Who Will Win The Giro?

With 48 hours to go time for a look at the contenders for the 2014 Giro. Nairo Quintana seems to be everyone’s pick but a lot of this is based on his ride in the Tour de France, an event now 40 weeks ago and plenty has changed in his life since. After Quintana comes the in-form Cadel Evans with Joaquim Rodriguez and Rigoberto Urán as the main pretenders for the podium and behind them a longer list.

But predictions are there to be demolished. Last year nobody could predict the weather and the racing was varied and often dramatic.

First a quick reminder of the race route. There’s one team time trial, a traditional 42km individual time trial and a mountain time trial and six summit finishes, all with the steep slopes particular to the Giro. A route for the climbers. There are time bonuses with 10 seconds six seconds and four seconds for the first three on all non-time trial stages.

Nairo Quintana is prime pick, a deduction derived from last year’s Tour de France. Because if the Tour de France is the ultimate contest then Quintana is the best in the Giro given the absence of Chris Froome. Look back the Colombian was second in the Tour de France despite two big mistakes. The first was on Stage 8 to Ax-3 Domaines when he took off over the Port de Pailhères before being caught at the foot of the final climb where he promptly lost 1.45 to Froome; had he sat tight until the last climb the losses would have been smaller. Next he was too active on Mont Ventoux, attacking early only to crack and lose 29 seconds. Would all of this have changed the final result in the Tour de France? No and that is the point: he finished second overall despite losing time with risky moves.

Quintana is known as an ace climber but increasingly good in time trials, witness the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial where he was 20th on the pan flat course. Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez wrote “wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good” but Quintana can defy his compatriot, he’s has accumulated enough wisdom by now. He can also call in full support from Movistar, even sprinter Fran Ventoso is merely a late injury replacement. Unsinkable? That’s what the shipbuilders of Belfast thought of the Titanic a century ago.

Today the big question mark over Quintana is his form. We simply don’t know what condition he is in because he hasn’t been racing. Instead he’s been at home and become a father in recent months, has this changed things? He started the year with a win in the Tour de San Luis, was second in Tirreno-Adriatico and fifth in the Volta a Catalunya. All solid but the momentum’s been in the wrong direction. And the Tour de France was 280 days ago. We’ll have to wait for Stage 8 to learn more.

Cadel Evans is my second pick and for all the contrary reasons to Quintana. If the Colombian is trading on reputation, Evans is the form pick thanks to his recent win in the Giro del Trentino. I had imagined the Australian would rise up the ranks during the three weeks through dogged consistency, much like he did last year. But his performance in Trentino was aggressive and incisive and it’ll have inspired even greater loyalty from his team. But can he beat Quintana? That’s the hard bit and he’ll have to fight for the time bonuses. As well as age – he’s 37 – a problem is the team. They’re very solid for the opening team time trial and the flatter days but come the high mountains and Samuel Sanchez seems to be the only certainty. The new recruit could be Plan B for the team in case the Aussie has a problem, this time last year he was an outsider for the GC.

Joaquim Rodriguez is the next choice. He’ll turn 35 next week and this is his time. The Spaniard was fourth in the 2011 Giro, second in 2012 and skipped the race in 2013. You sense he really needs to win this, coming second simply isn’t good enough any more after a string of near-misses in recent years.

Everything had gone well this year with a win in his home Volta a Catalunya and in classic style, he won the first mountain stage thanks to a powerful finishing kick but then came a crash in the Amstel Gold Race; we got reassuring noises he wasn’t injured but his results weren’t there. The other concern is his ability to lose a race: Rodriguez has finished nine times in the top-10 of a grand tour but has never won. 2012 saw him unable to distance Ryder Hesjedal ahead of the final time trial in the Giro and he was mugged by Contador on the road to Fuente De in the Vuelta. He can pull out a special time trial when needed but the problem for me is that everything Rodriguez can do, surely Quintana can do better? He’s got a good team and sidekick Dani Moreno is there for support in the high mountains and could make the top-10 too.

It’s hard to see Rigoberto Urán win outright but he can finish on the podium – just as he did last year despite riding the early part of the race in the service of Bradley Wiggins. Still 27, he’s been a pioneer and even the landlord for many of today’s Colombia escarabajos. He’s more Jagger than beetle but he’s just had the mullet shorn, a sign he’s serious. Plus he’s just finished fourth in the Tour of Romandie time trial. His problem is team support, he can count on help most days but will Wout Poels, Gianluca Brambilla and Thomas de Gendt be there in the high mountains? This situation should see him adopt the role of marking other moves and poaching stage wins, a pattern he’s exploited before with Team Sky.

Ag2r La Mondiale are having a great season. Can the piano-playing economist Domenico Pozzovivo supply more success? He was impressive in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, more so because he’d just finished second in the Giro del Trentino so going on form makes him the second pick. He’s got a solid team, they will lose time in Friday’s team time trial but afterwards should offer adequate support.

Astana won the race last year and return with a strong team but one where talent is spread across the roster rather than concentrated in one pair of legs. Nominally Michele Scarponi is tasked with leadership and bringing further glory to the Kazakh nation but they also have Fabio Aru waiting in the wings. Both have the potential to feature in the race but it would be more than an upset if they won again. The team is packed with stage racing talent notably Janez Brajkovič and Mikel Landa, a recent stage winner in Trentino.

By now we’re firmly into podium outsider territory. Garmin-Sharp come with Ryder Hesjedal, he’s won one stage race in his life: the Giro. Since his 2012 success the results have gone back to steady consistency. Dan Martin is racing and this could be his first real crack at the GC but he’s yet to make the top-10 in grand tour and past results suggest he’s better at winning big stages than riding steady for three weeks. The pair will be interesting to follow.

Tinkoff-Saxo bring the pair of Rafał Majka and Nicolas Roche. The Pole seems in better form and is aiming for a top-5 finish while Roche is a more punchy rider for stage wins, he’s moved up a gear as we saw in last year’s Vuelta. Lampre-Merida come with a top-heavy team with Damiano Cunego, Diego Ulissi and Przemysław Niemiec. Cunego reminded everyone he was still a pro during the Tour of the Basque Country but it’s Niemiec who represents the team’s best shot for the overall.

A year ago Team Sky got the top billing but how things have changed. Richie Porte lead and Sergio Henao’s got passport worries of the haematological kind. The result is a team that resembles a pirate ship with old hands and departing riders. They have hopes of a stage win and maybe a top-10 on GC. Dario Cataldo and the under-rated Kanstantsin Siutsou lead the charge.

Let’s skip through some more names. Trek Factory Racing’s Robert Kišerlovski is a good climber who could feature while, visa permitting, Julián Arredondo could shine in the mountains too and he’s got an explosive finish; Riccardo Zoidl‘s a potential top-10 candidate. Europcar’s Pierre Rolland made a late switch into the race. His abilities range from excellent climbing to a prodigious tendency to waste energy. Free from the pressure of expectant media he could shine with a stage win. Belkin bring two talents in Wilco Kelderman and Steven Kruijswijk and both need a result to translate promise into reality. Team Colombia come to animate the race and Fabio Duarte is their best bet for a stage win. Androni-Venezuala will look to do the same and Franco Pellizotti has reappeared on the form radar while young rider Diego Rosa is being tipped. Bardiani-CSF won a stage win in Trentino with Edoardo Zardini, a result that cannot be fluked so we should see him in the mountains. Cannondale have Ivan Basso but he’s only once been in the top-20 of a race all year. FDJ’s Alex Geniez took a great Vuelta stage last year and could repeat, cyclo-cross champ Francis Mourey is regular in this race too.

Nairo Quintana
Cadel Evans, Joaquim Rodriguez
Rigoberto Urán, Domenico Pozzovivo, Michele Scarponi
Majka, Niemiec, Duarte, Martin, Arredondo, Aru

Light field?
Is the race lacking superstar riders? It depends on your point of view. Yes compared to last year when Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali topped the bill and again because there’s no Chris Froome nor Alberto Contador this time. No if you have a longer memory and recall all the years the Giro resembled the Italian stage race championships and now many foreigners are targeting the race.

If celebrity spotting is your thing, wait for July but if you want a sporting contest, the proximity between the top contenders could make this a close race. Indeed a worry is Quintana proves too good: if last summer’s vintage has matured with age then we’d get a better contest in July.

59 thoughts on “Who Will Win The Giro?”

  1. As INRNG has so candidly pointed out, the fact that this Giro has no single stand-out contender will make it an interesting one for us arm-chair tifosi. Bring it on baby!:)

  2. To be fair to Quintana, his speculative attacks in the Tour were (in theory at least) to soften up Froome for Valverde before he lost all that time. Had he been team leader then, his tactics would (I think we can assume) have been a lot different. He’s also probably got the strongest team in the race behind him, which must help.
    On Purito, I think he admitted that he underestimated Hesjedal as a climber in 2012, a mistake that he probably won’t make with anyone again (although he was comprehensively mugged by Bertie in the Vuelta later that year).

    • True on stage 9 – but not the case by the time it came to st 15 on Ventoux, but which time Valverde had fallen right out of contention thanks to the echelons stage 13 and Quintana was riding for himself.

  3. I don’t think Quintana being too dominant will be a problem. There is still a 40 km time trial that he needs to deal with. In the last tour, he lost three minutes on a 30 km TT. I know Cadel Evans isn’t Chris Froome, but unless he cracks completely in the mountains Quintana will have to at least fight for the win.

    • Why should the TT be a problem for Quintana? It’s not a flat TT and Evans is not a dominant TTer.
      I see Quintana lose at max about 30-45 seconds from Evans, and this is nothing compared to the time Quintana will gain on Evans on the mountains!!
      I like Evans and he is a great man, but honestly he is too overrated this year

  4. Like many, I think it’s Quintana’s race to lose. Cadel will put up a brave fight but I cannot see him out-climbing Quintana in the last week. I would love to see Dan Martin stay healthy for all 3 weeks and race aggressively at the end. Any news on Purito’s injuries? That is the reason he pulled out of Liege, no?

  5. In the Giro & Tour from 2013 to 2014 it looks like some kind of sport promotion system has been applied to GC riders… The second and third of both races are now in the Giro, while both winner are riding the Tour! 🙂

    Looking at the top-tens of the three GT last year, eleven of the riders who were able to get a top ten placing will now feature in the Giro, thirteen chose the Tour (no Giro nor Tour for Santambrogio and Horner; the total is not 30 because Nibali, Valverde, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo appeared in two separate top ten).

  6. Are all these visa problems to do with the UK not allowing people in? If so, will this also affect people in the Tour?

    I hope that stage 16 takes place (the weather does not look promising for Stelvio) and a team tries to drop everyone (or most) from the Gavia… Hope Garmin use similar tactics to the TdF stage last year in the Pyrenees! Only such bold moves can derail Quintana and Purito…

  7. Who’s the oldest rider in the peleton? My money is on them…

    Seriously though, looking forward to see what Mother Nature has to throw at them – and for them all to finish safely.

  8. I wouldn’t personally put too much stock in Quintana’s TT ability based on the Tirreno-Adriatico final time trial alone. With Contador over two minutes in front of Quintana and Richie Porte out of the race, there were no threats left to Contador, so he could phone in a TT and win comfortably, which he did. The rest of the top 10 on GC were pretty much all pure climbers except perhaps for Kreuziger and he isn’t the strongest time trialist either. And as it was the last stage only a handful of specialist TTers were actually trying for the stage win, whereas in a grand tour TT in the middle of a race you would have far more people trying to register a strong time. Thus when considered in the context of the race, Quintana’s 20th place isn’t particularly impressive.

    Contrast this to stage 11 of the TDF last year where Quintana lost 3:16 to Foome in 33km of flat ITT; this does not bode well for the first TT in the Giro. Even on the hilly second TT that suited the Colombian’s abilities, he lost another 1:11 to Froome as well as a minute to Joaquim Rodriguez who is also comparatively weak in time trials.

    And of course while on paper everyone would agree that Rodriguez is the superior rider to Ryder Hesjedal, the fact remains that it’s Hesjedal who has a Grand Tour in his palmarès. My view is that, barring exceptional circumstances, in today’s sport, pure climbers can’t win Grand Tours

    Quintana is a fantastic climber, no question, but there is more, even to the Giro, than just climbing. Evans, Hesjedal and even Uran are more complete riders. I see Quintana as more like Andy Schleck in his prime, talented but limited, and, this is controversial I know, just as overhyped.

    • The Tirreno-Adriatico TT was also distorted by the outrider motorbikes, many of whom where too close to the riders. But in his support, this year’s time trial in the Piemonte is hilly, he should be able to limit his losses and he’s been in the windtunnel too and found improvements… but this uncertainty is what will make the race.

      • Very true, but I’d put that in the exceptional circumstances category. In that instance a weak field that was a combination of riders already tired from efforts earlier in the year (Nibali, Valverde, Rodriguez), and second tier contenders such as Nicolas Roche. This allowed someone like Horner to, I think most would agree, luck out. A good rider, but in any other year he’d probably be top 5 in the Vuelta at best.

        • He actually posted the second fastest time ever up the angliru, faster than contador in 2008. I agree there was a weak(ish) field, but there will be a weak field at the vuelta and giro for as long as all the top names target the tour, so for the foreseeable future the vuelta and giro will be where pure climbers can win.

    • I agree that there is a little too much hype for Quintana for the Giro, particularly since he hasn’t raced that much. While I would love it if my fellow Colombian wins this race, I would not be crushed if he didn’t. He’s still young and he’s learning to a be a team leader. As Andy Schleck has demonstrated, sheer talent only gets you so far. However, unlike Schleck, Quintana has actually won stage races 🙂

      • Let’s hope Quintana doesn’t phone it in because he was second-fiddled to Valverde and moneyed-interests for the Tour.


        Nairo Quintana is heading to the Giro d’Italia this year, but if it were up to him, he’d be racing the Tour de France. “I would have liked to raced the Tour again this year, but the team wants me to go to the Giro,” Quintana said. “The one who pays has the final say.”

        “I am going to the Giro at the behest of those who are paying my salary,” Quintana said. “It’s a decision that also takes into consideration the interests of the sponsors and [Alejandro] Valverde. … I wanted to go to the Tour, but we don’t have a leader for the Italian tour.”

        • I have wondered about that too. He’s made more noises about wanting to return to the Tour and there’s the chance he quits the race and then says he wants to ride the Tour. But he seems content to give Valverde a last shot this year. A full tilt at the Giro would be a fine step before trying the same in Tour next year.

          • Just my opinion but everything I’ve learned about Quintana leads me to think he’ll go about things in the most professional way at the Giro, and is unlikely to sack off before the finish so that he can try and get a Tour ride.

          • I can understand his disappointment but I think its important to learn how to win a grand tour, especially when you are one of the favorites and not a surprise contender, and I hope Quintana will take advantage of this opportunity.

    • Quintana can pull out a decent TT when there’s a few hills and he can win overall.
      Example is Pais Vasco last year. 24k with 3 hills.
      Quintana finished 2nd to Tony Martin, but ahead of better TTers like Porte, Spilak, Peraud, Contador and Talansky.
      Any losses from the first TT he can more than make up in the second mountain TT.

  9. Uran Uran’s 2nd last year was one of the most under-rated performances of the year – it seemed to get lost in all the “Sky were shit at the Giro” comments after Wiggo’s debacle.
    His ride in Romandie seemed exactly what you’d look for in a rider coming to form, and using races as a tune up – riding at threshold in the mountains, followed by a strong TT.
    Shame he’s lost the mullet tho.

    • He probably heard Hutch saying that the hairstyle would cost him about 15 secs due to the poor aerodynamics. Although Hutch isn’t exactly one to talk!

  10. I’m just so looking fwd to seeing Cuddles griiinding his way up the climbs, looking like he’s dragging a tyre, but somehow staying in touch…

  11. just read Robert Millar’s review of the race – basically agrees with what’s on here.
    …not sure he’s getting a job with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board anytime soon tho….

  12. There will be at least 3 Irish boys on the podium. Paddy Uran/Paddy Quitana and Nico! Think Nico more of a chance to be in top 5 than Danno, but i’ll take a Celt to win. Where Ever Green Is Worn

  13. The lack of an out and out main contender will truly make this a great race. Would like to see Dan Martin come to the fore as a major 3 week contender. Maybe we will witness this over the next 3 weeks. And here’s hoping for great weather in Ireland this weekend, give the pink a nice blue backdrop.

  14. More than ever this Giro will be about holding form until the last week. The climbing tt is as long as the Barolo one in terms of time and the same difference in power will yield a larger time difference. With the steep uphill finishes a climber that finds form after two weeks can claw back a few minutes in the last three mountain stages alone.
    Do wr have any indication on Quintana’s dealing with cold and snow? Let’s hope all the stages can go through as planned but for sure there will be cold days.

  15. There are a few stages with a small uphill finish that you would think a classics contender like Gilbert or Sagan could target, except there is hardly any of them riding since they need the rest. Any thoughts on contenders for those stages?

    • I’ll run through the sprinters and some others later today. There are some classics riders in the bunch, think Boasson Hagen, Diego Ulissi and Damiano Cunego, Enrico Gasparotto, Nathan Haas, Moreno Moser, Angel Vicioso, Enrico Battaglin and Michael Matthews too.

  16. I love the Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez (RIP) reference. One of the things I love about cycling is the magical mixture of different protagonists and the respect for past events in history, so 100 Years of Solitude could be a great allegory – shame he never wrote a book about cycling…

  17. So the 2012 winner who was in the top 3 the first week of 2013 until he fell ill doesn’t even get one a one ring rating? I can be accused of looking through rosa coloured glasses, as I from Victoria, but if Ryder is healthy and finishes, he will be on the podium. in this sport, you must be lucky to be good, and avoiding calamity and illness is always the wild card.
    I can see Dan Martin, who is very unproven in a long GC, becoming the stage hunter / top lieutenant if Tyder has a similar start to the 2013 Giro.
    JV probable smiling to himself about Ryder’s low profile again. The big diesel knows what it takes to win, and is suited for this race. Less than top 5 would be a surprise to me if he is Garmin’s man.

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