The Giro d’Italia starts on the 11th May. After last year’s road from Jerusalem to Rome, we return for a full-blooded Italian edition with the Grande Partenza in Bologna. In 2020 we’re set to start in Budapest with organizers sticking to their recent formula; odd numbered years for Italy, even numbers across borders. I tend to prefer the all Italian affairs with organizers striving to cover untouched corners of Italy and blending them with classic Giro action.
We begin with an 8km time-trial with a sting in its tail. It won’t define the race but should give an indication of who’s arrived hot. The next three stages combine to create a tough opening. Each provides its fair share of hills and over 200km of Italian road. Stage four ends with a 5% climb and I’ve already created my shortlist of firing puncheurs.
Despite a challenging day from Cassino to San Giovanni on stage 6, the sprinters have a handful of opportunities before the race reaches San Marino for another time trial on stage 9. By the end of that day, we should have a serious GC contender in the Maglia Rosa. The second half of the stage is almost entirely uphill with a big rise in the road coming after the final time check – we’ll be left relying on our eyes for the last 12km.
A couple of sprints should follow the first rest day before organizers crank up the difficulty. A short stage 12 tasks riders with the sharp Montoso climb but it’s the only obstacle on the way to a flat finish in Pinerolo. Stages 13 and 14 are true alpine tests with little time for riders to settle into their day’s work. Stage 15 will be familiar for Vincenzo Nibali – an almost identical finish to that of his Il Lombardia victories in 2015 and 2017. He’ll be confident he can deliver.
The Alps serve as an appetiser for the final week, where organizers up the difficulty once more. The Mortirolo arrives straight after the second rest day, and we get a near 9% obstacle to end Stage 17. They’ll be one last sprint opportunity before a crazy triple header ends the Giro d’Italia: Friday’s drag to San Martino is followed by a brutal shark-tooth Saturday, and Sunday’s frantic 17km time-trial in Verona.
Days To Book Off Work
- Tuesday May 14th – enjoy some Ardennes-style action on a unique route to Frascati
- Friday May 24th – Treat yourself to a long weekend by joining Eurosport for the start of the Alps
- Tuesday May 28th – Mortirolo after the rest day; need I say more?
- Friday May 31st – Looks gentle on paper but prepare yourself for sneak attacks and unexpected drama
Dumoulin vs. Roglic vs. Yates?
Rewind just a couple of years and it was difficult to know when somebody would breakthrough into stage racing’s big four of Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana. There was several exciting prospects (see: Romain Bardet) but the same names would head the antepost markets every year. The revolution has come sooner than expected thanks in large part to the transition of strongmen Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic. Taking the other route is Simon Yates, who last year added prowess against the clock to his natural affinity for the slopes.
Admittedly, Froome (heading to the Tour), Contador (heading into the sunset) and Quintana (heading into a black hole of mediocrity) will not start this Giro but you can’t help but feel we are preparing for a battle of this year’s three best stage racers.
Miguel Angel Lopez is a wonderful climber, particularly at high altitude, but it’s difficult to see him wrestling his time-trial losses back from the likes of Dumoulin without taking his form to a whole new level. His Astana team-mates look strong, but you get the feeling they are holding back something as Jakob Fuglsang looks to continue his best ever season with a charge at the Tour de France.
Ion Izagirre and Pello Bilbao are Astana’s best time-triallists and, should they earn protection, both could make the top ten.
Since winning the Giro in superb circumstances in 2017, Dumoulin has gone from strength to strength. Unfortunately, this hasn’t translated to another Grand Tour win (and he’s added just one GC of any kind in that period) but his two second places last season was perhaps the best Giro/Tour double in recent memory.
It’s strange then that Roglic, last year’s breakthrough act, may start the Giro as many people’s favourite. Dumoulin will be worried that Roglic will be his equal against the clock and his conquerer going uphill.
Yates was the revelation of last year’s Giro and wrote most of the headlines despite collapsing to a lowly 21st. He extinguished that ghost quickly by winning the Vuelta and may prove to be the peloton’s best climber when we hit the Alps.
As ever, Nibali will start the race as a close favourite. He is the finest all-round performer of this generation and will find something extra in the final week. He was going well when crashing out of the Tour last year and will fancy his chances against his younger rivals. The rumours say he is flying on training rides but he was only third best at the recent Tour of The Alps. Does that result matter? Probably not.
Old school Vincenzo
It’s difficult to argue a case for yesterday’s heroes Ilnur Zakarin and Bauke Mollema, but Davide Formolo (third at Liege) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (second at the Tour of the Alps) may be dreaming of a top five finish. Movistar should be captained by the forgotten man Mikel Landa, whilst Giulo Ciccone is my wild pick for the top ten. Unfortunately, this bunch of outsiders could all concede heavily in the time trials.
Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec (just Androni to most of us) brings, by far, the strongest squad of the four wildcard teams selected. I like the look of Matteo Cattaneo for a stage and possibly even the KotM competition.
Bardiani have a rich history of success at the Giro but their squad looks devoid of stage winners. If I had to get behind one of their hopefuls it would be Giovanni Carboni.
Israel Cycling Academy is another whose selection should flatter to deceive. Ruben Plaza is surely beyond his best years so Krists Neilands is their best hope for the breaks.
Nippo (Lobato, Canola, Lonardi, Santromita) should entertain and have just enough talent to get their colours on TV.
Cattaneo carries the biggest hopes for this year’s wild things. He went close last year and I think (and hope) he’ll grab a stage this time around. After a number of fantastic years in Italy, there’s been no wildcard winner since 2016.
Credit: Cycling Tips
Elia Viviani wins the points jersey. The current tricolore is faster and more motivated than rival Fernando Gaviria – not to mention his far more accomplished train. Caleb Ewan will likely pick off one stage.
Something Bold That Nobody Else Has Said
Enrico Gasparotto will nab himself and Dimension Data a stage win
Dumoulin wins the Giro, Roglic comes second, Landa third.
Yates to have a bad day, Nibali to fall short
Viviani wins the Maglia Ciclamino
Diego Ulissi to win two stages
Riccardo Carapaz, Ivan Sosa or Giullo Ciccone to win the KotM competition
Matteo Cattaneo to win a stage
Ivan Sosa to win a stage