At three weeks long, the Giro provides plenty of time for a rider to crash, lose time, adapt their goals, swap roles with a teammate, and still have a pretty decent race (hey Mikel Landa). There’s so much time, in fact, that some riders will go to Italy with multiple options, a free role, or no idea what they want to achieve. There are plenty of exciting riders with big question marks against their names. Here are six riders to keep your eyes on.
Giulio Ciccone carries Bardiani’s best and most realistic hope of winning a Giro stage. In fact, it’s not much of a stretch to say he’ll be carrying the torch for the entire Pro Continental division when the race hits the mountains.
He’s already got a Giro stage to his name, getting the better of Damiano Cunego in 2016 at the age of just 21. But he was anonymous in last year’s race – as was the whole of Bardiani.
After an impressive performance in the Alps last month, Ciccone is dangerously close to breaching ‘Grand Tour No Man’s Land’. He could end up stuck between stage-hunting and a breakthrough GC result. What would you do?
Giulio Ciccone to finish in the top ten @ 13/2
I greeted the news that Alexandre Geniez would be riding for GC with mixed feelings. Is he actually good enough? He’s a decent all-rounder but I can’t really picture him delivering a cool seventh place on Mont Zoncolan.
Worse still, one look at the riders missing from the AG2R line-up will tell you that the team are obviously saving their heavy artillery for July. It’s a shame, because Geniez is a proven stage winner carrying good form. I would not be surprised to see him abandon the top ten battle and get into some very elite breakaways.
Alexander Geniez to win the King of the Mountains competition @ 40/1
I’ve bet on Patrick Konrad so many times this season already. As well as being Austria’s most talented GC prospect, Konrad possesses the sort of explosiveness which could help him turn measured rides into World Tour victories.
However, Bora will surely give team leadership to Italy’s Davide Formolo which puts Konrad in a tricky position. Formolo is capable of a huge performance in the mountains but it would be unfortunate if Konrad was made to work for the cause. I expect Bora to wait until the second rest day before evaluating the roles of their two exciting prospects.
Konrad to win any stage @ 7/2
Everybody’s been talking about Richard Carapaz from the moment the Giro route was announced.
Okay, that’s not quite true. Everybody’s been talking about Carapaz since last week where he won the Vuelta Asturias. He’s also helped by the fact that Movistar have decided to send all their captains to the Tour de France – opportunity knocks!
He’s a good climber and another rider who could ride his way to a big result. However, this is just his second Grand Tour and he won’t be feeling the pressure. I think he could be the 2018 King of the Mountains.
Carapaz to win the King of the Mountains competition @ 25/1
One of my favourite Giro performers! Enrico Battaglin was already a double Giro stage winner when he joined the World Tour with Lotto-NL Jumbo in 2016. However, he found himself in an unfamiliar position that May when asked to help defend the surprise Maglia Rosa of a flying Steven Kruijswijk.
Big opportunities have been hard to come by and his winless streak stretches back to 2014. Nevertheless, this year I expect him to be set free from domestique duties unless George Bennett finds himself fighting for the top five. Hurrah! Surely this is the time for Battaglin to shine; there are plenty of stages to his liking.
Battaglin to win any stage @ no odds available!
Gianluca Brambilla (or Niklas Eg or Mads Pedersen)
The Trek – Segafredo team is not looking good; there’s no Contador, no Mollema, no Nizzolo, no Degenkolb, no Felline…
Gianluca Brambilla leads the team and is apparently riding for a high GC result. Sponsors love the Giro and I’m not convinced that a GC campaign is their best option. The two-time Grand Tour stage winner was a peripheral figure at the recent Tour of Croatia. He’s another that I’m hoping switches to the King of the Mountains competition. Unfortunately, the Giro’s blue jersey seems far less popular than the Tour’s polka dots.
Trek’s race could be saved by Danish duo Niklas Eg and Mads Pedersen. After a strong spring, Pedersen looks a future Monument winner/World Champion/Danish sportsman of the year, whilst Eg could prove to be Trek’s secret weapon when the race hits the mountains.
Niklas Eg to win any stage @ 8/1
Mads Pedersen to win any stage @ 9/2