It’s an odd Giro d’Italia.
The Italian grand tour starts on the narrow, rainy roads of Ireland and a few GC riders may be down and out before they get to the actual Giro country. Crash out, have a nice Irish beer and sing a few sad songs in the nearby pub. We can just hear Ivan Basso’s rendition of My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.
Then there’s the lack of big stars who prefer the Tour of Tenerife to the Giro. Big names like Chris Froome of Sky, Vincenzo Nibali of Astana and Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo would rather train for the Tour de France on the island than wear themselves out in the Giro.
That means an odd Giro but certainly a wide open one, a collision of young guns and old stars. There’s Cadel Evans (37) , Joaquim Rodriquez (35), Michele Scarponi (34) and Ivan Basso (36) on one side and Nairo Quintana (24), Rafal Majka (24) and Rigoberto Uran (27) on the other. Domenico Pozzovivo of AG2R is in a chronological no-mans land at age 31.
It’s no country for old men or kids not allowed depending on who makes the final podium. Nobody seems to have a predictable call except for putting Quintana and Rodriquez up there somewhere.
Which makes for a pretty damn exciting Giro. As some expert noted, really, there’s only five or six guys with a realistic shot at the Tour de France but with some luck and good legs, there’s a dozen riders who could make the podium in the Giro.
Personally, we’re crossing Evans and Scarponi and Basso off the list. Old diesels that are running slower and slower and Scarponi’s number one job this season is helping Nibali win the Tour, not kill himself in Italy.
We have to play it safe with Quintana and Rodriguez but we’re throwing Pozzovivo or Uran in the third spot. They’ve both timed their form to perfection and either one seems a good bet.
If we had to take a true dark horse, it would be Ryder Hesjedal but that all depends on how his co-captain Dan Martin is going. After his surprise Giro title two years ago and then miserable failure to defend said crown, the Canadian is flying under the radar.
That’s the sweet spot in a grand tour — there but invisible and perhaps he’s quietly put himself in the form to contend. Like all great GC riders, Hesjedal gets stronger in the third week and this Giro is backloaded for brutality. Now that the news of his doping has died down, he might be carrying a lighter load up the mountain.
We’ll be at the Tour of California but keeping an eye on the Giro. It should be a cracker.