For some, the Giro d’Italia is merely the little brother to the Tour de France, a warmup act for the big grand tour of the summer. But for many cycling fans, the Giro has become the most attractive of the three grand tours (hello, Vuelta), partly thanks to the chokehold that Team Sky/Ineos (hereafter Ineos) have applied to the Tour over the past decade or so.
There’s a sense now that the Giro is a more open race than the Tour, less weighed down by Dave Brailsford’s peloton-sapping race tactics. Ineos’ two headline riders, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, have reportedly spent most of the winter and spring agitating over who gets to NOT ride the Giro, which tells you all you need to know about where that team’s focus lies.
In 2019, Egan Bernal was to be Ineos’ General Classification candidate but withdrew from contention after breaking his collarbone and was replaced by promising Irish rider, Eddie Dunbar, who rode magnificently at the Tour de Yorkshire last week.
Bernal’s absence means Ineos will be without a major GC contender in the Giro, with Pavel Sivakov arguably the most likely to be given protected rider status, although Tao Geoghegan Hart may press his claim after an impressive second (to Sivakov) at the Tour of the Alps in April. Still, whoever is given the “leader” role, Ineos aren’t likely to be in the shakeup for the race overall in three weeks time.
But who is? Well, we’ve run through the GC favourites and given our thoughts on who might be wearing the maglia rosa in Verona on June 2nd.
Let’s start by getting the mandatory mention of Roglic’s sporting past out of the way: he used to be a ski-jumper and only took up cycling at the age of 22. Since when he has gone from strength to strength in his “new” sport, excelling at Continental level before moving into the World Tour ranks in 2016 with his current team.
Now, after several years of solid progress, Roglic finds himself favourite for the Giro partly thanks to a stellar spring in which he won the GC at each stage-race he entered, taking four individual stages along the way (plus a team time-trial). He’s spent a few seasons learning the tactics required to win stage races, and it’s clearly beginning to pay off.
As GC riders go, he’s a very good time-triallist, something that will hold him in good stead at this year’s Giro, which includes more than 50km of time trials. On top of this, he has a team behind him that looks capable of coming up with a plan and executing it, so he should have the support he needs from within the peloton.
At 15/8, he’s a worthy favourite and, all things considered, the most likely winner.
Like Roglic, Dumoulin will benefit from the abundance of time trial kilometres. The Dutchman is one of the peloton’s most accomplished TT riders, and although not as pure a climber as Simon Yates or Vincenzo Nibali he makes up for that with his resilience and tactical nous. He also won this race in 2017, meaning he obviously knows what it takes to add a grand tour to his palmarès.
That said, Dumoulin hasn’t set the world alight so far in 2019, his best result being 4th in GC in the Tirreno-Adriatico in March. He briefly put his nose above the parapet at Milano-Sanremo with a charge over the Poggio, but it’s not unfair to suggest Dumoulin is not at his best. He will be there or thereabouts, but on current form might be best avoided in the outright market, where his price at 9/4 isn’t overly enticing.
Simon Yates’ collapse at the 2018 Giro has already passed into the realms of infamy. On stage 19 over the Colle delle Finestre, Yates – who was in possession of the pink jersey at the start of the day – lost almost 39 minutes to Chris Froome in a spectacular implosion. Froome had attacked with 85km to go and Yates, stricken with fatigue, had no answers: he finished 21st overall.
Yates experienced redemption later in the year with a GC victory in the Vuelta, but that was a race devoid of a genuine Sky challenger, along with many big names including Dumoulin and Roglic. In 2019, Yates hasn’t managed to finish in the top 10 GC of any race he’s entered, though he did spring a surprise in Paris-Nice with a victory in an individual time trial – something that bodes well for the Giro.
Based purely on results, you’d be forgiven for thinking Yates is in poor shape, but recent form doesn’t really tell the full story. At times, he has looked impressive and has been unlucky not to finish higher than he has. The Giro is a race Yates will have targeted, and he will have learned significantly from last year’s catastrophe, as well as his exploits at the Vuelta.
It would be a surprise not to see him on the podium in Verona, which explains his price of 11/4 to win outright.
Only seven men in history have won all three grand tours, and Vincenzo Nibali is one of them. The Shark of Messina will go down as one of the greatest riders of his era, but it’s been a while since he was really on top of his game.
His most recent major victory came at Milano-Sanremo last year, though he looked to be in a good position in the Tour later that summer before suffering a fractured vertebrae thanks to a rogue spectator. He has steadily improved his form this spring, with a strong-looking 3rd in GC at the Tour of the Alps and 8th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two stiff tests for the legs of any rider.
It’s hard to know where Nibali is at this point, but it’s not a reach to suggest that those results show he’s in reasonable shape. He’ll always be a threat in the mountains but, unlike Dumoulin and Roglic, won’t benefit in the slightest from the abundance of time trials.
Our feeling is that a podium is achievable for Nibs, but that he may not be powerful enough to outdo his rivals. At 6/1, however, the price is tempting.
Of the top five in the outright market, López looks the most overpriced. He’s not a good time-triallist, but he has a punchiness that his fellow GC contenders lack.
“Superman” isn’t afraid of any kind of terrain, though he looks strongest on punchy climbs and has already beaten Simon Yates several times on the upward slopes this year, including at the whopping Vallter 2000 ascent on stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya. (To be fair, Yates was working for his brother Adam on most of those occasions).
The Colombian finished 3rd at the Giro and the Vuelta in 2018 without ever looking like he was going to win either, but has stepped up his GC game this year with an overall victory at the aforementioned Volta a Catalunya, where he held off the likes of Adam Yates, Bernal and Nairo Quintana.
At 25, López has serious scope for improvement, but he’s already beginning to look like a grand tour winner of the future, and it would be stupid to write him off taking his first at the upcoming Giro. On offer at 10/1, he’s probably the best value of the contenders.