The Giro d’Italia Contenders

Who is going to win the Giro d’Italia? It’d be boring if we all knew today and hopefully the race brings a few surprises along the way. Here’s a closer look at the contenders for the maglia rosa ahead of the start on Friday.

Tom Dumoulin wasn’t the obvious pick a year ago but finished the Giro as the uncontested winner, able to stop for a break during a crucial mountain stage and still stay in control. He returns to a course that suits him well because if there are fewer time trial KMs than last year there are also more gradual climbs. He’s got a stronger Sunweb team with Laurens ten Dam and Sam Oomen bringing support in the high mountains although they’re hardly Sky or Astana and will piggyback off the bigger squads. There are questions over the Limburger’s form, he said his winter was too hectic with sponsorship and media commitments and he’s had a start to the season more notable for mechanicals and crashes than results or just reassurance although 15th in Liège was something for supporters to cheer. Anyway he was discreet until the Blockhaus last year too so it leaves us to judge him based on last year’s race, the ability is there, the course suits and the team is better than ever but only time will tell what he does.

Chris Froome comes not so much with baggage but small print, to cite him is to mention the still unresolved matter of his excess salbutamol test from the 2017 Vuelta, a Damoclean sword hanging by a procedural thread. The case could be heard in the coming weeks and were the verdict to go against him he could be plucked out of the Giro mid-race; or if he finishes with the case unresolved then there’s a “pending” asterisk given WADA rules say normally an athlete loses all results following the date of the positive test although there’s some grey area wording in the clause too, adding a new meaning to the Giro’s Trofeo Senza Fine or “trophy without an end”. We get into procedural matters of molecules, milligrams and the WADA Code rather than talking about form, the course or the strength of his team. None of this deters Froome much, he may not have big charisma but seems to have a steely heart… but we’ll see how the lungs cope in pollen season. He was strong in the recent Tour of the Alps where he matched the others on the climbs. This has become his modus operandi: it’s in the time trials that he won the Tour de France and Vuelta last year, conceding seconds in summit finishes, gaining minutes in the time trials. Sky bring a strong team to a race they’ve long struggled to master. Wout Poels should be a Plan B but after returning to racing following his Paris-Nice crash he looked well off the pace in the Ardennes but unless he’s ready Sky surely won’t have picked him while Sergio Henao is another capable of the top-10 but likely to ride for Froome.

Miguel Angel Lopez, 2016 Tour de Suisse

Miguel Ángel López only recently turned 24 and leads Astana. That’s quite some promotion but he deserves it, he won the Tour de Suisse aged 22 and rode the Vuelta last year, completing his first grand tour, taking two stages on his way to eighth overall, salvaging a season ruined by breaking his leg the previous winter and then his hand mid-summer. Two stages and another top-10, ideally a top-5 look very achievable this May and he was strong in the recent Tour of the Alps. He’s an aggressive rider, a ball of muscle rather than the old stereotype of a Colombian waif but all the same he’s at a disadvantage in the long time trials, something he’ll address with time but not this month. Astana bring a very strong team in support, not the kind to flood the top-10 overall but capable of stage wins if they get a ticket to ride for themselves but combined they could try an ambush or a hold-up.

Thibaut Pinot

Thibaut Pinot has just won the Tour of the Alps and returns to the Giro looking to improve on last year’s fourth overall with a stage win. He’s the compromise pick, often better than most of the pure climbers in the time trials and possibly superior to the likes of Froome and Dumoulin in the mountains although can he be consistent across the three weeks? The opening stage is crucial, we’ll quickly learn if he can keep sight of Dumoulin and Froome while distancing the pure climbers. Like Froome he’s down for the Tour de France and probably like him he just wants to win this and worry about July later on. In recent years he’s progressed a lot in time trials – national champion in 2016 – but struggled in the Giro’s two chrono stages last year. The course suits him, excepting the Zoncolan, as some of the long climbs allow him to distance his rivals and time trial away. He’s got a sprint in his legs sometimes too which can help harvest time bonuses, this helped him win the recent Tour of the Alps and has the full Groupama-FDJ team in his service.

Fabio Aru is the national champion and local hope. Third in the 2014 Giro, second in 2015 and winning the Vuelta later that year but since his career trajectory has stalled, he’s only taken three wins since, albeit including a Tour de France summit finish but too often has been the victim of events rather than their master. How can he win the Giro? He struggles in time trials and past performance suggests could easily surrender 2-3 minutes across the two TT stages to Froome and Dumoulin. But this gives him room to jump away on the summit finishes for stage wins and if he can’t conquer the race he can win over the public who will be missing the exploits of Vincenzo Nibali. UAE-Emirates bring a team of stage hunters with Valerio Conti and Diego Ulissi looking for their own chances.

Esteban Chaves, 2016

Esteban Chaves is another who hasn’t built on a previous podium finish after finishing second in 2016; the death of a close friend hit him hard mid-summer last year. This lack of results mean he’s off the radar more than he should be but there’s not much to go on and having been away training in Colombia he’s facing a Giro with a route that rarely strays beyond 2,000 metres above sea level. Like others he’ll pay a price in the time trials and if he was tenth in the Paris-Nice TT this was up a long climb, down and then up a sharp climb with only a short flat section at the end so it’s not comparable to the Giro’s courses where turning a 56T chainring counts.

Mitchelton-Scott bring a second leader in Simon Yates who’s a more steady option, more conservative: less likely to soar on a summit finish but with a faster sprint from a group even if he’ll lose time in the time trials too he’s had a more reassuring path to the Giro this year, losing out in Paris-Nice and fourth overall in the Volta a Catalunya. If all goes well either is a plausible podium finisher but it’s the combination of the two that’s interesting, it raises their chances of a stage win plus the inevitable office politics as the media try to establish the pecking order. Jack Haig has the makings a valuable lieutenant in the mountains for this May and more for the future and Roman Kreuziger, still only 31, was strong in the Ardennes.

Rohan Dennis, Utrecht 2015

Rohan Dennis is still in the pupal stage of metamorphosis from a track and time trial specialist to a grand tour contender. As we saw in Romandie he’s getting closer but still a little short on the climbs but better already than Dubai earlier this year. With BMC Racing’s future unknown he could win the opening stage and enjoy a spell in pink but we already know he can do this, the real test is to see how he fares across three weeks and in sequential mountain stages. Here’s a course to suit with steady ski station climbs rather than riding for Richie in July or tackling the Vuelta’s irregular goat paths in September. Nicolas Roche is aiming high for GC too and can ride steady but is in his 14th season as a pro and his win rate is low.

Michael Woods leads EF Education First-Drapac and finished a good seventh in the Vuelta last year, all while his team’s future was in doubt. His was a triumph of consistency with only three top-10 placings during that race. Liège-Bastogne-Liège showed us he’s coming into form so if all goes well he’ll top the Vuelta and could take a stage win either on a big summit finish or just on one of the steep walls on a transition stage. The team bring Joe Dombrowski and Hugh Carthy both valuable to pace Woods but also outsiders for mountain stage wins in the third week if they can save energy along the way.

On his day George Bennett can climb with the best, his problem has been doing it consistently during a grand tour. The New Zealander has 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. A solid top-10 and a stage win look more realistic than an outright win while Robert Gesink is going for stage wins these days.

Bora-Hansgrohe bring a mixed team with Sam Bennett for the sprints but Davide Formolo, Patrick Konrad and Felix Großschartner all capable of featuring in the mountains with Formolo, already a stage winner, probably the most able pick while Konrad is an able rider, 7th in Paris-Nice and 10th in the Basque Country this season.

Domenico Pozzovivo is a Giro specialist visible in May and if all goes well should be in the top-10 by Rome, maybe with a stage win too and after years at Ag2r he’s with Bahrain-Merida who are an Italian team under the bonnet. He’s allergic to the time trials though.

Louis Meintjes has climbed with the best in the Tour de France only he’s looked off form of late and has been struggling to get his form back this year but if he can turn things around then another top-10 awaits. Veteran Igor Anton hasn’t looked sharp of late either but could be valuable as a sherpa for Ben O’Connor who rides after winning a stage in the Tour of the Alps and who form-wise looks like Dimension Data’s best rider.

Finally among others Ag2r La Mondiale’s Alexandre Geniez has made the top-10 overall and aims for more of the same but can sprint well from a group. Bardiani-CSF’s Guilio Ciccone – a past stage winner – has been climbing well but has crashed hard and pictures on social media show him sporting a cast on his wrist. Trek-Segafredo hope for a top-10 with Gianluca Brambilla who is chasing his form form from 2016. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Fixall) wants to test himself in a grand tour and should be fun to watch along the way as long as he’s not gone stale after a long spring campaign. Movistar are sending their A team to the Tour de France but Carlos Betancur has been great in the Giro in the past while Ruben Fernandez and Richard Carapaz are promising too.

Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin
Thibaut Pinot
Miguel Ángel López, Esteban Chaves
Simon Yates, Fabio Aru
Poels, Woods, Pozzovivo, Bennett

80 thoughts on “The Giro d’Italia Contenders”

  1. Excellent summary as always.

    Surprised at the Movistar selection… seems ridiculous to take all three big guns to the tour, particularly Valverde having targeted the Ardennes must be pretty close to top form at the moment. Also would expect to see Amador or Soler over Betancur… but maybe there are reasons they’re not here.

    Always look forward to the Giro, but I fear this year is going to be a TT shoot out for pink between the big two with the rest of the field lacking the class and the course to inflict serious damage on the climbs.

    • I agree, Movistar at the Tour is a calamity waiting to happen. Valverde might be a bit knackered for this and I can’t see him winning a GT again anyway – it’s been so long.
      They should have told Landa to do the Giro this year and the Tour next year. Rather than possibly winning the Giro and the Tour this year, they’ve put their many eggs into one rather small basket. I don’t expect things to be smooth between Landa and Quintana at the Tour.

      • I wouldn’t say they have put all of their eggs in the Tour basket. Presumably all of their Big 3 (5 if you want to be generous and include Soler and Amador) will be good to go for the Vuelta as well where there will be no Froome and they will have an extremely strong team with a very good chance of winning their home grand tour. I think their home races are very important to them, after all they entered Valverde in the GP Miguel Indurain rather than the Tour of Flanders. Also having Landa as a like for like contender to Quintana’s team leadership might be a kick up the behind for Nairo. He’s always come across as a bit of a wet blanket to me, maybe he needs something to make him angry!

        • Movistar are going all-out for TdF, make no mistake about that.
          It’s their best chance, with Froome at the Giro.
          I shouldn’t be surprised to see Landa for Quintana at the Tour, perhaps reciprocating at the Vuelta? Valverde will be on guard duty, similar to his Vuelta role a couple of years ago.
          But the Vuelta, as important as a home GT may be, will surely be a wait-and see for form etc.

          • Have Landa do the Giro and the Vuelta and he’d be fresh for both.
            To me, this decision suggests Movistar don’t have much faith in Quintana. When is Q’s contract up?

        • Movistar and tactics are the best of strangers. Valverde gets all his wins by making the team subservient to his cause. When multiple stars are put together it inevitably fails. You know I’m a Froome fan but I’d be the first to admit that if Movistar had had any tactical sense at all, with the riders at their disposal, Froome might have 2 TDFs less than he has. THis year’s TDF is an inevitable case of “So who are we meant to be riding for?” But, on the bright said, I’m looking to see what Carapaz can do here in the Giro.

          • I wonder if having Indurain and Valverde has stunted them as a tactical team. They didn’t have to do anything with Indurain, he did the biz in the TT’s and then hung on in the mountains. And with Valverde they have just had to ride a decent pace and get him to the bottom of the Mur de Huy/Ans with everyone else.

          • Aren’t the same guys who engineered BigMig’s wins still at the helm of Movistar?
            I wonder if sponsor/marketing goals come into play? How much coverage does La Corsa Rosa get in Spain (where Movistar’s potential customers are) vs Le Beeg Shew in July?
            Moreover, Landa was rather a dud the last time he was captain of a team at the Giro while Quintana’s already won it, so he wants a chance at a Tour win.
            Meanwhile, Valverde can do whatever he wants these days as their most prolific winner, so who is gonna tell him he must have a cornetto instead of a croissant?

    • Bentancour in simlar shape to his mid 2014 meltdown could prove leathal for everyone.

      As i recall he looked quite good last year in the vuelta before the accident, and he has not exactly been a sloutch this year in service for Valveverde. Giro could be a comeback.

    • I think Movistar are betting on a major thinning of the GC field in the first 9 stages, especially the cobbled stage. Having multiple GC contenders is simply insurance, they are determined to win this year.

      • Good point actually, if those stages cause the chaos some have predicted then the team that comes out the other side with a decent GC rider who hasn’t lost any time and a few helpers should have a decent chance. And if one of the Movistar GC riders loses a lot of time on the cobbles, which is a distinct possibility, then they can just revert to the helper role.

  2. Miguel Angel Lopez to upset the big 3 for me. It wouldn’t be bike racing if Froome’s AAF didn’t catch up with him around the 2nd rest day, and all the fallout that goes with it. Totally agree that Chavito above Simon Yates in his chances of a higher place finish. Even though Yatesey has been impressive early part of the year. Could be a big step up if he (Simon) could get in the top 5. It must be quite a psychological change of mindset once they leave protective shores of being a rider competing for the Young Rider Jersey competition to proper full on Racer for want of a better word

    • For Obvious reasons everyone is assuming that this is just TD vs CF battle. However perhaps the battlefield would turn things around this year. I concur with Paddy and would give MAL (Miguel Angel Lopez) the benefit of being the underdog for the following reasons:
      -MAL has been working on his TT position and also on the wind tunnel during winter break, so we could expect a comparative improvement against the specialists
      -He has prepared Giro as the main focus of the year.
      -He is an explosive rider and he is not racing for Movistar, hence expect fireworks as long as the legs would allow.
      -There are two stages that suit his style, Stage 14 Zonkolan and stage 9 Gran Sasso. Those are long and steep stages that may even the field against TD and CF
      -A bit difference in comparison with 2017 is that Pinot this year is in a better shape, he could be an important factor during most of the Giro.
      -And MAL, Yates and Chaves conform a bunch of light weight attacking style riders that if working smartly together may do some damage specially in the first half of the Giro.

  3. The race for second could well be the biggest fight in this race – can TD hold off the climbers?
    Froome can do everything (however he’s managing that) and I doubt his preparation has changed from his previous successful years.

    • I hope Froome’s preparation has changed from past years, as he has never attempted the Giro-Tour double (nor won the Giro in May). The shorter gap between the Giro and Tour compared to the Tour and Vuelta pose another challenge. Putting aside the controversy he has to deal with, this is not simply going to be formulaic for Froome.

  4. Just please not Froome to win. No one wants to see 2nd place bumped up in a few months (or years) time. Nothing against him particulalarly just hate this situation

    • Giro boss Vegni seems to believe that he’s been assured that if Froome wins it will stand as any ban Froome gets will be from the point of the judgment.

  5. My prediction is for Dumoulin to be much less successful than last year – I’m just not convinced that he’ll have the climbing legs. I think that Michael Woods is a good shot as an outside bet – although he’s not young he’s still getting better and learning (and seems to be in top form).

    If it wasn’t for the cloud of uncertainty hanging over him, I would have Froome down as a clear favourite – I can’t see the likes of Pinot, Chaves etc getting the better of him.

  6. I can’t see past Froome or Dumoulin for this one. The field seems to lack a bit of quality in depth, all the other contenders having tried and failed in the past with known obvious weaknesses. The only possible competition I can see for them is if Aru is climbing out of this world. I think the only climber at the moment who seems to be able to attack and keep going without getting reeled in almost immediately is Mikel Landa, and he isn’t here. Its interesting to note that BMC also have Nicholas Roche going for a high(ish) position on GC. This would indicate to me that they don’t have a great deal of faith in Dennis, as if they did the team would be all in for him. I agree with them.

    Its interesting that Movistar are holding back all of their big, and even medium sized, guns from this one. If they take all of Quintana, Landa, Valverde, Soler and Amador to the Tour they will have an incredibly strong team. I suppose with Sky’s recent teams and tactics that is what they have decided they need there, and for them the Giro will be third priority. It’ll be interesting if they try and do a Astana 2015 and attempt to wear out Froome wherever possible whenever the road is uphill or even just rolling. I’m not sure in Betancur, Carapaz and Fernandez they have anyone who can worry Sky sufficiently for it to work though. I’d love to see Betancur back to his Giro top fiveing, Paris-Nice winning best.

  7. Interesting to see Pozzovivo so far down the list. Granted, he’s unlikely to win the GC, but he’s been up there with the best in the Tour of the Alps and LBL and could prove a close match for the likes of Aru, Lopez, Chaves. Somehow he always seems to fly under the radar a bit compared to the other contenders.

    • The chainrings are always my take on who will win the race, I can’t see him winning when all the names above him stand in the way. But he was very active last year and will have more support from Bahrain-Merida this year so should weigh more on the stages, especially as Ag2r wanted him to ride for ranking points rather than glory while his team this time probably wants a “home” win, the coverage on RAI, Gazzetta etc.

  8. I agree that CF and TD are the main favourites but there must be doubts over both of them. With CF there is the obvious distraction, which must affect his performance in some way plus we have no real evidence of his form. With TD there are serious doubts over his form, I agree the course suits him better than last year but does he have the same focus and desire?

    After that there really is no obvious pick, all the names mentioned seemed to be flawed in one way or other. Thibaut Pinot, maybe the stars will align this time but maybe not. The Movistar thing does seem odd, I can understand why Mikel Landa might be feed up with the Giro but choosing the Tour this year seems like another strange career choice.

    I have a feeling it will be a complete outside choice rolling into Rome in Pink in a few weeks time.

  9. You all know where I stand. But I’m not picking Froome. Its my view that, one way or another, he’s close to the end of what he can do. That might mean he wins another double in 2018 or it might mean this was one year too far but my judgment is he is on the cusp of failing to be the rider he has been. There’s also the fact that my pick for the win, Tom Dumoulin, is basically a younger version of him. He will take time in the long ITT, maybe up a minute at best, and that means Froome can’t play the game he has been playing of “match them in the climbs and beat them in the time trials.” Froome has to win this race by tactics and in the climbs because 2nd means nothing to Froome now. Sky are much stronger than Sunweb here, though, so if Froome is to win they need to leverage that advantage. Last year Tom showed some weakness in the later climbs (as in the Vuelta he lost to Aru) and I expect this race to go to the final summit.

    Dumoulin is my pick but Superman Lopez is my reserve. I expect him to win multiple mountain stages and I think he’s the best climber in the race. He’s an attacking rider too. He won’t wait for the last 1500 meters to launch an attack which will put Dumoulin and Froome under pressure. Lopez’s only problem is he will lose a couple of minutes in the ITT which is why I don’t think he’ll win when the two best time trialling GC riders in the peloton are present. But, to his advantage, Astana are, for my money, the strongest squad in the race and full of hard as nails riders.

    The rest, to my mind, are just pretenders and nearly men. Its up to them to prove me wrong.

    • What evidence is there that Froome is on his way out?
      TD has never shown Froome’s climbing prowess.
      Froome can match the rest in the climbs and beat them in the TT. He can do largely the opposite with TD.

      • @J Evans

        The evidence is circumstantial but, I think, persuasive and its based on observing riders in general. Look at the careers of the grand tour greats, the guys who could win two in a row, Merckx, Hinault, Contador, Anquetil. They were all winning multiple grand tours right up to the end. And then they fell off a cliff and never won one again. In other words, they didn’t have a gradual decline: they just stopped winning grand tours. Plotting Froome on that graph he is either about to fall off the cliff or has one last hurrah. Either way, I think Froome 2019 won’t be as good as this one so I see 2018 as his last chance. And that’s without possible bans, being fired from Sky if found guilty and all the other shenanigans. I think he knows this and I think that’s why he’s riding.

        • I think Froome’s riding because he hopes to hold on to this Giro result if he gets any ban (he has said that he thinks the rules say that he will). I suspect that was his motivation for riding the Giro in the first place and that without the AAF he’d never have done so.
          I don’t agree with your cliff theory as each of the riders you mention had differing circumstances (Merckx might have won the 1975 Tour had he not been punched, Hinault might not have won his last Tour had LeMond been able to ride against him, Anquetil chose not to ride in 1965, Contador had a winter between his two ‘consecutive’ victories – all ifs, buts and maybes, but that’s how tenuous your theory is) and many riders have shown gradual declines.

          • I’d say Froomes inevitable decline, in terms of results, is likely to be sudden just because he’s a GT machine that requires full team support. First sign of gradual decline that support goes to someone else.

        • I sort of agree with much of this and your other comments above, CF will go from being the best to not being there at all. There are lots of very much younger rivals (Egan Bernal to be the first Colombian to win the TdF?) who will push past. I cant see him stretching out his riding career a la Valverde.

          I am dubious about TD but if he has got the motivation and form he is going to be difficult to beat accidents and an in form Chris Froome notwithstanding.

          As to the others, pick a name from a hat, the Giro has a reputation for surprises, ambushes and bad weather, a lot of luck often plays a part.

        • To start with, IMHO you should take Hinault away from that list, if we really want to build up data which make heuristic sense, since he went on riding just *one single season* and *one single GT* after his last double in 1985: on that occasion, in 1986, he was TdF runner-up to a teammate (although he didn’t look really able to unseat him, which I believe he’d have happily done). So, the fact that “he didn’t win any GT anymore” is factually true but essentially the result of a statistical anomaly: we’ll never know, but it’s far from unlikely that, if he had decided to race any further Giro or Vuelta, he might as well win it (I frankly see him winning one of the 1986-1988 Giros, not to speak of the Vueltas).

          OTOH, I can share your POV when the other three guys are concerned, now that you have defined better what you meant with the *cliff* concept. They actually went on being competitive at the highest level year after year – I mean, podiuming at the TdF as both Merckx and Anquetil still did is competitive enough, for me! – but surely not *as* competitive as they were before, given that, admittedly, there’s a difference between winning and podiuming. Maybe not a shocking difference, but a relevant difference, especially when you were dominating.

          The problem you now have is that this better definition of your idea (the previous, more general one, simply didn’t work at all) is going to exclude several a couple of other important top GT winners: Coppi and Indurain.

          So, I’d say that we’ve got Anquetil, Merckx and Contador (3) vs. Coppi and Indurain (2). I won’t include Hinault in any category: I believe he’d sit firmly in the second one, but we’ll really never now; but, as I said before, racing one single further year can’t be seriously considered as a proof of anything. Not that much of a significant stat, frankly not enough to allow plotting and extrapolating anything along any “pattern” of sort, too little and divided a sample.

          To expand the sample, we might decide to extend the definition in order to include some more great names, multiple GT winner, who, say, were able to win a GT and podium (or the reverse) in the consecutive one at some point in time: Bartali could, but he was also able to win two isolated GTs more, years later; Gimondi did it a couple of times, and was again able to win a GT eight years later; Nibali made it, and later won several GTs more. Charly Gaul is also against you, as is Tony Rominger.
          On the contrary, Delgado would support your theory, at least in statistical terms, with his great 1988-1989 seasons which wouldn’t give room to any further GT win (3 GT podia in his further 5 years of career, including his very last year, but…). Fignon would also work for you.
          Nobody else makes the cut, I think (I could be wrong, not the easiest check).

          Honestly, I don’t think that “observing riders in general” supports any “graph”. That said, Froome might well happen to belong to the “sudden cliff” sort of rider. If I had to bet, I’d probably say so. But it’s a wild guess, nothing more.

          • Thanks for your annotations to my “theory” Gabriele which, I might add, is only an anomaly that I noticed by looking at the histories of the riders I named. I wouldn’t be prepared to die on a hill for the sake of it but it is, I think, an interesting conversation piece and I think Froome is likely to fit in with it.

    • The TTs are the key, aren’t they?
      If Dumoulin is able to take a minute or more out of Froome (a big ask), I’d go with him.
      If he’s not in that condition, Froome is the man.

      Astana, as a whole, can be very inventive and they’re dangerous as a unit.
      They can certainly upset the apple cart but I don’t feel one of their riders will be wearing Pink come Rome.

    • I’m not sure where this Superman Lopez crack has come from. What has he ever done across a Grand Tour that would suggest he’s capable of beating Dumoulin, never mind Froome? Won a couple of mountain stages? Froome has been challenged by almost an entire peloton of time trial deficient climbers over the last 5 years and hasn’t been troubled by any of them really. At the moment I don’t see him as any bigger threat to Froome than the likes of Chaves, Aru or anyone else who’ll ship minutes in the TT’s.

      • You are, of course, right. But there is such a thing as a perfect storm. Froome’s on unfamiliar turf and weather, or time of year, or everything that must be on his mind, could result in a less than optimal performance. Dumoulin, although already a Giro winner, is still a bit of an unknown after he had the safety net of 70 ITT kms last year. Should Lopez win multiple MTFs, as I predict, taking several seconds in the process, then he could become a worry. The difference between a Lopez and a Chaves in my eyes is that Lopez can win stages and Chaves probably can’t.

      • Lopez earned the nickname by fighting thieves off whilst on a bike ride in Colombia. They were armed with knives and stabbed him.

      • “What has he ever done across a Grand Tour that would suggest he’s capable of beating Dumoulin, never mind Froome?”
        Yeah, and what had Dumoulin ever done in a GT before winning the Giro? Lots of enthusiasm for that single Vuelta *two years before*, but he had lost that fair and square, he didn’t come even close to winning (as he himself admitted). It’s not like he suffered any sort of accident nor is it like the last and next to only decent mountain stage doesn’t count for GC. Tom didn’t even make the final top 5 in GC, that year. And his overall score in GTs had stayed extremely poor before the 2017 Giro. Yet, everybody was feeling he was going to be the next big thing, and reasonably so!

        Superman López’s GT score can’t be significant, given that he raced… two (one of which as a neopro).

        And in the most recent one, well, kicking everybody’s back (names like: Froome, Contador, Nibali, Chaves, Bardet, Zakarin, Kelderman…) on multiple occasions in the Vuelta’s uphill finishes, while still being an U23 rider and having broken bones twice in the previous twelve months might look significant enough to some, don’t you think? ^__^

        Always man against man, not thanks to breaks, and being looked after by the big names. He didn’t start the Vuelta trying to go for the GC – he left more than 5′ minutes fly away in a transition stage during the first week – but, despite of that, halfway through he was already in the top ten, then less than a minute away from the podium at the start of the third week.

        He’s still a young rider and, although I’m rooting for him, I’m also skeptical about his overall chances so soon – but he can’t be overlooked.

        That Vuelta also proved that he can lose time in an ITT (in 40 flat kms, 2’30” to Froome, 1’30” to Nibali and Contador), but still way less than Aru, Woods, Mentijes, Chaves, S. Yates, who all lost 30″-1’30” (or more) to him.
        The worst news was him cracking quite much, albeit not awfully, on the Angliru, a hard final stage as the one which the Giro will sport this year.

        All in all, I think that a lot will be about his growth: if he’s become more steady, more expert, more concentrated, a little of fondo should be naturally added by age and raced kms.
        Also remember that in 2016, still a neopro, he was winning in a dominating fashion two very-high-level races like Tour de Suisse (final GC) and Milano-Torino (the Italian Classic).
        I knew him before he even became a pro at Astana, he’s always been a “chosen one”, and a hugely talented one, *not* the sort of guy who’s just got the engine and races on the back of the selected group hanging for dear life thus picking some final top tens here and there.

        A whole different chapter is if, as it tends to happen in many cycling-enthusiast countries, he’s already near to his virtual top and hasn’t margin for growth. Time will tell.

        • I’m not saying he isn’t good or won’t end up being great but some people have him down as favourite or number 2 and I think that is getting a bit over excited. He’s won a couple of stages of the Vuelta and fair play to him for that but Barguil did the same in the Tour and I don’t think anyone will have him as second favourite come July. It’s easier when folk aren’t chasing you.

          • Umm, Richard S, did you actually watch the Vuelta? No polemics intended, I mean, it’s not available on TV for all the world.

            Because the point is precisely that López dropped them off his wheel again and again, while they had all the motivation to go deep. The Calar Alto finale was telling, when he rides off Nibali and Froome both full gas.
            He violently dropped Contador on Sierra Nevada after both had attacked at the same time and both were going all-in for the stage win; and, on that occasion, despite being alone on a easy climb with flat sections, and after a middle-range attack, he didn’t lose much time to the Sky-led peloton which was striving to control attacks: barely 20″ in 5 km (he then lost further 15″ because of the typical flamme rouge rush).
            Not only that: he didn’t win on Sierra de la Pandera or Los Machucos because of the breakaway, but, again, he dropped straight from the front the best riders in a phase of maximum effort.
            The others simply had no chance to follow him, however hard they could be trying.

            He didn’t perform as well on the short “walls”, but he was without doubt the strongest rider on 4 out of 5 mountain-top finishes. That’s not about being left the stage win.

            Surely, you can compare present day López with the expectations raised by Barguil as a neopro. And yet, the Frenchman needed two separate Vueltas to achieve the results which López got in last year’s single edition: and in neither case Barguil looked like the strongest climber against a royal field. The following years proved what Barguil’s dimension probably is. Sure, the same might happen with López, as I said above; but the premises are different.
            Currently, López’s palmarés is already better than Barguil’s – and he’s three years younger.

            Of course, if we speak of winning the Giro, many factors are against him and it doesn’t look especially probable; but if you compare him with Barguil’s current performances, I think you just didn’t understood what his potential is (by the way, last TdF’s contenders field and technical level was one of the poorest I could expect, unlike the Vuelta’s)

            He’s well behind Froome or Duomoulin, but I can’t see him being worse, on paper, than most of the rest. Inrng nailed it above – sure, not 2nd favourite, but probably the 4th or so.

          • @gabriele

            “Because the point is precisely that López dropped them off his wheel again and again, while they had all the motivation to go deep. The Calar Alto finale was telling, when he rides off Nibali and Froome both full gas.”

            My recollection is more that both Nibali and Froome were racing each other and not Lopez. Partly he rode away but partly they let him go. And wisely so given they finished the race 1,2. And he got about 20 seconds if I remember right. Both easily recouped their losses to the Colombian in the ITT.

            Regarding this Giro my own interest is if Lopez can attack earlier and make worrying gains in the order of 30-60 seconds. Ten here and twenty there won’t worry TD and CF.

          • @RonDe
            Well, this video might help your memory:
            I can see Froome in full swirling, stem-watching mode. And I guess that if Nibali was able to go with López, he’d have taken advantage of Froome’s difficult moment.
            These images have no *part* of “let him go” to me (1.3 km to the line?!). But, obviously, everybody is entitled to read the riders’ mind as he please, hence I guess that we’ll hardly ever know.
            Given that time bonuses are available, Froome lost to López some 2’11” on the four stages I described above. Of course he got it all back on the ITT. With a mere 23″ difference. Not exactly what I’d call “easily”.
            Even more so in Nibali’s case: he lost less time than Froome, some 1’33”, but he also got back less time on the ITT and the difference was just 4″.
            The true advantage for Froome and Nibali was Superman losing time on several first week stages, some of them barely significant (experience) then cracking on the Angliru (solidity).

  10. I disagree with the notion that Froome isn’t seriously distracted by the AAF. I’m pretty sure he won’t win another Grand Tour… I think his clean history (officially at least) was central to his steeliness and that’s now been shattered. But time will tell.

    Unlike last year, teams will this year be arranging their tactics to disrupt Dumoulin from the very start… defending a title is I suspect always harder than winning it for the 1st time.

    I’d like Aru to win it, because why not.

    • Because he’ll lose time in the time trial and there are better climbers, and more consistent riders, than him? Aru has never seemed to have the discipline to be a consistent threat. He is a typical “flair” rider in an age of machines (Froome, Dumoulin). Aru needs to learn more from the example of Nibali who combines flair with being pragmatic and consistent.

      • Totally agree about Aru not having the right pragmatism. Also he seemed to be a step behind in the Alps…

        Froome still has a clean history by the way. Even if he is convicted of having to much Salbutamol in his body, its not the same thing as doping.

        If Froome is doping (none of us knows whether he is) then I would wager a fair amount, that its not by taking to much of a legal substance that is easily detected and has close to zero effect!
        The Salbutamol is almost certainly a case of a simple human mistake.

        That doesnt proof that he isnt cheating, but like I said, none of us knows if thats the case. The Salbutamol doesnt swing that notion in any direction…

        • Tom L, so do you think Froome is really stupid and took far too many puffs even whilst knowing that this would have no therapeutic effect and would result in him being over the limit, or do you think he had a truly bizarre temporary kidney malfunction, which also did not impair his ability to ride a bike up mountains?
          Because those are the only two notions put forward other than doping.
          I agree that a mistake was made, but I don’t believe for a second that it was taking twice as many puffs as he knew he was allowed to do.
          By your logic, Indurain has ‘no history of doping’, but I’m not naive enough to believe in him either.
          Salbutamol has been shown to have a performance enhancing effect, depending on how much is administered, etc.
          So, yes, it is doping.
          And there are plenty of PEDs that are legal – corticosteroids out of competition, opioid painkillers whilst riding, etc., plus there is a whole host of stuff on the outer limits of science (and history shows that the cheats are usually ahead of the testers).
          As for the distraction factor, I don’t think Froome gives a flying one.

          • Indurain is an interesting one. His rise pre-dates the mass use of EPO, and his fall is pretty much in line with it and when some other stuff came along according to Willy Voet, so he was either in the vanguard and one of the early beneficiaries or a victim! The way Mr 60% and the Festina boys had their way with him in 96, and the way he was beaten by Gewiss etc at the 94 Giro, would suggest he wasn’t on the same stuff/program as them (or he could be an excellent example of RobDe’s cliff theory). He was linked to Conconi though I think. Seems like a nice fella though and nobody seems to want to dig too deep, least of all the Spanish.

        • “Even if he is convicted of having to much Salbutamol in his body, its not the same thing as doping”.
          Ah ah ah ah ah ah! Most exhilarating post today 😀

          “Close to zero effect”… sure, if it was puffing. But, frankly, you’d have a hard time to puff such an amount in your system. Let’s just leave the subject 😉

          • About the effect of Salbumatol, there is a fine article on this page a couple of months back, I would suggest you read it…

            Gabriele it isnt me saying that to much Salbumatol isnt doping, its the rules… It is not classified as doping, which is also why he isnt banned from racing and why in other similar cases, the punishment hasnt been that harsh, and there has even been a case of being found not guilty!

            J Evans, no I do not think Froome is stupid, which is excactly my point! It would be tremendously stupid to use twice the allowed amount of a legal and easily detected substance, with very little or no performance enhancing effect!

            Maybe Froome is doping, but if he is, im sure its in a way that a bit more sophisticated and harder to detect…

            Either there is a scientific explanation for the extra amount ( I know you think thats bullshit, but there is a reason they are allowed to give a logical explanation before being convicted ) Or I believe its a matter of taking to many puffs, or having to strong an inhaler or something stupid like that! I believe its a case of a stupid mistake, and therefore no ill will from Froome.

            He might be cheating some other way, but I really doubt the extra Salbutamol is a case of deliberate cheating! As you said it yourself, that would simply be stupid…

          • @Tom L
            You might find useful some of the informed comments below that article. And, by the way, that same article made extremely clear that, well, the rule say that *it is* doping. A specified substance is not a less serious substance: it’s a substance which is allowed *under some very specific conditions*.
            And, for example, we can also have some serious substances like cortisone which are allowed *under some conditions*, but, feel assured, if those conditions are not in place (and some would suggest that it’s the same even if they are)… it’s doping, and among the most effective.
            But I’ll stop here, I’ve got a certain feel that this is beyond debate.

          • Tom L – stupid to knowingly take too many puffs.
            But anyone can make a mistake: get your doping wrong, time a blood bag incorrectly, etc. That’s all speculation, but it’s infinitely more likely than Froome having magic kidneys and much more likely than him being so dumb that he took too many puffs.

      • But there’s that “perfect storm” thing – especially for a guy racing on home soil. I’d add a chainring to both Aru and Pozzovivo simply for that reason. And who is to say Mr. Salbutamol won’t do a “Wiggo” at the Giro? Some nasty, cold weather and slick roads combined with those old “Italian dirty tricks” certain folks like to imagine could spell the end of SKY’s hopes as has happened so many times in the past. Forza Aru!

  11. Interesting chainrings. Yates (marginally)ahead of Aru shows either how far Yates has come or how far Aru has fallen away. Not sure which. Time will tell.

  12. If it was the TDF with this exact roster I’d 100% pick Froome. At the Giro, with its much greater potential for chaos, his lack of experience, and Sky’s miserable record (at least partly due to aforementioned chaos), I’d still pick up him, just with much less certainty. I agree w/J Evans that the people are really overrating the distraction factor. Not only does CF have a long track record of remaining calm + unruffled under tremendous external pressure, he’s also always struck me as (for any basketball fans) a cycling Tim Duncan – boring nice guy exterior papered over a wild-eyed, fanatical competitor. If anything I expect to make him ride with even more of a chip on his shoulder than usual. If he fails it’ll either be through lack of form, Sky’s traditional Giro misfortunes and/or failure to control the race, or just getting flat out beat. Having to thread the needle between Doom (if he has climbing form) + purer climbers is a complicating factor.

    If not him, Doom if he can climb as well, or actually he’ll need to climb better, than last year. If not either, then Pinot. His form looks good, he has a very solid record of Giro performance, + even if his TT is iffy I still trust it more than MAL’s, no matter how much time MAL spent in a wind-tunnel this off-season. Aru is like MAL but worse, unless he’s on some crazy run of form which is possible, you really never know with that dude, tho also he seems to lack that 3 week laser precision you need for consistent GT success.

    Then again, that’s why they race. Either way looking forward to another GT season w/inrng + co.

  13. What happened to König? At the beginning of the season he was to be Bora’s man for the Giro. But he seems to have vanished.

  14. I’d put Roman Kreuziger above the twin & Chaves.

    He was proberbly the strongest rider in all 3 Ardenne classics, even thoug they dont really suit him.

  15. I’m going to guess that neither Froome nor Dumoulin wins. They are both coming into the Giro ‘undercooked’, in order to be good for the Tour. I think the Giro is too demanding to pull it off. I wonder what the best strategy would be for their competitors in this situation.

    Lopez is all-in for the Giro, and his team have been ‘magically’ strong ever since they announced sponsorship problems earlier this year. Pinot looks like he might be able to put all the pieces together this time. Aru? Who knows? Michael Woods also looks interesting, along with the Scott duo. Looking forward to it!

    • At this point hope and optimism spring eternal. But the race *more often than not* makes the million “contenders” shrink down to the one or two guys who were always going to win anyway.

    • With Froome undercooked, it makes sense for the 2nd tier contenders to attack the 1st half of the race to exploit any weakness. Lets see an eruption on Etna!

  16. Pinot then Lopez.

    Pozzovivo has been strong so far this season, however, I don’t see Him in front of Aru who will take 3rd.
    National pride may help Aru more and that would be fine.

    Formolo will do better than His last year 10 spot. T.T. will limit Him while He grows and perhaps improves in that area.

    It’d be ok and maybe good for the world if a decision is made and Froome leaves the race before Rome. He’s guilty. Positive. No argument, only attorneys. If Froome wins, I don’t think He wins. What a mess.

    A thing about Froome; as far as tactics go, Froome has shown He has them in different facets.

    The way Dumoulin could win would be boring. I’m glad there are points for excitement and jitters.

    & I don’t think it will be a boring race.

    • Alberto Contador, and several million of his fans, still think he won 9 grand tours. In the end, what does it matter what random folks think?

      • I guess that depends on what you mean by “random folks’? Are they the ones who tune in on TV (or not) or buy (or not) the sponsor’s products or who no longer bother with the sport because of the constant drip, drip, drip of scandal? The ones who thought Il Pistolero won that Giro but then say WTF when the victory is taken away? The ones who wonder why Mr. Salbutamol is allowed to race after being caught with twice the level of the stuff in his urine….more than six months ago?

        • Let’s do this Larry. Facts must reign here. One fact is that Froome is LEGALLY entitled (according to the sport’s rules) to race. You know this as well as I. It would apply to ANY rider in his exact position. If you think the rules should be changed and any Adverse Analytical Finding (which people like you called a “failed test” but which, legally, isn’t) should bring instant suspension then argue for that as a procedural point. I can only assume there are good reasons for why this isn’t already the case.

          As to who all these phantom people are who have switched off or stopped buying Quick Step floors or lottery tickets in numerous European countries (all sponsors) or watching Sky TV or using Movistar products in Spanish-speaking countries (long time sponsors of those from Big Mig to Valverde) or have left the sport in a parlous state, well, I suggest you give me your facts and figures regarding all those you think have abandoned cycling in droves since mid-December 2017 when the medical privacy of a rider was impugned on the basis of a dubious “public interest” defence. Eurosport keep advertising on my TV after every grand tour that their viewing figures have gone up and the roads seem as full of fans as I ever remember them being. Rhetoric is not facts Larry and the fulminations of people with nothing better to do on cycling’s Internet forums is a poor basis for any argument (and is often nothing other then naked hatred for certain riders).

          In the end, it is ironic that we should be having this chat in front of a race that takes place in a country where Il Pirata is not a villain but a saint, don’t you think? And ironic that Froome is trying to achieve something last achieved by him. It doesn’t seem to me from the comfort of my sofa as if Pantani is remembered as a scourge of the sport and a deterrent to viewing figures or sponsors’ bottom lines. A neutral assessment of the sins of The Pirate and the possible misdemeanors of Froome, which I don’t seek to avoid since if he broke the rules then he broke the rules, would seem to suggest that even if the latter is guilty of cheating its hardly in the league of the great Italian. Even the forever king of the cheats, the resurgently popular Texan, is managing to insinuate himself back into sporting society.

          So by “random folks” I mean people like you and me who pop up on the Internet and give our 10 cents. Contador is away somewhere and no doubt has jerseys on his wall. Does he care what you or I think about his “wins”? Will that even enter into and affect the world he lives in? Should Froome win the Giro on the 27th will he care that Larry T doesn’t think it was legit? Does Lance imagine he never won the Tour after all? Besides the crazies who foam at the mouth about drugs in sport I also observe, on a constant basis, plenty of those who say “They all do it.” I don’t think they do all do it but that is witness to another mentality. That mentality is basically “Its all dodgy but its still a race.” I see no evidence that cycling has been ruined by puffs of an inhaler or contaminated meat. Indeed, I rather think that if the Internet didn’t exist rather less people would even care. Which is actually the attitude of *most* people in society generally.

          • I largely agree: the rules suck, but Froome doesn’t make them.
            They need to be changed, but whilst they are what they are he has every right to be here.
            (I’ve met a number of people who don’t watch cycling anymore because of the doping, but that’s not statistically relevant.)

          • OK, thanks. I was going to argue until you claimed to know “Which is actually the attitude of *most* people in society generally.” There’s no way I an argue with someone who would make a statement like that, so I’ll leave it for others.
            Meanwhile it seems the “gods of sport” might have already rendered a verdict on Mr. Salbutamol’s Giro challenge this morning? Beaten in a chrono by tiny Domenico Pozzovivo?

  17. As much as I was looking forward a while ago to a battle between Dumoulin and Froome the whole thing turned a little sour. Now I just hope Froome has to abandon in one of the early stages and saves the world from retrofitting the podium. Not that I want him to get hurt, let me be clear about that.
    Let’s at least hope for some epic racing!

  18. I can’t see past Froome, his only obstacle is how he copes with the cold. I really can’t see Big Tom staying with him on Zoncolan. People saying Froomes case will catch up with him is wishful thinking. He has raced under a cloud since he finished second at the giro all those years ago. I hope Tom can do it, but Froome at his best beats Tom at his best.

    • Not sure what the second at the Giro thing is all about. However on this afternoon’s evidence doubts about TD’s form seem misplaced, he was very focused and determined. Chris Froome did seem to be carrying an injury from his crash but he is already 30 seconds behind. That is a big number of seconds to be giving away, especially with another longish time trial to come. Yes there is the Zoncolan and 3 weeks of surprises on a GT but at the moment TD looks to be the prime pick.

      • Actually the problem in the first part of the season was that he was too determined. If you watch the Dutch interviews he gave on the eve of the start it was obvious that he found back the fun without losing his focus. The way he talked about grabbing his race bike an hour after arrival and going for a quick sightseeing tour of the town in normal clothes convinced me that his mind is in the right place. But let’s see how the climbing legs are doing in the third week.

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