Will the Giro d’Italia 2019 be won by a time triallist who can climb, or a climber who can time trial?
With no fewer than three chronos – more than any Grand Tour has included since 2016 – at the start, middle and end of the race, the parcours certainly seem to favour the former.
The bookies do too, with all but a couple selecting Primož Roglič and Tom Dumoulin as favourites. The most generous are offering odds on the Slovenian of no longer than 15/8. He’s got a 100% record in stage races this season, 66% over the last two. Sounds about right.
Considering Dumoulin has won the race before and finished twice in the two biggest Grand Tours last year, he offers slightly better value, but not much.
Still, there are reasons to be sceptical about both of their chances. Though he could ride into it, Dumoulin has shown few signs of the form he’ll need. The Sunweb star has been playing down his chances and is usually not one for engaging in mind games.
Roglič, for his part, has never before had sole responsibility for leading a team across a three-week race. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, Roglič also does not have the experience of being a Grand Tour contender who’s come crashing down to earth. Maybe his body won’t need it, but recent years suggest that it will.
One who has gone through that rite of passage – in spectacular style – is Simon Yates. Last year’s loss hit him hard but, as he recently told Rouleur’s Andy McGrath, it also left him supremely motivated: “It’s driving me to go back there and finish it off”.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider, who headlines our Giro special, was certainly sending his rivals a message – and maybe one in particular – when he said if he was them “I would be s***ting myself”. Most frightening for them may have been that he even won the time trial at this year’s Paris-Nice. He may not have been facing the toughest of TT opposition but it can surely no longer count as a weakness.
Yates’ own pick for the rider who will run him closest in the future is another lightweight grimpeur, Miguel Ángel López: “He’s actually probably the best climber in Grand Tours. He’s always there, just always there.” Yates is not wrong. López has two podiums from his only four Grand Tour starts, both of which came last year.
What could well clinch it for the Colombian, however, is the calibre of the domestiques he’s taking in support. Astana ran Deceuninck Quick-Step close for team of the spring Classics and the squad they’re taking to Italy is, to say the least, fully loaded. Comprising a set of serious climbers, several of them López can expect to stick with him ‘til the going gets really tough, while one is Tour of the Basque Country winner, Ion Izagirre. Looking at that lot, if I was Simon Yates I’d be…