The lead up to this year’s 101st edition of the Giro has been a constant tussle of will it start, won’t it start and will he start, won’t he start. Moving out of Europe to Jerusalem has had its critics and is the most controversial Grand Tour start that we’ve seen.
Backup plans were at the ready in case race organiser, Mauro Vegni, decided to pull the plug on the Grande Partenza from Israel. But through sheer dogged determination, RCS have pressed on Friday, agree or not, the first Grand Tour of the season will commence, in Jerusalem. So who will be vying for pink this year?
Whilst Movistar are taking all their big guns to the Tour de France it leaves the Giro without so much as a whiff of a Valverde, Quintana or Landa. Both Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet have also opted for the Tour, which isn’t a huge surprise after their 2017 Tour results. But there’s still quite a line-up:
Tom Dumoulin – Team Sunweb
The Butterfly of Maastricht will be returning to defend the pink jersey after originally saying that he wasn’t going to. That’s until Chris Froome announced he was taking to the Giro start line, and suddenly the reigning Dutchman was enticed back.
With two relatively flat time-trials, these are prime ground for this flapping butterfly to take some time. After he DNF’d in a crash at Tirreno Adriatico, it wasn’t quite the preparation he was looking for. But with no serious injuries, he’s looking ready for three weeks of defending the Maglia Rosa.
Thibaut Pinot – Groupama FDJ
Winning the Tour of the Alps -the race considered the tune-up for the Giro- definitely gets you into the favourites list. But with the 34,5km flat time-trial on stage 16, this is where Pinot will lose time to the thundering TT engines such as Dumoulin and Froome.
Miguel Angel Lopez – Astana
He is nicknamed ‘Superman’ due to his courageous talent as a neighbourhood watch officer, fighting off bike thieves in his home town in Colombia, rather than soaring up mountains. But fly up mountains is what Lopez is going to have to do to take the time gaps. He will be thrilling to watch during the three weeks.
Esteban Chaves – Mitchelton-Scott
It feels like we’ve not seen much from the Colombian cheshire cat during 2018 – apart from a first place on GC at Herald Sun Tour. Since his breakout year in 2016, Chaves is in need of a good result. With him and Simon Yates both spearheading the team, the battle that could derail Mitchelton-Scott could be the old-age one of joint leadership.
Simon Yates – Mitchelton-Scott
Fourth at Volta a Catalunya, second at Paris-Nice, so far for Yates it’s been a season of just missing out. 2018 will be his debut year at the Giro and it is going to have to involve him doing something pretty special in the mountains to get time on Froome and Dumoulin.
George Bennett – Team LottoNL-Jumbo
Having not ridden the Giro since 2013, this year he will be entering as the lead man for Team LottoNL-Jumbo. With a fifth at Tour of the Alps, sixth at Volta a Catalunya and ninth at Tirreno Adriatico, he’s coming of age and the Giro could be a great platform to show just how far he can go.
Fabio Aru – Team UAE
It’s easy to forget that Aru is still only just coming into his prime at 27 years of age. Claiming sixth at the Tour of the Alps hopefully means he’s going to be in the mix. But he’s going to have to go hell for leather on those climbs to be able to topple Dumoulin or Froome for the chance at the podium.
Chris Froome – Team Sky
By only managing a fourth place at Tour of the Alps, that somehow sets us down the path of condemning Froome’s form ahead of his third consecutive Grand Tour – along with a plethora of other reasons. You get the feeling the road to Roma is not going to be a simple one for him.
Although this multiple Grand Tour winner has demonstrated time and again how not to crack under pressure, if there are moments where a chink in his perfectly poised facade start to bare through, his Team Sky entourage are always there. Taking Poels, Henao, De La Cruz, Kiryienka, Knees and Elissonde is a like turning up to a knife fight with a fully loaded gun. Let battle commence.