on its staff.

Domenico Pozzovino will spearhead the team for this competition and Gee will support him. The 40-year-old Italian has taken part in 23 Grand Tours, including 16 Giros, finishing in the top 10 on seven occasions. He finished eighth last year, in the Intermarché-Circus-Wanty team.

Australians Sebastian Berwick and Simon Clarke, Italian Marco Frigo, American Matthew Riccitello, Welshman Stevie Williams and Dane Mads Wurtz Schmidt will complete the squad. Clarke will be the captain.

Israel-Premier Tech’s other Canadians — Guillaume Boivin, Hugo Houle and Michael Woods — won’t be there, but Gee has asked all three for advice.

“They are all experienced professionals. In all the races in which we participated together, they were generous with their advice. »

Several Canadians have made headlines at the Giro over the years. Ryder Hesjedal won the competition in 2012 and Svein Tuft wore the pink leader’s jersey in 2014, after he and his teammates at Orica-GreenEdge won the first stage, a team time trial.

Including the 2023 edition, a Canadian has taken part in the last 17 editions of the Giro.

The competition will kick off from Ortona, where a 19.6km time trial will take place, and end in Rome on May 28.

Gee, who signed a three-year contract with Israel-Premier Tech in May 2022, has competed in the Tour Down Under, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix until here this year.

He won the Canadian championship in the time trial in 2022 and is also an accomplished track cyclist, having finished fifth in the team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics, the best Canadian result in this discipline since 1932. He was also part of the team that finished fourth in the team pursuit at the 2019 Worlds.

Gee wants to continue competing on both fronts.

“It is clear that participating in the Paris Olympics motivates me to return to the track. I hope to pursue again. »