Giro d’Italia Preview

Who is going to win the Giro d’Italia? The answer today feels obvious, almost certain although plenty can happen in the next three weeks. The harder questions are how might Tadej Pogačar win and who else is going to finish on the podium?

Route reminder
You can see all the stages on one page here. This is not as mountainous as usual and there two time trial stages totalling 70km. If it’s a gentler Giro, it’s relative as there are still three weeks and tough mountain stages, especially in the third week.

The Contenders

Tadej Pogačar is everyone’s pick. He’s finished no lower than third in a grand tour and the few riders who can challenge him directly are not here. Just look at the recent Volta a Catalunya where he ran away with the race, likewise Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He’s more than capable in the time trials and the sterrato stage is no worry for the Strade Bianche winner.

If Pogačar seems certain to win then remember in 2019 Simon Yates promised he was better than the rest and got sacked in the third week; Geraint Thomas’s bid buckled because of a bidon in 2020; in 2022 few predicted Jai Hindley’s triumph and last year Remco Evenepoel was DNF. The Giro supplies surprise although this is a race preview rather than mysticism so we won’t go too far with speculation about Covid or errant dogs. Today, in a straight sporting contest, Pogačar is far ahead.

His team look solid but not scary. They’re all lined behind him, no Plan B or deputy; they even come with a sprinter in Molano. Rivals will look to them to take on the race which could leave them tired towards the end.

If he’s here for the Giro, it’s worth asking how much does Pogačar want to win the Tour de France? The original plan was he’d be all in to win his first Giro then see what happens in July. Now the talk is audibly of the Giro-Tour double so he might aim for more economy during the Giro but that remains to be seen, as we saw in Catalunya if he’s able to win he’ll just go for it.

If we can all see Pogačar winning, how might he do it? Smash the opening weekend and keep the maglia rosa to the end? His team would be on the ropes, it might be better to try and “loan” the race lead to a breakaway. Paradoxically the gentler route may be less tiring in totality but it this doesn’t make it easy to build an impregnable lead going into the third week. So wait until late before delivering a knock-out in the third week? He might not be so far ahead to insure against a jours sans during the third week, his team could be tired by then too. He was dismantled in the 2022 Tour by Jumbo-Visma playing the old 1-2 and rival teams here have multiple options to play.

The Rivals
Who else is here to win? Many might think “second is no bad result and if I’m up there during the third week, who knows?” and if so then they’ll have in mind the last two years where the Giro has been decided right at the end.

Amid a bloom of budding talents, Geraint Thomas, second last year after being overhauled on the penultimate day, is more like an old oak tree and assuming he stays upright he’ll celebrate his 38th birthday during the race. He should be a dependable rider for the Giro although his form in the recent Tour of the Alps though didn’t look sparking; it wasn’t last year either but he was playing catch-up after illness then and says he’s more ready now. Third in the 2022 Tour de France, he seemed oblivious to the Pogačar-Vingegaard duel and can diesel around to a steady finish and the long time trials suit.

Thymen Arensmen is another GC contender who was sixth here last year and can hope to improve on that but recent riding in Romandie didn’t look special. Tobias Foss brings more options but is likely to be deployed as a helper. Crucially with Thomas and Arensman means Ineos start with options. Imagine Stage 16 with the Stelvio early in the stage and Ineos get to work and dismantle UAE to leave Pogačar exposed. Fanciful? Maybe but a scenario and having finished second last time Thomas is here for a result rather than a repeat and could be open to tactical risks.

Bora-hansgrohe say they want to develop young talent but they’re happy to make big hires too and in comes Dani Martinez. Fifth in the 2021 Giro while jobbing as Bernal’s motivation coach, the challenge is to improve on this, the Colombian is more than capable based on past results but leadership with a new team, well we’ll see. He’s due to ride the Tour de France as well and so can function as pest to Pogačar for the benefit of Primož Roglič. Florian Lipowitz starts his first grand tour after climbing with the best in Romandie, translating this into success in the Giro is a big ask but worth watching all the same as he is a rider on the up.

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Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) has finished fourth in the Tour de France. He won a mountain stage from the breakaway that year to take time but kept hanging with the front group through the rest of the race and has learned plenty and improved since, he’s now surprisingly good in time trials. He’s an aggressive rider who can get restless in the front group and this is enjoyable to watch but it can cost him too. There’s a brittle feeling to his challenge, very strong in one week races for the podium but a Ming vase contender in a grand tour where one slip in the next three weeks could see the challenge shattered. He’s bolstered by a strong team for the mountains with Aurélien Paret-Peintre capable of a decent overall result too.

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Romain Bardet (DSM Firmenich-PostNL) looks in great form after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His challenge is the time trial stages, 70km looks prohibitive for the podium. Put Pogačar aside and if he loses two seconds per kilometre to rival GC riders that’s a handicap of over two minutes to make up in the mountains. He can still climb to a high GC finish and if he wins a stage along the way he can complete the set of a victory in all three grand tours.

Luke Plapp (Jayco) is the antithesis to Bardet, a strong time trial rider who maybe prone to losing time in the mountains. Aggressive in Paris-Nice and Romandie, he’s shown he can climb with the best at times but doing this after multiple climbs and late into three weeks of racing is the new test, in Romandie he found the stage with more than one mountain pass harder. The course suits but this Giro is journey rather than make-or-break. Eddie Dunbar was a revelation last year, fourth on GC in the final week before sliding to seventh but this year his form isn’t so convincing and he won’t like all the time trials.

Visma-Lease A Bike have had a rotten April but Olav Kooij has been delivering sprint wins and his presence can take some pressure of Cian Uijtdebroeks who still goes in as the team’s GC contender. Eighth after a promising Vuelta, the 21 year old is going to be interesting to follow this month to see how he performs but is a project rather than a finished product, an undergraduate under the tutelage of Professor Gesink. Look to see how he fares in the high mountains and time trials alike.

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Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain) has long been tipped as a talent for the future, in their Segafredo years Trek nurtured him only for him to slay a government minister’s cat with an air rifle which in cost him his job, an incident so far more remarkable than his palmarès. He’s out to change this and can climb and time trial well. Having finished third in the recent Tour of the Alps the form is there and starts his first Giro with high hopes after banking two editions of the Vuelta. There’s little pressure, this week’s editions of La Gazzetta Dello Sport contain more references to Marco Pantani than him. From the Lazio region, the 22 year old is surely Italy’s best hope too although veteran team mate Damiano Caruso has been second and fourth in the last two years, largely by racing his own race.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is a previous winner… a decade ago. Two years ago his results were waning and his return to the World Tour this year has seen him nursing a ligament injury and chasing stage wins.

Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek) had a great Tour of the Alps, winning the race by matching everything his rivals could throw at him during each mountain stage. But this shows he wasn’t saving energy for the Giro and how to win here with 70km of time trials? If he’s a form pick it’s for a mountain stage maybe and a top-10 and one of several contenders for the mountains competition.

Tadej Pogačar
O’Connor, Thomas, Arensman, Martinez

57 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Preview”

    • I’m probably alone but I am excited.

      Some of my favourite riders there – love a bit of Bardet, rooting for Cian, want Luke Plapp and Ben O’Connor to go well, and especially my countryman Eddie Dunbar.

    • It’s also a rotten parcours. Too easy (to entice Pog to race, no doubt), too many sprint stages, nowhere near enough stages for puncheurs. I have never been less excited by a Giro – and that seems to be a common feeling. RCS got Pog, but at what cost? I think they’re likely to lose viewers/fans/interest during this race rather than gain. Hopefully, they’ll learn from that, but that seems unlikely.

      • You may be right on the parcours – I’ve not studied but initially I was happy they mixed up the first week, before we knew who was riding, as the Giro has had a few dire first weeks in recent times, only for the final two to the get interesting.

        Any Giro though is preaching to the choir for me – I love Italy, I love Grand Tours – it has to be really really bad for me not to enjoy, or when a mid-race crash takes away the expected rivalry for the win.

        • I’m with you in looking forward to this Giro, as I look forward to most all GTs that I have the time to follow day by day. I’m reminded of the narration from ‘The Naked City’: ““There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

          178 riders x 21 stages x unpredictable weather x unpredictable crowds x 22 diverse team strategies x you-name-it should give us about 8 million stories from this Giro. Some will be dull, even predictable, but there will be plenty of surprises, tragedies, pleasures, bafflements, and so on. Can’t wait for it to start!

      • Largely agree with this – it all depends how the race shakes down.

        If Pog takes the Maglia Rosa on the first weekend as some (Brian Nygaard on The Cycling Podcast, and INRNG above in passing) predict then we could be in for the dullest of GCs in recent seasons, certainly when set against the incredibly tight finishes we’ve had.

        • Those tight finishes only came at the end, after weeks of riders biding their time. I can remember complaints in the last two years about the lack of action and attacks.

          We’ll see how Pogačar fares, take “maglia rosa in the first weekend” scenario, he could go into next week with a minute’s lead and his team set about defending it but this can sap him and them alike. He’s used to post-stage protocols given all the white jerseys he’s had but his team being talked into riding on the front all the time could cause them problems later on, Pogačar’s ambitions and abilities might be above what the team can deliver across three weeks as motivated as they’ll be.

          • Right, for years this race has also been decried as a Fleche Wallone that takes 3 weeks to complete, as far as the GC goes, you only need to tune in to the last few days. Can’t please everybody. But of course a GT (especially this one) has far more going on than just the GC.

            As for this GC, this year, it will only be disappointing if everyone else rolls over and aims for 2nd. Whether Pog takes it by the scruff early or prowls around in striking distance, there can be no keeping your powder dry until the Alps. We might even see a proper fight as the other serious contenders try to arrive in the last week with minutes in hand before the big climbs. That would be thrilling in its own right — and quite a change from recent editions.

          • @TDK
            For “years”, i.e., two (terrible) editions.

            2021 was interesting to the very end but most action had happened before. 2020’s GC was ultimately fought off in the third week, starting in Piancavallo (st. 15, not exactly the very end), but the first half also had memorable stages courtesy of Ganna and Sagan (but also Dowsett, FDJ etc.), besides the GC truce. 2019 hadn’t a great start, besides ITTs and Carapaz’ glimpse of things to come in Frascati), but pretty much the whole second half from st. 12 on was very good. 2018 was decided in a single stage, but with a lot of previous action, same for 2016, whereas 2017 even started strong, as 2015 etc.

            You must really go back to 2012 in order to find another single edition corresponding to such a definition. And then further back… to when? I’d struggle to say.

            But, yes, the last two were that bad. And the worst thing is that it’s the result which the organisers were lookin for. Some mumbo jumbo marketing genius (or “consultant”) had convinced them that what “modern public” wants is an “open race” with “slim differences”, decided “on the very last stage”. They got what they wanted, and it obviously was a disappointment in terms of audience, too, besides having harmed the race as a technically well-built competition.

      • Re: parcours. The easier profile should make for closer racing IMO, in much the same way that MSR is wide open and Flanders is not. If there were another 1200m of climbing in the Alps or more Strade-like or Lombardy-lite stages Pog would be a 6 or 7 ring favorite. This gives everybody else a chance to make a race of it.

      • Very true. Possibly the worst parcours in Giro history. Half of the stages are for sprinters and even the mountain stages are tame (Bocca della Selva, Val Gardena, Sappada, Brocon). The only stage which features a proper climb at the end (Grappa) finishes with a downhill. It is just unbelievably bad. Daniel Friebe mentioned the lack of hilltop finishes as well in their preview.

  1. It would have been interesting given the route to see what Van Aert could’ve done here. If he was even going to try and do anything. He might have never had a better shot at a GT podium!
    Hopefully Tiberi can provide some long over due Italian GC interest. Otherwise we might be relying on Pozzovivo, and that might prove a bit much for the string and rusty metal bars that hold him together these days.
    The rest will be interesting because it’s the Giro, and if nothing else we get to look at Italy for 3 weeks.

    • If I was van Aert, I’d focus my entire career from now solely on one-day races. Working as a domestique is bound to blunt him for those races, as it has for others. If that means missing grand tours or even changing teams, then so be it. van der Poel is a punchier rider – always was, even in cyclocross – and I don’t doubt he’d have a better one-day palmares anyway, but I think it’s skewed more greatly because van der Poel really only has one priority. van Aert is the far superior climber and has a very good palmares, but it’s 5-1 to van der Poel in the monuments. (van der Poel might win more TdF stages if Phillipsen leaves the team too.)

  2. Thanks for the preview!
    I think the greatest entertainment will be UAE trying to curb Pogacar’s enthusiasm so he does not burn himself out.
    Otherwise chances for young guys to shine and old dogs to have their day – Pozzovivo at his 18th Giro start deserves a mention.

  3. I’m interested in the idea of teams like Bora and Visma making Podgcar chase somebody that’s close enough on GC to be a threat, not for the Giro but as a way to accumulate fatigue and blunt him in the Tour.

    In may be me looking for some interest in what threatens to be a dull GC contest though…

  4. After finding the last 4 editions very stressful to watch, with riders I was rooting for either only just winning or only just losing, I’m hoping this year will be a nice relaxing watch as Pogacar disappears off into the distance!

    I love the description of Martinez as Bernal’s motivation coach. It is such a brilliant photo.

  5. I am not sure I would give any rider five rings for the Giro there are too many variables. Tadej Pogacer is self evidently the overwhelming favourite, however despite it being a very well worn cliche, something always happens at the Giro. Possibly not weather related as the forecast looks very pleasant, at least for the first couple of weeks but trips into the Apennines always bring the risk of sudden storms.

    I wonder about the Giro – Tour double thing, it did for Chris Froome & Tom Dumoulin in 2018, though TP’s main rivals have various degrees of injuries pressure can do strange things.

    Who might be the contenders for the white jersey, Cian Uijtdebroeks I guess especially as Visma, who else?

    • White jersey contenders: Arensman, Plapp, Tiberi, Uijtdebroeks, Lipowitz are the ones mentioned in this preview that are still young enough to contend the white jersey.
      Beyond that it’s slim pickings. Filippo Zana might be worth a mention, but he’s more likely to be stage hunting.

      • Those are the likely picks for white already. Soudal’s Vansevenant could be up there, DSM’s Leemreize via the time trials.

        Also worth watching Pellizzari, the youngest rider in the race and with Bardiani today but he’s signed for a bigger team already. EF’s Steinhauser could surprise. Arkéa’s Costiou has been good so far this season, Decathlon’s Baudin too, back to the Giro like Quintana after a tramadol test and like the Colombian, no answer as to how it got there. Movistar’s Milesi is a TT rider but he’s “only” 70kg so lighter than Plapp. Piganzoli is climbing well and hoping to attract more interest.

  6. It’s the rare GT where I’m more looking forward to the sprint stages than mountain stages, where Pog will win by minutes anyway.

  7. “Ming vase”. Love that comment on Ben O’Connor. To be fair, you could say that of many a modern GC contender who has a middling to bad crash given how much weight they have to shred and how skinny they need to be these days. Witness Bernal, Froome, etc. It will be interesting to see how Jonas V recovers from his tumble. Remco has been amazing since his Lombardia crash. That said, he isn’t the ‘skeletor’ that many of the taller GC riders are.

    • Bernal is an example of the opposite, probably, given the nature of his crash. Generally speaking, he had had some freak crashes with relatively “modest” consequences.

      The main and most famous Froome crash doesn’t mean much in itself, either, because it was a true disaster, but in his case there’s also a history of modest crashes producing fractures.

      However, there are at least three different aspects which are not necessarily related, i.e., being crash prone (and crashing better or worse), suffering more or less serious injuries relatively to the nature of the crash, and finally recovery.

    • That Remco crash was unreal when you think back on it.
      I wish there were more ways to make those kinds of incidents less frequent.

      It sticks in my memory (probably as it was the same team and a similar crash) like Gilbert’s when he rode the final 60km with a broken kneecap – I’m still confused how that was possible.

      In terms of crash prone – no one comes close to competing with the Geraint & Roglic double act. Together they have the greatest crash reels I’ve ever known.

      Geraint’s Tirreno crash uphill at the end of that snowy stage was magnifique! Roglic’s bizarre Vuelta one which he blamed on Fred Wright was also memorable, although with a less comical outcome unfortunately for him.

      • I found it ironic that in the pre-Giro Watts Occurring episode Thomas described Sheffield as being crash-prone. I’m not sure if that comes under pot, kettle & black, or takes one to know one, or both!

    • I’m pretty sure ‘brittle,’ ‘Ming vase,’ and ‘one slip’ are meant metaphorically, and refer to resiliency, stamina, recovery, focus, etc. over the relentless pressure of a three week GT (and not a literal injury-inducing crash).

  8. The best chainring rankings ever?

    Pog, Thomas, O’Connor my 1,2,3… Pog wins in Mountains and anywhere he wants, G wins the TT’s, gets dropped on the bigger mountains, O’Connor the most consistent of the rest.

  9. I’m surprised that even teams with a GC hopeful are also covering bases with a sprinter and, often, sprint support too. Examples:
    – Bora with Martinez and Van Poppel
    – DSM with Bardet, Jakobsen and Welten
    – Visma with Cian and Kooij
    – Movistar with Quintana (curious to watch), Gaviria and Cimolai
    They must feel that pink is sewn up but still. The only teams all-out for the remaining podium places seem to be Ineos and Decathlon though I can’t see that Thomas has the form for it though, in three weeks, he might find it.

    • The route suits the sprinters but if there are a lot of them, see how many teams come with full sprint trains… not many at all. It’ll be interesting to see how many bail before the Alps but plenty might stay on given the slim pickings in July.

  10. UAE may not have to chase everything down if Pogačar has already got a reasonable buffer. If things are still close between the other contenders they may end up setting the pace or chasing each other down to maintain their own position in GC.

  11. Plapp is an interesting one. Has an engine but no pedigree whatsoever in Grand Tours. I’d be pleasantly surprised if he finishes Top 10.

  12. as you say G to diesel around and pick up time in the TTs, Pog to be miles ahead but trip up over a snow drift somewhere and get withdrawn as a precaution for July, and G takes the pink to Rome!

    • Do you think G’s got the form?

      He’s impossible to really tell with as he either turns up and rides well or the complete opposite but last year he looked okay at the Tour of the Alps and this year he’s seemed a little undercooked every time I’ve seen him race?

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see him really struggle early and a drop out of contention as much as I would to see him finish top5.

  13. Just been watching stage 6 of La Vuelta Feminina and a carelessly dropped bidon brought down a rider. Another bottle could be seen rolling around the other side of the bunch at the same time. I’ve recently seen several cases of riders in the peloton carelessly slinging (clearly full) bottles across the road which then bounce off the kerb and back into the bunch. Thinking its time careless riders are dq’d for this kind of thing? Although I believe G’s Giro crash out the other year was due to a loose bottle bouncing out over a traffic hump (?) there’s clearly potential tightening up on these kind of rider caused hazards?

    • There are fines for guys throwing away bidons outside of the designated areas, but if a rider accidently drops one, then I think we get into a grey legal area.

      • I’m talking about deliberately discarding a bottle in a careless manner where it causes a hazard to other riders. A fine doesn’t seem enough when the consequences could easily include multiple serious rider injuries. Compare with a red card for a potentially carrier ending tackle in football

        • There’s supposed to review here, the UCI safety commission is looking into this. No more news on it. In general if a rider does something stupid they’d normally be reminded of it in the coming days and for a long time, the peloton as a self-regulating society.

          • It’s been mentioned more than once in recent times (usually in connection with crashes in the bunch) that the mutual respect and self regulation of the peloton is not what it once was? Probably bottle management has also become somewhat blasé…

  14. Just thinking about whether there are any historical precedents for a rider winning the opening stage of a grand tour and keeping the leader’s jersey all the way to the finish. Could happen today, but has it happened before?

  15. I’m starting to lose faith in pro cycling again. The ease at which races are being won now and the startling chainring prediction here just makes me not want to watch. Kinda sensed the same lack of enthusiasm in the article.

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