The Giro d’Italia Contenders

Three weeks to the Giro d’Italia and if the start itself feels like a stunt too far there’s still a race behind it so here’s a quick look at where the contenders are at. The Tour of the Alps runs from Monday to Friday next week and will give us a better look at their form so ahead of all of this here’s the chance to look back at results, issues, contractual concerns and more.

Defending champion always feels like the wrong term in cycling as there’s nothing to defend at the start of the race: everything is reset, everyone is back on the same time. Still experience and the victory count for Tom Dumoulin as he delivered a convincing win last year. Now he presents us with two contrasting scenarios. Remember if it wasn’t for that intestinal imbroglio on the Umbrail he could have won in Milan by three minutes; if he hadn’t lost Wilco Kelderman perhaps he could have done even better? He was the strongest rider and now returns to a race with a course that seems to have been designed for him with more steady ski-station climbs than usual plus two time trials stages totalling 44km which may not sound like much but remember today’s exchange rate where even short time trials open up gaps that the summit finishes often cannot. But the other story is one of pressure and expectation, a winter spent honouring too many commitments and then a start to the season where he’s been playing catch-up ever since… but he had a discreet approach this time last year too. He’s worked out that fructose and lactose cause him digestive problems so it looks like digestive concerns could be resolved. He won’t be riding the Tour of the Alps but will ride Liège. In the Giro he’ll be joined by the promising Sam Oomen.

Chris Froome is a bit like the Giro’s decision to start in Israel: you may prefer to talk about the racing but it’s difficult because of all the noisy peripheral issues. He’s generated more headlines linked to procedural matters than race results this year and is still in an awkward limbo following his Vuelta AAF: permitted to race but with unanswered questions. If readers of this blog know about salbutamol thresholds, adverse analytical findings the Italian public may not grasp such nuances and he’s now a harder sell than he was when unveiled as the star attraction when the route was unveiled late last year. But whether you have the WADA Code saved on your phone for easy reference or you’re the most casual fan nobody can explain why it’s taking so long, or at least will go public on this. Otherwise there’s not much to go on, he was amiss in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ruta Del Sol where in each case his team mates performed better. But his approach to stage races has changed, in the past it involved winning the GC in each race he entered in the path to the Tour de France but last year he won the Tour de France after struggling in build-up events. Wout Poels rides too and we’ll see if he’s there for support only or as an alternative GC candidate, he looked in contention to win Paris-Nice before crashing out with a broken collarbone but has recovered and set to start the Amstel Gold Race.

Miguel Lopez took two stage wins in the Vuelta and and placed second and third on two more mountain stages. But can he be consistent? He lost time on other days in the mountains, notably on the Angliru. He’s had a steady start to 2018, effectively sharing the win in Oman with team mate Alexey Lutsenko. A podium would be a big success for the 24 year old.

Thibaut Pinot is among the few riders to have beaten Tom Dumoulin in a time trial in recent years and like Dumoulin this year’s route with its long steady climbs is suited to him. Pinot is not an explosive climber, see his stage win in the Tour de Suisse where he’d been dropped early only to winch his way back and then win. He’s got the raw talent for a podium, the harder part is the relentless focus needed to achieve it but he’s had a decent season so far with tenth overall in Cataluyna. He’s riding the Giro because he loves the race and his contract is up at the end of the year, does he renew with Groupama-FDJ which has more money and where he’s happy or does he think of a team that will let him ride the Giro again and again?

Simon Yates teams up with Esteban Chaves which is promising. The history of dual team leadership has been fraught in the past but especially when the leaders are defensive and worried about losing their status in the team rather than the actual race. Mitchelton-Scott seem more happy-go-lucky, able to seize their chances and besides the two are quite different riders. Simon Yates had a good Paris-Nice but not a great one, getting done over by Marc Soler’s audacity on the final day while Chaves is busy training back home in Colombia aiming to make the podium again like he did in 2016. He’s won the Herald Sun Tour which doesn’t mean much for the Giro save that it shows he showed up with a goal and delivered. He also has a contract until next year with the team unlike Simon Yates who’s deal expires this year.

If Dumoulin’s fructose aversion means he can’t eat apples, he says he’ll try kiwis instead. Maybe George Bennett will be difficult to digest. The 28 year old New Zealander is a bit of a late bloomer. He’s tried almost everything to tackle chronic side stitch problem, finally going for surgery during the off season which apparently – so far – has resolved the issue. On a good day he can climb with the very best but doing it for three weeks is a test, as will be the time trials so a solid top-10 and a stage win look more realistic.

Local hopes rest on Fabio Aru which must make the tifosi nervous if only because he is a genuine contender and so people rightly expect big things from him. Not for nothing did he win the first summit finish of the Tour de France last summer and later take the yellow jersey… but the speed with which he lost it also shows his fragility. He gave up three minutes to Chris Froome in the Logroño time trial in the Vuelta, even halving this to 90 seconds would be an achievement. He’s had an injury scare this spring after a crash in Catalunya but he’s over it and looked better in Tirreno-Adriatico, it certainly didn’t generate the panic headlines of spring 2017. The time trials will be a problem but mountain glory awaits as he returns to his home tour that he had to skip last year.

Among the others Bora-Hansgrohe bring Davide Formolo and Felix Großschartner, neither are headline grabbers but Formolo is still improving and Großchartner is a strong rider, the kind who can thrive on the diesel climbs of the Giro and hold his own in a time trial. Both might sign today for a top-10 overall. Michael Woods was top-10 in the Vuelta where the repeated steep climbs seemed ideal for him. This course isn’t so good for him but he’ll find some nice uphill stage finishes and should place well in the mountains. Rohan Dennis is where Tom Dumoulin used to be, a time triallist with ambitions for the GC. He looked wirier than ever at the Dubai Tour after winning the time trial but lost the overall lead on the Jebel Hafeet summit finish. The race will be a good test for him. Finally Louis Meintjes has moved to Dimension Data and is a curious rider, able to hang with the very best in the mountains but he hasn’t won anything since 2015 but perhaps his team will count on him to deliver UCI points which means riding steady again.

60 thoughts on “The Giro d’Italia Contenders”

  1. I’ll be rooting for Aru simply because he is the Italian hope and at the same time has to be seen as an underdog with this parcours. At 27 he still seems quite young and fragile as you say so it will be interesting to see if he can find an inner steel over the next few years. I wonder if there are any stages which lend themselves to an ambush that catches out Sky and Sunweb simultaneously, seems like a big ask.

      • And Sappada (still a great stage) is so evident that big teams will be even more aware.

        Truth is that the Giro has been lacking from this POV, which was one of its strong points, in the last couple of years or so… and all that to lure in Froome – obviously, along with the money from Israel which look more disturbing than ever.

        Karma rarely was more appropriate (if it was really karma: maybe Froome simply decided to tackle the Giro precisely because he understood that legal mumbo jumbo would keep him riding, unlike the Tour which is still possibile but less probable. Anyway, RCS got exactly what they deserved, this time).

  2. Agreed about Dumoulin, but this… “if it wasn’t for that intestinal imbroglio on the Umbrail he could have won in Milan by three minutes” is way far from convincing, despite the very appreciated use of the Italian word. Moreover, further declarations by the rider himself (including the very recent ones you report above) seem to confirm that it was just “an accident”. So what? Physical qualities are what cycling is about, especially in GTs. Do we usually say that somebody might have won more or with more margin “if he didn’t cramp”? By the way, nobody even thinks about asking the rivals to stop because he’s cramping.
    And, another thing, Tom actually had a course “designed for him” (better said, for Chris, but that’s the point, again) last year, too. What’s to be seen is if he’ll have as strong an opposition.

    Re: Pinot, I hope I does great, I’ll probably be rooting for him… but wasn’t the TT-man-Pinot myth debunked enough last year? Data speak only if you read them closely. Happy to be proven wrong.

    Re: Felix Großschartner. Well spot.

    Poor sprinters’ field, unlike previous years, but finally a decent handful of very interesting one-day riders who I hope might help enliven some finales: if I’m not wrong, we should have Wellens, Stybar, Mads Pedersen, Lutsenko, Ulissi, De Marchi… and Gesink, who goes as a stage hunter.
    Keep an eye on young climber Giulio Ciccone, even if the course isn’t the friendliest one and Pro Conti teams really struggle to leave a mark in recent years.

    • If I recall correctly last year the Italians really struggled to get a stage win and didn’t get one until Nibali won into Bormio? This was mainly as a result of all the good Italian stage hunters and opportunists choosing not to race their home tour. It’d be good to see the likes of Trentin, Colbrelli, Moscon, Ullissi, Moser, Brambilla et al at the Giro, though I’m guessing Trentin, Colbrelli and Moscon will be resting up after their classics campaigns? Are Modolo and Nizzolo riding?

    • I knew the conditional suggestions about Dumoulin could frustrate some. My point’s that the Giro would have been a procession for him were it not for the Umbrail moment, he was really above everyone, matching them on the climbs (even winning at Oropa) and minutes ahead in the TTs and his wobble at Piancavallo would have had even less tension.

      • Oropa isn’t that much of a climb. He always suffered when the final part of a stage presented more serious, contested climbs… which, for example, just weren’t there in the last tens of kms of the “Dolomites” stage.
        Even Foza was enough to have him dropped.
        However, on such a course he was the best and deserved to win. The course is the reality riders have to match.
        I’d also add, to answer to Richard S above, that the course was poor in terms of tricky stage, which could really have put Dumoulin and his team to the sword. Something very unusual for the Giro, whose immediate consequence was the lack of interest by so many Italian Classics specialists, as Richard S notes.

        Sure, it’s telling that at the end of the day Tom won by a very modest margin (and with two riders within shooting distance) despite such favourable conditions. However, it must also be said that the couple of rivals he beat were among the best around, which, to me, is perhaps the most significant thing.

  3. These are obviously some great names, but it doesn’t seem like as much of a blockbuster cast as last year’s race. Is this the froome factor (i.e. putting people off) or just the lure of the Tour? I would like to see Chaves go well, but can’t see him overcoming his time trial deficiencies given that he’s hardly a better climber than Dumoulin, let alone Froome.

    as an aside, the worries about competing in israel are proving depressingly prescient. the latest atrocities are absolutely appalling and it’s an awful backdrop to the race. fortunately it’s only 3 days (forgettable days, but the look of the parcours).

    • Froome didn’t *ever* especially put anyone off (except Dumoulin, perhaps).

      We might as well say that this year the Tour’s got a better course for climbers and aggressive riders, which means that – besides the usual Tour obsessed who go on losing their occasions that way – it’s just reasonable for riders like Landa, Nibali or Quintana to race in France. Just as Dumo prefers to stay in Italy.
      And those are essentially the three guys the Giro might miss, because, frankly, it’s not like Porte or Daniel Martin or even Urán and Valverde bring in that much added value (although the latter are always interesting, for sure, but their racing style eventually implies a modest effect on GC… besides the spot they end up occupying).

      …Who else? Uff, dunno. In Zakarin or Bardet’s case I’d say that if the Giro had a “normal” course, it would be a pity for the race, but also for them, not to be at the start. The Giro would give them back just as much as they’d bring to the Giro (maybe a GT victory, none of them ever came close).
      But, again, if I must be sincere, I just can’t fault them this year.

    • Dramatic military / political developments in the Middle East overnight, sadly.
      I don’t know what it does to the race; hopefully nothing.
      But, viewed from afar, it possibly makes the Israel stages just that little bit more fraught for the teams and their staff?

  4. As much as I love pretty much anything connected to La Corsa Rosa, this post seems at best premature. No real review of P-R? Because the guy who “struts around” wasting his talent pretty much proved his naysayers to be full of it? I realize a kid died during this race, but how many others around the world died from heart attacks during Paris-Roubaix? The fact this kid was racing his bike in the event shouldn’t detract from Sagan’s win and it seems rather odd that you’ve fast-forwarded to the Giro here with Amstel Gold and L-B-L still to come.

    • I don’t think anyone accused Sagan of strutting around wasting his talent. I think a few, me included, may have suggested he was potentially overhyped and that the blanket coverage of his every movement and every item of clothing worn is tedious. He was by far the strongest rider at Paris-Roubaix though and I suppose has gone a long way to justifying the hype. It’ll be refreshing to see someone else in the rainbow bands from my point of view. If he does win on that course in Innsbruck then I guess any level of hype will be justifiable.

      • Quote about Sagan from Mr. Inrng himself – “Personally I’d like to see him win rather than strut around with the (motocross) goggles and while a communications agency “curates” his social media feeds for him although one doesn’t necessarily stop the other.”
        I’m didn’t DEMAND anything, merely commented on this post, which seemed premature when there’s plenty of Spring Classics action still left.
        Mr. Inrng’s explanation for this seems kind of hollow and convenient but everyone deals with death in their own way. As I’ve written before, there might be some sadness that the kid’s heart condition (assuming there was one) wasn’t diagnosed so he could cease the activity that seems to have led to his dearly demise – if he chose to. Otherwise the kid’s life ended with him doing what he loved.
        I hope I’m as fortunate. As they say, “Nobody gets outta here alive.”
        RIP Goolaerts

        • Hey Larry T
          It crossed my mind, dunno about you, that Senor Inrng had reasons not to write about that.
          Sometimes the things that happen in races hit too close to home, to our hearts, so writing about them is just too hard, and seems wrong in the moment. Maybe you don’t feel that, but if the owner of this blog does, then it’s up to them what they choose to write, and what not.
          Looking at, and reading, all the wonderful things we get from Inrng, I think we should allow the blog owner the freedom to make those decisions. Their choice, when you get right down to it. Restraint has its place.
          Chapeau Inrng.

    • Inrng may still feel it’s a difficult topic to write about, and I agree. Still hard to sort out how to feel about it. Feel the worst for Goolaert’s parents and friends/family. Young men/women passing is a tragedy.

      With that being said, at some point an article comparing Sagan’s current standing to the legends of the past would be very interesting. Out of the world talent, excellent palmares, but how good is it?

      • By pure chance, I’ve written something on the subject in the comments of Cobbled Classics Revelations post some hours ago.
        As it often happens with great riders, his palmarés is peculiar, hard to compare with others, and doesn’t reflect exactly why he’s considered so good (it’s not “hype”, believe me).

        However, if we start looking at the three Worlds, he’s obviously lightyears behind Merckx (as everybody else) and Binda is out of reach too (utterly dominant GT & Monuments rider). But we’re speaking of the best ever and a probable top-5 ever.

        I’d say that Sagan is already slightly above Freire, whose impressive score in Sanremo someway is diminished by a substantial lack of top results in the other Monuments, even if Oscarito was really a great Classics man, with victories in Gent-Wevelgem and Brabantse Pijl (same figures as Sagan, reversed races). He also got a couple of serious sprinters’ Classics which Sagan didn’t care much about – even if he should – like Hamburg and Paris-Tours; but Sagan replies with Kuurne, E3 (Freire was only runner-up) and a couple of Québec. Freire’s got one TdF green jersey, Sagan well… we all know that. But Freire’s got a Tirreno & a Vuelta Andalucía GC: easier years, sure but still better than Tour of Cali or Pologne, no matter how WT you make the latter. Sagan’s got more TdF stages, Freire more Vuelta ones (again, curiously reserved figures). The palmarés are nicely balanced, with a slight advantage for Sagan’s – but one guy already ended his career!

        On the contrary, Sagan is still clearly but not “impossibly” behind is possible role model, the Emperor Rik I (van Steenbergen). Two Flanders, two Roubaix, one Sanremo, three Worlds. That might be a resonable objective for Sagan if he doesn’t want to shift his current physical setting and race programme.
        The Belgian’s also got 15 Giro stages and 4 TdF ones (in the ’50s, that is, a period when the Giro was still more important than the TdF; in fact, RVS participated 5 times at the Giro, always finishing, and only 3 in the Tour, one of which quitting early after getting the yellow jersey), plus 6 Vuelta stages.
        To reach him, Sagan should double his present TdF stages tally (= Giro in the ’50s) and get some more Vuelta stages – the hard part would probably be the 4 Giro stages he’d need.
        Add to that various semiclassics, especially several in Limbourg and a couple of Flèche. But it’s very hard to compare that in years which are so far back.

        Let’s skip the track domination part (we’ll focus on road cycling)… well, Sagan’s big problem is that RVS has got a Giro 2nd place *in final GC*. Clashing with the likes of, hear hear, Coppi, Bartali, Bobet, Koblet, Kübler, Magni… Three of the ten best riders *ever*, and their very appropriate rivals.
        Sure, Coppi wasn’t on top form having broken a collarbone in March (finally 4th in GC), Bartali was old and even limping (10th), Koblet had struggled in the Spring (6th), Bobet suffered a “Richie Porte” (forbidden bike change, 5′ penalty… he eventually was 7th, 9′ back), but that season both Magni (Flanders) and Kübler (Liège & Flèche) were on fire.
        RVS was still leading by 90″ in the third to last stage, but Magni attacked him in the last… descent, literally risking his very life. That was the decisive move, Fiorenzo won by a less than 2′ margin gaining 3′ there (he caught the break, where Coppi and the two Ks were riding, and Rik was left chasing alone in the flat).
        Van Steenbergen decided that he wouldn’t care again about GCs… only infringing that decision in his second-to-last GC ever, the 1956 Vuelta, where he won 6/17 stages (!), the point jersey and was 5th in final GC.
        I suppose that in modern cycling Sagan should try to match that winning some shorter serious stage race.

        If we also look to riders who won “just” two Worlds, LeMond or Maertens are too different to be compared to Sagan. Bugno could be somehow compared to Sagan, if it wasn’t for his GC dedication in GTs. Thanks to that, he’s probably got a better palmarés, as for now: comparable when one-day races are concerned (lots of GT stages, lots of high-level semiclassics), with a slight advantage for the Slovak, but one Giro and two TdF podia aren’t details. I don’t think it can be equalled by the point jerseys. That said, I think that Sagan will end his career with a better palmarés, all in all, winning more Monuments.
        Ronsse is below Sagan, while Briek Schotte’s got a very similar “weight”, besides… being TdF runner-up behind Bartoli in 1948. But unlike Rik I, and – even more so – unlike Bugno, it looked more of a single, random exploit. My take is that Sagan is already better, all in all, and will sure be once his career will be over.

        Bettini has no GC to sport, he was a pure one-day racer (just a Tirreno). Yet, IMHO Sagan is clearly below him, for now, despite a clearly better performance in GT stages (12 vs. 8) and point jerseys (4 TdF vs. 2 Giro).
        Sagan also has more semiclassics, but Bettini’s are better for variety and quality: San Sebastián, Hamburg, a couple of Zürich. Under that respect, for now, it’s a draw to me.
        But Bettini’s got 3 different Monuments and repeated victories in two of them (double Liège, double Lombardia). Plus, two top-ten in Flanders. He lacks one rainbow jersey, but he’s got Olympic gold.
        Anyway, it’s a palmarés which Sagan could very realistically aim to best before his career is over.

        Finally, Rik Van Looy. The Emperor Rik II. That’s the palmarés which Sagan should and maybe could dream about (unlike Merckx’s, or Binda’s). But I’m afraid that in today’s cycling, it would remain a dream. Have a look at it, it can’t be summed up very easily.

        • Nice summary. It’s always so difficult to compare success across the different eras. The race names may be the same, but things change. Just as you point out regarding the Giro vs the TdF in the 50s.

          One major factor that I suspect may be difficult to control for is the size and quality of the peloton. It’s more international than ever and more lucrative to ride a bike than in the past. These riders don’t have second jobs, with few exceptions they are almost all solely bike riders from their teenage years.

          With this influx of cash, riders and talent, specialisation is encouraged more now than in earlier eras. GT riders hardly touch the classics, and within the classics there are are fairly clear distinctions on who targets what. There are exceptions, like the MSR, which INRNG described well in his preview of the race.

          Sagan is a generational talent. His wins (which can still grow as pointed out) are impressive in any era, but I think even more special in this modern era.

        • Gabriele – Excellent summary and really interesting to read your knowledge of the legends of the past.

          As you suggest, comparing riders of different eras is so hard. I would even suggest that it is the hardest sport on the planet to compare different eras. Our sport undergoes the huge changes from decade to decade, whereas many other top sports change very little in terms of the structure.

          Anyways, thanks Gabriele for your post and Inrng for the format to provide it.

    • That seems very insensitive and flippant to me Larry. This is INRNGs blog to do with as they please, plus you don’t know that there isnt a personal connection to the deceased.

      • There’s no personal connection, just the sadness. I watched the race and as usual take some notes and planned to do a write up that evening. But getting home after a long drive was exactly the same time as the news of his death came out and as the blog post earlier this week said it didn’t feel right to discuss what Sagan or Quick Step got up to. Besides there are plenty of other write-ups and getting around to it now would be stale.

        • Got to say I agree with the Inner Ring here: none of us have the right to demand that anything on any topic is written, and this is a difficult subject so it has to come down to the personal feelings of the writer.

        • It was a classy move on your part and I totally respect your decision.
          I’ve not kept totally up to date on the situation but are there any plans to name one of the showers after him at Roubaix?

  5. If I was RCS or ASO I would be using every piece of leverage I had to get UCI/WADA to resolve Froome’s situation.

    Both GTs are at major risk of very negative headlines/publicity harming their ad revenue. It would be a fair argument that quantifiable damages may happen.

    The Froome situation is ridiculous. Are the lawyers and medical experts on strike?

    • Only they have very little leverage. The old days where the UCI President could boss the anti-doping procedure are long gone and that’s no bad thing. What is odd is that neither the UCI nor Froome/Sky are explaining to anyone why this is taking so long.

      • Totally agree – it is very odd. Obviously this is a complicated case for salbutamol, but overall it is a relatively simple case – nothing close to as difficult as EPO.

        Now, this is just a theory and one I can make but Inrng or any other journalist/official/stake holder would not be able to even comment:
        ~ delay is intentional on both sides
        ~ purpose so that Froome can race Giro completely
        ~ resolution comes in June, and Froome gets 6 month suspension taking him to next winter.
        ~ overall, his only punishment is losing out on 2018 TdF and forfeits 2017 Vuelta. Proverbial slap on the wrist.

        • I can comment because WADA/UCI rule 10.8 is clear on this, if convicted here then normally Froome stands to lose all results obtained since the day of the test. There is a “if fairness requires” test but that’s for exploring another day, the primary aim of the rule is all results are removed.

          • I’m probably mistaken and if so look forward to insight,


            I thought I understood a short while back (about 2 weeks ago) that Froome’s case transferred from the place of being examined and found Froome did not exhibit anything to exonerate Him to the place where the next step / the present step was to decide and pass punishment.

            With that, I understood it to mean Froome is guilty.

            At that point, if He is thought to be guilty and at this point simply waiting on the amount of punishment… He is going down. No?

            If that’s true, why would He be allowed to line up in Italy, er uh the Israel location of the Italian start…?

          • I suspect that Froome/Sky/their lawyers know what they’re doing (and also carry a lot of clout). I suspect that – somehow – it will end up pretty much as CA suggests. Froome seems confident – or so he says – that he will keep any results and I imagine the stalling tactics are his (and I would not be surprised to see this all stalled until after the TdF). That said, our current President seems to care about the Tour beyond all else, so perhaps a deal will be done whereby the Giro result is allowed and any ban (still not sure that’ll happen) occurs before the Tour.
            I’m just too cynical to believe that the most likely result is what is surely the correct one – a ban, similar to those others who have been in this situation, that does not do Froome any favours.

          • My understanding was that Froome had been unable to satisfy the UCI’s internal anti-doping service of his innocent explanation, and so the case had been passed to the anti-doping tribunal. However, that does not mean that he *is* guilty, rather that the UCI believe he’s guilty and are bringing the case against him.

            It will then be for the tribunal to rule on his guilt, but it hasn’t done so yet.

          • This could be a ground-breaking case though. For once the team/rider being accused has been part of a very grey area case, where the evidence and outcome are definitely not conclusive. Plus, this time the rider/team has resources to match UCI/WADA so will test the strength of the testing and punishment mechanisms.

            I wonder if, as J Evans suggests Sky’s lawyers are convinced they will win and that ultimately Froome’s results will stand. I wonder how confident they are about his Vuelta title. Even if this is resolved after UCI hands down an initial suspension, and forfeiture of results they may suspect that Froome will get to keep all his results.

  6. A brilliant article as ever, thank you very much! I am so excited about the Giro to start.

    In the introduction, you name “contractual concerns” as one factor for delivering results, implying that a soon-ending contract impacts a riders performance.
    I do not want to presume that riders are “preparing” for their last year in contract when they really have to shine to attract other teams, but how is this possible without PED while racing on World Tour level? I certainly doubt it that it is only training and high-altitude camps.

    Again, thanks for this great platform.

    • Well known position in sports is that athletes go for broke in contract years. It doesn’t mean PEDs, but they’re often more selfish (eg. if their current team not offering the right contract renewal) so that their names are fresh in the minds of the teams.

      If you’re the proverbial teammate during contract year you never hit the results sheet, have low World Cup points, etc. so your market value is much lower.

    • If I knew a particular rider on performance enhancing drugs and could prove it I’d have the scoop of the year.

      But note the team/contract ending story as a performance motivator isn’t true. Otherwise Philippe Gilbert would have won loads in his last season with BMC or Greg Van Avermaet would have won more this spring than last year etc. Or whole teams facing demise would perk up. If anything the contractual concerns can destabilise a rider but it is individual, eg the carrot vs the stick as motivation, each to their own.

    • Inrng – exactly, I wasn’t saying that the stats support contract year performance boost, but that this is just the understanding that many sports deal with. There are always the comments “so and so is in a contract year and needs to perform” or “last year’s performance was excellent because he was in contract year”. As you suggest, contract years don’t conclusively result in great numbers, but it is the proverbial carrot for the athlete to chase as it were.

    • I wish I felt the same. Usually the Giro is a major highlight of my cycling viewing year, but the combination of a controversial start location and the situation surrounding Froome have me looking around for something more straightforward. I imagine my bike will see more of me this May…

  7. I doubt the weather will be as great as last year in Italy. Dumoulin won’t get away with toilet breaks again either. Froome should have declared guilt (legally) and got the whole thing behind him… he’s sacrificed his career for a (literally) 3rd rate tour. As Armstrong said, he should’ve gone home and put his feet up after the TdF.

  8. Dumoulin had a bad first part of the season. A piece from NOS shined some light on this. He describes it as both bad luck and being able to cope with it. It will be curious to see what will happen this Giro, regardless of his form. Last year he was able to deal with the no. 2 incident, but apparently things changed a bit this year. So what if something happens again? He’s back as a winner but is also in a different position this time. Aside from all the Froome drama, I’m looking forward to this Giro!

  9. I cant work up much enthusiasm for the Giro this year. The money issues have always felt odd, the start in Jerusalem paying towards an appearance fee for Chris Froome (allegedly). Both of which seem to have come back to haunt the race. If the issues in the Middle East continue for the next week or so there will come a point when the start of the race will come into question, some of the racers are already unhappy (I seem to remember comments from Tom Dumoulin but it might have been another rider) and if things continue or get worse individual withdrawals would seem inevitable.

    The cast does not seem anywhere near as good as last year, Tom Dumoulin’s form is uncertain to say the least. The Chris Froome issues hardly need more discussion and again no sign of any form. Fabio Aru, maybe but I can see a stage win or two when the chance of victory has gone. No sign of the best sprinters to enliven the early stages.

    I am sure those who will be there will relish the opportunity to shine in the absence of form of the leading riders and the complete absence of many others, perhaps a breakthrough race for Simon Yates or Wout Poels. However it just doesnt feel like the second (I know some would say best) biggest cycle race of the year.

  10. The course looks tedious (designing a course for a certain rider somewhat diminishes any subsequent victory) and the Froome debacle shadows the whole thing.
    Most of all, they still never be starting in Israel.
    As Gabriele says, RCS got what they deserved (and I also suspect that Froome’s AAF was what persuaded him to do the Giro – he’s hoping he can hang on to his pre-ban [if it happens] results).

  11. Excellent stuff as always Mr Inrng. Worth it for the into to the George Bennett paragraph alone – zing!
    Hard to see Tom Dumoulin for me but I’d love to see a promising talent like Rusty Woods or Bennett up there.

  12. Hope springs eternal for me as far as Grand Tours are concerned, they can’t all be the best ever and there are always multiple sub-plots to enjoy and the scenery doesnt get any less beautiful. I find a close race exciting regardless of the protagonists and three weeks is long enough that I feel I am on a journey of discovery, riders who I was only vaguely aware of before become familiar friends. The good news is that Sky seem less able to control races this year which can only be a good thing, hopefully this pattern continues into the Giro with more open racing. As far as the ”Ezybh Gdvlh” (best I can do for Hebrew translation of Grande Partenza) goes I have mixed feelings about the concept ethically but I think RCS have the security situation covered, there is a plan B to start the race in Sicily and Calabria at short notice. Although there is terrible shocking violence in Gaza and the situation in Syria has escalated, a relatively normal life continues for most Israelis day to day and this includes sporting events. Teams must have been given satisfactory assurances about security otherwise the idea would never have got off the ground.

    • Yes, ‘a relatively normal life continues for most Israelis day to day’, but not for most Palestinians. (Not a criticism of you, just the salient point that ‘western’ mainstream media tends to ignore.)

      • I’m totally with you there JE, I spent 10 days travelling in the west bank in 2012, the unremitting day to day unfairness alone was sickening, nevermind the violence which was largely absent at that time. I just hope the people of Israel will start to see through the negative paradigm of the military and political establishment and push for real change and a lasting peace. Perhaps the Giro can play a small part in that, who knows.

  13. I am British and realy feel Froome should not be their…cough…cough..where is our reputation? as for the start in Israel? I know some feel politics and sport shouldn’t mix…but I can’t separate the two. Not the race I was looking forward to.

  14. No wonder the world is in shambles. It’s because many of you still listen to leftist fake news. The Palistenians don’t want peace. Never had and never will. They want the total destruction of Israel. That has been a fact for decades. I am glad the race is starting there. I am fine with it but have not heard a peep about races starting in Arab countries. You people should be ashamed.

    • I won’t even bother with most of your post (I can’t countenance a serious discussion with someone who uses the term ‘fake news’ without irony), but regarding this blog, many people (including me) complain about the races that start in Arab countries – for political reasons (and not just because they’re crap races). Same goes for Bahrain-Merida.

  15. Nice to finally see Bennett in a list of GC contenders, even if his chances are probably a little slight with such a packed field.

Comments are closed.