Ever since Marco Pantani romped away on stage 15 of the 1998 Tour to all but ‘win’ the Yellow Jersey to add to his Giro d’Italia title, the Giro-Tour double has sat unclaimed, untouchable, banished to the murky depths of cycling history. However, this year one rider has once again pinned his banner to the mast and stated that he will ride to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. That rider is Alberto Contador.
The list of seven riders who have achieved the double is certainly a who’s who of top riders over the past 70 years. Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Roche, Indurain and Pantani were, no doubt, the best riders of their generation and if the feat is ever to be achieved again the rider who does will certainly be at the top of their particular class. Now, this isn’t the place to discuss Alberto Contador’s credentials to that title but it is certainly the place to discuss the in’s and out’s of the 98th Giro d’Italia.
So, here we are again. The classics have been wrapped up and now we can tuck into the real meat of the cycling season sandwich. The route, as ever with the Giro, is full of surprises and drastic uphill finishes. What stands out immediately, however, is a difficult first week which could easily shake out the GC contenders right away. The 59.4km time trial and the and the climbs of Passo Daone, Mortirolo and Colle delle Finestre in the final week will be the real testing ground to any Maglia Rosa contenders.
Lets have a look at the main contenders and some you may not have considered. Alberto Contador is the bookies favourite, yet his 2015 season has been one of little concrete success. His mind has been on the Giro for a long time and having not raced since the Tour of Catalyuna in March, he’ll undoubtedly be fresh. His usual swashbuckling attacks in the mountains are nailed on as he will have to limit his losses in the 59.4km individual time trial.
Richie Porte is next up! A rider whose form is plain for all to see. And yet, it would take a very confident fan to tell you that Porte can win this Giro. Prone to a jours sans and only ever finishing in the top 10 of grand tour once before mean that he is far from nailed on! Team Sky bring Leopold Konig too who arguably has more consistent form in three week races. Rigoberto Uran, a solid if not spectacular second last year (arguably he could have won it after a cheeky move by Nairo Quintana) sits third favourite. A move to Etixx-Quickstep has bought success but at the detriment of team strength. Maxime Bouet, David de la Cruz and Pieter Sierry isn’t the most formidable line up of climbing domestiques and he’ll certainly have perform well to follow the wheels of the main favourites.
A quick comparison of competitive days raced, for each of the three main contenders, is very interesting. Contador sits on 19 days racing, Uran, 25 and Richie Porte, 33. Now, it could be said that Porte has built up to the race nicely and Contador sits undercooked, underaced, underprepared. However, it would take a very brave man to bet against Contador. He could easily ride himself into scintillating form, snatching the Giro and thus putting him in great shape for a tilt at the Yellow Jersey.
Fabio Aru, Domenico Pozzovivo, Benat Intxausti, Przemyslaw Niemiec and Ryder Hesjedal make up a merry band of outsiders that are in the frame to win the pink jersey. Aru’s supposed ‘problems’ have been well documented whilst apart from himself and Hejesdal the others have no real top notch form in Grand Tours to speak of. In terms of real outsiders, how about Davide Formolo to make an impression or Steven Kruijswijk to finally break through the glass ceiling that has been holding him back.
Who’s your tip to win the Giro? Get in touch on Twitter @CyclingShortsUK or @BywaterLawrence