Who Will Win The Giro?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

With Nairo Quintana out of the picture the 2015 Giro d’Italia is likely to feature Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Urán again but they’ll have to confront Alberto Contador and Richie Porte too. Four riders in search of a podium? It could be a Pirandello play but it’s the 2015 Giro d’italia.

First let’s scan the route. As it’s the Giro there are many days with surprises and uphill finishes but it’s the final week of the race that’s decisive with the 59.4km time trial and then the westward traverse of the Alps. There are summit finishes but none are that fierce, selective yes but the hardest stages place the tough climbs before the finish: the Passo Daone before Madonna Di Campiglio, the Mortirolo before Aprica, the Colle delle Finestre before Sestriere. Take a gamble here with an attack and a rider could win minutes, especially if their rivals are left without team mates.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador is the first choice. The Spaniard has a long record of success in grand tours, including the Giro. He is the reputation pick because we don’t have much to go on form-wise. He hasn’t raced since the the Volta a Catalunya in March and his training been disrupted by a fractured sacrum after his Catalonian crash from which he’s made a full recovery were told. 2015 hasn’t been a roaring success, he’s done three stage races and finished second, fifth and fourth overall, a change from the usual guns-blazing “Pistolero” act but part of a plan to keep his powder dry for the Giro-Tour doppio.

Compared to the early season races this Giro suits him a lot more with big mountain stages to build a big lead. He’ll need this because the 59km Valdobbiadene time trial doesn’t suit him, gone are the days when he’d win a long distance time trial. That said it comes late in the race and as the cliché goes it’ll be more a test of freshness than raw power: he should be good likely to lose seconds to some rivals.

The worry is a repeat of 2011 when Contador took the maglia rosa on Monte Etna after and held the jersey for the remaining two weeks but fortunately he has every incentive to avoid this, the course gets gradually selective rather than providing a giant mountain to start. Also he needs to win by economy and avoid the daily fatigue of leading the race with its media commitments. Tinkoff-Saxo looks solid with Ivan Basso setting the tempo in the mountains. Roman Kreuziger, pending prosecution, has gone for the GC in this race before and could well get in the top-5 if he can rediscover the form he had in the 2013 Tour de France. One change is the absence of Bjarne Riis but the Giro shouldn’t be about tactical ambushes. For now he’s seem by many as the certain winner but with the Giro-Tour double in mind what if he crashes or gets a little ill, if he’s out of the “fight for pink” will he soldier on and gamble on his luck improving in the third week… or retreat to advance better come July?

Richie Porte is the form pick. If Contador hasn’t won much this year Porte has a win rate to rival the likes of Alexander Kristoff and Mark Cavendish and stands on nine wins including the overall in the last three stage races he’s ridden. It’s all in the Team Sky model of winning stage race after stage race so that the big rendez-vous just becomes a repetition, a habit. So much for the past, turning to the next three weeks he should thrive in the long time trial and has been climbing better too. So far so good but can he cope with repeated efforts in the high mountains? His career so far has seen grand tours go from catabolism to catastrophe: he’s only ever made the top-10 in a grand tour once before and that was in 2010 when be benefited from the L’Aquila maxi-breakaway, he’s been prone to a jours sans or more. To help comes a very strong team with Leopold König as a back-up plan while Kanstantin Siutsou and Vasil Kiriyenka provide the locomotives to Sky’s mountain train. If Porte can’t win he’ll take a podium especially if he can sap Contador to help his friend and team mate Chris Froome.

Rigoberto Urán is the steady choice. Aged 19 he was riding as pro in Italy, he’s fluent in Italian and at ease in the Giro. Despite a tough upbringing where he worked as a street seller after his father was murdered he’s since escaped the stereotype of Colombian peasant climbers to become an urbane type who excels in time trials more than the high mountains. This year’s relatively soft route helps him. He was second in the Giro last year but only after he was stuffed on the Stelvio by Nairo Quintana. Could he have won? Quintana proved the best on Monte Grappa but the lesson is Uran was almost his equal over three weeks. His form seems good, he didn’t stun anyone in Romandie but he didn’t last year either. He’s got a solid team for the flatter stages but can anyone back him up in the high mountains? Pieter Serry and Maxime Bouet are good but aren’t normally front group lieutenants.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru is the home pick and could become Sardinia’s greatest export since Ichnusa beer. After reports of intestinal illness and ejecting five kilos he’s skipped recent races so his form is unknown. But if he’s on the same level as last year whether the Giro or Vuelta he’ll be a good podium pick. As for the win that long time trial won’t help at all. Look at the Vuelta last year where in the 36.7km TT stage to Borja he lost 1.48 to Uran and 1.24 to Contador, now add on 20km and extrapolate the damage he’ll suffer. It’s an area to improve and where gains come with work and experience so expect narrower gaps but time losses none the less. As a result he has to go on the attack in the moutnains and he’s shown the flair to do this in the past. If you don’t like the idea of an Astana rider romping across the mountains maybe avoid watching the final week. He has time on his side and if he’s convincing in the mountains RCS will be plotting a vertical route for 2016. He’s got a strong team too for all terrains.

Domenico Pozzovivo

Four ahead of the others. Who else is there? Domenico Pozzovivo is Ag2r’s leader and returns to improve on his fifth place last year. The long trial won’t help, he has surprised sometimes against the clock but the sheer length and flat first half of the TT will be a real disadvantage. Carlos Betancur rides too and the word is he’s getting into shape. He’s still a work a progress but remember he’s outsprinted John Degenkolb uphill when overweight and after two weeks under the thumb of his team he could come alive late in the race. That’s future conditional but his past record in time trials is imperfect.

Movistar have a quintet in Igor Anton, Benats Inxausti, Ion Izaguirre, Jesus Herrada and Ruben Fernandez. Five outsiders compared to last year’s top pick of Nairo Quintana. A stage win and two of these in the top-10 would do nicely, the numerical advantage is good but it’s hard to see these riders taking turns to sock it to Contador in the mountains. Anton is a top climber and a late addition to the team thanks to great form while Inxausti and Izaguirre are safer bets for stable progression. They might not win the race but could prove tactically crucial for others.

Damiano Cunego has become cycling’s version of Ötzi, the man who froze in the mountains and was never seen again for eons. But something is thawing and he’s begun to get results again this spring. Fifth overall in the Giro del Trentino, Third in the Giro dell’Appennino suggest he could a surprise in the Giro. But he’s been defined by that precocious Giro win in 2004 and has been chasing stage race success ever since. He’s probably a better one day racer. As such don’t be surprised if he snags a stage win and even the maglia rosa in the opening week although his modest Nippo-Vini Fantini team will struggle in the opening time trial.

Ryder Hesjedal leads Cannondale-Garmin with Davide Formolo along for the ride. Hesjedal has a confounding palmarès, his 2012 Giro win was no fluke as he battled away anything his rivals could throw at him on the way to Milan but otherwise he’s got just two Vuelta stage wins from a pro career that’s lasted over a decade. But the course suits his build and steady style and at 34 he’s on hand to school the 22 year old Formolo, seventh in last year’s Tour de Suisse and second to Vincenzo Nibali at the Italian championships plus he’s quietly stood on several podiums this year. The Italian’s shed weight and below 5% body fat but the time trial stage will be twice as long as anything he’s done before.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck of Lotto-Soudal is a similar rider to Hesjedal: very few wins but he’s got third in the 2010 Tour de France. He could fly under the radar until the time trial stage and then use the final week to start rising up the rankings with a series of regular placings while others fluctuate. It’s not exciting to watch but it’s effective for him and his team with a razzia of ranking points.

Przemysław Niemiec is Lampre-Merida’s GC man and has been sixth overall before. He’s been useful in short time trials but is yet another who will flounder like a fish out of water in the 59km time trial. The same for Orica-Greenedge’s Esteban Chaves, the Colombian however should be good value in the mountains. Steven Kruijswijk has an affinity for the Giro having first come to the fore with third place on a stage aged 22 in 2010 and then cracked the top-10 in 2011. Now 27 time is running out to get better or to put those wide-shoulders into service as windbreak for a team leader: the Giro is the goal and he’s been training on Teide for this. The stealth name is BMC Racing’s Daniano Caruso, ninth in the Vuelta last year. Passport forger Franco Pellizotti leads the Androni team but his best days seem behind him, he’s now an outsider for a stage win rather than the GC.

Ilnur Zakarin

Finally Katusha turn up with Ilnur Zakarin. The “Crane of Tartarstan” has been the revelation of the season thanks to his Swiss sorpresissima. He is in his first year in the World Tour and already he’s been able to look down on the likes of Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana, whether on the side of a mountain or the top stop of a podium. This alone makes him a curious prospect but his novice nature means lasting three weeks is something else plus for once Katusha look relatively weak with only Yuri Trofimov for the hillier stages. With his rangy build will he do a Franco Chioccioli and lead the race almost from start to finish or is he the next Vladimir Karpets, a mullet on a mission but denied the promise of youth?

Alberto Contador
Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte, Fabio Aru
Domenico Pozzovivo
Roman Kreuziger
Inxausti, Izaguirre, Van Den Broeck, Zakarin

Comment: lots of names but most will want to vanish for two weeks, to stay in contention but out of the limelight so that they can strike during the final week.

Contador is the obvious pick. His might want a three week rampage but neutrals will hope his lack of racing, a moderate strength team, at least compared to Sky and Astana, and the need to think of July invite him to race more cautiously and leave space for others. Uran, Aru and Porte are probably everyone else’s podium picks too which is a concern if we have so few obvious contenders, it hints at a fight for the podium rather than for first place.

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Richard May 6, 2015 at 9:06 pm

As he regularly manages in Grand Tours, Maxime Monfort will finish 14th without anyone noticing.

Ferdi May 6, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Maxime Confort, that is.

The Inner Ring May 6, 2015 at 11:04 pm

A good guy with all round talents who has dedicated himself to riding for others.

Sam2 May 6, 2015 at 11:07 pm

+1

Be a bit busy up front if every single rider in the peloton decided they were going to be leader

Ferdi May 7, 2015 at 7:47 am

That’s what we want and how it used to be.

Sam2 May 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Um..no. Living in the past and in dream world, I’m afraid.

Dave H May 7, 2015 at 5:31 pm

It may have been that way back before the First World War but the concept of teams riding in support of leaders has been the norm for 70 years or so now.

paddydunne May 6, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Rigoburto to winch himself onto the top step of the podium after putting time into everyone in the TT. I think training on home roads back in Colombia will be the key to having a successful Giro.

Foley May 6, 2015 at 10:42 pm

He’s not going to get out-mulleted without a good fight either.

Carton May 6, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Nice one. Weakish team for holding a lead though the Alps as pointed out in the excellent preview, though.

OJT May 6, 2015 at 9:48 pm

Good call regarding Sardinian exports: I love Ichnusa.

Gareth May 6, 2015 at 10:48 pm

To make the race interesting I hope Porte or Uran can give Contador a run for his money. The problem is Porte always seems to have that jour sans and Uran never seems quite good enough for that top step. I think the best bet would actually be Koing. He could be allowed to quietly slip away as everyone else is watching each other and really take the race to contador.

The Inner Ring May 6, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Let’s hope so, some kind of surprise scenario is needed. To help the route places the key climbs as penultimate ascensions so if climbers want to exploit the slopes they have to take off early.

Ferdi May 7, 2015 at 7:49 am

That’s the best feature of this Giro, along with a serious TT. I hope it is a real success, and other stage races, big or small, take a cue.

RocksRootsRoad May 6, 2015 at 11:50 pm

A “mullet on a mission”. A definite laugh out loud moment.

HWSB May 7, 2015 at 12:14 am

And of course…
“That’s future conditional but his past record in time trials is imperfect.”

maximflyer May 7, 2015 at 7:08 am

Let’s not forget Ötzi. Hilarious.

Meadowbank Plumber May 7, 2015 at 2:32 am

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Vincenzo May 7, 2015 at 5:06 am

I think Pozzovivo can podium, he was third in catalunya, and better than Contador at Tirreno, plus he is a better ‘pure’ climber than Uran while Aru will struggle with initial fitness.

Henrik May 7, 2015 at 5:42 am

Sylwester Szmyd (CCC Sprandi) is going to race his 12th Giro (!) and first time as a leader for his new team. He is aiming for top 10 as his last post says, http://www.sylwesterszmyd.pl/?p=3014.

Rusty chain May 7, 2015 at 7:42 am

Henrik while I would like to believe I don’t think Szmyd has broke out of a domestique mentality. He will not be in the top twenty and very early in the race he will revert to riding for Paterski. If he has a good day maybe top three on a mountain stage but I don’t see him winning – no killer instinct to finish it off. Paterski on the other hand is experienced, form of his life and capable of top fifteen GC finish.

david p May 7, 2015 at 7:17 am

I wonder if Ulissi will justify the faith that Lampre have shown. He hasn’t done much since his return, but could be saving himself for the race where he did so well last year *cough cough*

The Inner Ring May 7, 2015 at 10:51 am

I’ll do a separate piece on the non GC riders likely to animate the race and he is a candidate.

david p May 7, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Brilliant. If you could just do it in time for the velogames deadline that would be much appreciated 😉

Anonymous May 7, 2015 at 7:30 am

Hope there’s no more remarkable peformances from Ilnur Zakarin

Vanilla_Thrilla May 7, 2015 at 11:23 am

As Mr Ring put it in his Romandie wrap up “climbing faster than Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana … out-rid[ing] Tony Martin in a technical time trial …”

While it’d be more reassuring to see a less, shall we say, dominant performance from Zakarin over 3 weeks, there is a small part of me that would love to see Contador’s face if he ends up standing below Zakarin on the podium.

noel May 7, 2015 at 9:24 am

so Quickstep and Movistar should definitely do a backroom deal…. you help Uran win the Giro, we’ll help Quintana win the Tour… with that Movistar quintet behind him on the hilly stages messing with the other favourites, I’d back Uran for sure

Anonymous May 7, 2015 at 10:10 pm

That would be a strategy for the history book. I would love that.

Dr Manhattan May 7, 2015 at 10:27 am

1. Porte. In form, strong team. It’s now or never.
2. Uran. Stealth ride to his usual podium place.
3. Aru. More likely to snatch a couple stages than the GC. Too bad his preparations went down the toilet.

GeorgeY May 7, 2015 at 11:37 am

@DR Manhattan
“Aru… Too bad his preparations went down the toilet.”
Ha, ha nice one sir!

hoh May 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

Is the Porte flop thing a bit of a “hype”?

He’d only been leader/co-leader in a grand tour during the 2013/14 TDF. Sure, 2014 TDF was a big flop but he wasn’t good throughout the year. On the other hand, the 2013 big loss on stage 9 was more a sacrifice for Froome so that the latter could catch the front group and he was there every big mountain stage, even dropped back on one stage to get that 2000 Swiss Franc gel for Froome.

Sam2 May 7, 2015 at 10:40 am

Yeah – I think this ‘he ALWAYS has un sans jour’ has become a bit overdone

The point you made about the 2013 Tour and THAT stage is very sound. He popped because Sky lost their heads when being attacked and quickly he was the only one left helping Froome. He killed himself, took an hour or so to regroup himself and then he was coming back to that front group & it took MOV putting their entire team on the front to fend him off. As you say he was strong every other stage, incl the ones into Gap, Ventoux and the Alpe (stronger than Froome there).

Last year’s Tour…he was in no fit state, race days-wise or form-wise to be named a co-leader going into the race. Brailsford used him as a pawn to try to deflect all the criticism for the team selection.

Sam2 May 7, 2015 at 10:41 am

^un jour sans, even!

The Inner Ring May 7, 2015 at 10:52 am

True and that’s why he’s still a top pick given his form this week. But there is something to prove over three weeks.

Dr Manhattan May 7, 2015 at 11:42 am

Yeah, the Porte Jour Sans is up there with other mythical creatures like the Curse Of The Rainbow Jersey.

Richard S May 7, 2015 at 10:40 am

I’m tempted to say Porte or Uran. I think that time trial might be a deal breaker for Alberto. The only problem for Uran is a lack of help in the hills, but Porte won’t suffer from that. I think you’re right though, all the big hitters will be keeping their powder dry until the last week. There’s a chance for someone to hold the pink jersey for a long time, a la Voeckler with the yellow jersey in 2011.

Carton May 7, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Don’t know about that. Don’t see Aru (if recovered), Contador (not in his DNA) & particularly Pozzovivo wanting to keep their powder dry for long. Uran will probably try to ride defensively but he doesn’t have the team to control the race. So the race will probably be run at whatever pace Sky wants to set. They’ve been fairly aggressive as of late but must be wary of overcooking Porte in a three-week race. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I have a feeling Contador will manage to acquit his time-trialing, though.

Dave May 7, 2015 at 10:47 am

I support anyone to win the Giro, with the only following three criteria:
A) They don’t ride for team with a doping DNA
B) They have never been banned for doping (regardless of excuse)
C) They have not got “training plans” from doping doctors/coaches
#KickDoppersOut

garuda May 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Can you think of anyone to back then? Porte C, Contador B, Aru A, Uran A, Koenig transitive C. Domenico transitive A. Then everyone else on the list is a B or transitive A.

Anonymous May 8, 2015 at 9:20 pm

And with that mentality you may as well not bother watching cycling.

Augie March May 7, 2015 at 11:05 am

Sky have sent a really strong team to back Porte’s tilt. I thought he would be heading up a gaggle of the also rans with guys like Nieve, Koenig, Kiryenka etc saved for Froome’s TDF bid. Perhaps the insiders at Sky have more faith in Porte prevailing at the Giro than they do Froome at the Tour, based on results and performances so far this year that might turn out to be the case.

Sam2 May 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

Maybe. From the time Froome banged on about preferring to do the Giro, to his not-quite-up-to-the-mark-by-his-standards ride at Romandie, he hasn’t been convincing this season to date.

Augie March May 7, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I reckon Froome really wants to do the Giro and he’s made no secret of his fondness for the Vuelta (after all, it saved his career in 2011), but suspect his team and sponsors put their foot down and tell him to forget about it because they think no one other than hardcore tifosi (and people who spend their free time commenting on pro cycling blogs) care about the grand tours that don’t happen in France. Maybe if he wins another tour and/or Sky throws a million at Adam or Simon Yates to become their “proper” British GC guy then, and only then, will he be free to ride where he wants to.

Sam2 May 7, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Like MTN-Qhubeka? 🙂

I think he threw a little hissey fit over the Tour route – between him, his wife and his management company he had his statement out within minutes of the TT-lite route being announced.

Then his employers reminded him who actually pays the bills, which gives them the right to determine where they want him to ride.

🙂

Augie March May 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Possibly, Froome will probably end up as a DS at MTN once he retires anyway, he always said he wanted to do something for African cycling and good on him for that.

I remember his hissy fit, can’t totally fault him though, he’s the model of what a GC rider should be in that he’s strong in time trials as well as on the climbs, and then the ASO went and designed a route specifically to suit Thibaut Pinot. I’m sure his missus (and his omnipresent cat) shared Froome’s disappointment, but as this is the 30th anniversary of the last French TDF win, he’ll just have to suck it up since that’s what he’s paid millions to do.

hoh May 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Cycling value-wise, Giro-Vuelta double would have more precious than another Tour win, especially after Lance.

But then again, sponsor probably decided that anything outside France is not valuable, and off Froome goes to France. It’s probably just my imagination, but would he deliberately underperform in July (probably not injury but say, catch a bug) in order to get another crack at Vuelta? I suppose that’s too much into the arena of conspiracy theory.

And again, he’s not that much a personalty as Wiggo. Wiggo could bring British attention to any race (hence the British Media focus on Giro during 2013).

Augie March May 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm

I think he will be okay to try for the Vuelta if he wants it, but as we all seem to agree, Sky’s priority is their man turing up in July as fresh as possible. If Froome wins the Tour he can then say he’s going for the double, if he doesn’t prevail in Paris he can always seek redemption in Spain as so many do.

Tovarishch May 7, 2015 at 7:04 pm

hoh – Funny thing is that Sky Italia contribute towards the team whereas, I don’t believe, Sky have any presence in France. You would have thought the Giro would be the advertisers priority.

Anonymous May 7, 2015 at 7:28 pm

– Tovarishcn
Sky has an Italian link, but I don’t think the sponsorship money came from Sky Italia though.
Business wise, Sky always considered “Sky Itlia” an outsider, sort of an adopted son left by some distant relative.

For Sky, FOX’s American influence seems more important, and they are certainly mainly concerned with domestic British Market which recognise TDF only.

Nick May 8, 2015 at 2:59 am

Sky might have an Italian sponsor, but the overwhelming majority of casual punters (who advertisers are trying to sell to after all) have difficulty in naming any bike race other than the TdF.

Larry T. May 7, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I’ve read a few English-language bits about this year’s Giro d’Italia that strongly imply 2015 is some sort of “Giro-lite” edition. While I’ll admit the organizers are not above a travesty like the joke course put together to lure BigTex to come over (2009?) this year’s Corsa Rosa looks plenty tough to me. If someone showed an elevation profile like this (without any place references) and said it was the next TdF I think there would be plenty of “Wow, what a tough course!” discussions. As much as I like Aru, it’s tough to be supportive of his team. I like Il Pistolero’s challenge to win both the Giro and Tour but his team and Porte’s don’t do much for me either. That leaves Pozzovivo as the pure passion choice and Uran as a sentimental one. I look forward to lots of interesting analysis from Mr. Inrng and all the great commenters he brings together. W Il Giro!!

irungo txuletak May 7, 2015 at 12:47 pm

If we get vintage Kontador, he will prove to be unbeatable. The thing is he tried to prepare himself to double Giro / Tour. This may imply not to be in his best shape at least in the beginning of the Giro. With great and in shape contenders as Porte (and maybe zakarin…), this may make things difficult. Conclusion: I don’t expect a dominant Kontador, and I predict that Porte will put him under pressure in the first 2 weeks of the Giro (before vanishing?). Uran and Zakarin can also be very problematic for him since they are better in the TT.
On Maxime Monfort, an anonymous top 15 seems a good bet to me! Note the route is good to him with no big climbs and a long TT at the end…

Robert May 7, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Ultimately and forgive me if i am wrong.

Its all about Adam Hansen for me. What a beast.

noel May 7, 2015 at 4:05 pm

+1 I really hope he wins another epic stage in the pouring rain…while drinking a beer…and grinning his head off… he’s awesome.

Augie March May 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Oh, and INRNG, that’s a fantastic picture of Ryder Hesjedal. Any context for it?

The Inner Ring May 7, 2015 at 4:14 pm

No, just a photoshoot during the Giro. There are wolves across Italy in the mountains and places with information about them.

thierry Mtl May 7, 2015 at 7:14 pm

The suspicious Katusha team is everywhere this spring. The team suddenly became so succesful. Everything they try, they win.
So why not the Giro with Zakarin ?
Because Porte and Contador drink at the same fountain … for a longer time.

Sam2 May 7, 2015 at 7:17 pm

very lyrical

Anonymous May 7, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Very passive-aggressive, as your posts so often are.

Dan May 7, 2015 at 8:37 pm

This has a real danger of becoming a snooze fest, with Uran’s propensity to make the podium without ever threatening for the win, and Porte’s frequent jour sans, as was so elegantly put. To use a less elegant phrase, lots of shrapnel in the race with oft-injured or over the hill contenders looking to roll back the years.

Fingers crossed it’s still worth a watch in Week 3

Larry T. May 8, 2015 at 7:49 am

Would you care to list any recent editions of La Corsa Rosa which fell into your “snooze fest” category?

BigWheels May 8, 2015 at 11:17 am

Does anyone know the name of the cycling event in Ballarat on Friday, 15 May?

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