Britain's Simon Yates begins his bid for Giro d'Italia victory on Saturday looking to end three years of heartbreak and misfortune at the race.
Having won three stages and led for 13 days in 2018, he cracked in the final week, before an underwhelming eighth-place finish in 2019 was followed by an early exit last year after he tested positive for Covid-19.
The 28-year-old Team Bike Exchange rider starts the first Grand Tour of the year as perhaps the outright favourite following his dominant Tour of the Alps victory last month.
After moving to October last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Giro returns to its regular May slot, starting in Turin on Saturday and ending in Milan on Sunday, 30 May.
The contenders The general classification riders are competing for the maglia rosa - the pink jersey.
As well as victory in the Alps, Yates finished in the top 10 at stage races Volta a Catalunya and Tirreno-Adriatico this year and is looking for his second Grand Tour win, having responded to his 2018 Giro disappointment with an imperious victory at that year's Vuelta a Espana.
He would be the third British man to win the Giro, all in the last four years, following Chris Froome in 2018 and last year's winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is racing in the Tour de France this year instead of in Italy.
Colombia's 2019 Tour champion Egan Bernal endured a tough season last year but is supported by a very strong Ineos Grenadiers team and his climbing skills should suit the terrain on his Giro debut.
His form is unknown though, with the 24-year-old not having raced since mid-March, preferring to train at altitude in Colombia, while he has also been dealing with a back injury.
Portugal's Joao Almeida, 22, led the race for 15 days last year before finishing fourth overall, though the main contenders may be even more wary of his Deceuninck-QuickStep team-mate Remco Evenepoel.
Belgium's Evenepoel, 21, is making his Grand Tour debut and has not raced since fracturing his pelvis in August, but won every stage race he entered in 2020 and is one of the sport's most exciting talents.
Last year's runner-up, Australian Jai Hindley of Team DSM, returns, though the 25-year-old has not had a strong start to 2021.
Trek-Segafredo's Italian veteran Vincenzo Nibali, 36, is bidding for his third Giro win but fractured his wrist just three weeks ago, while Spanish Team Bahrain Victorious leader Mikel Landa, 31, will try to finally win his first Grand Tour after six top-10 finishes.
Britain's Hugh Carthy, 26, of EF Education-Nippo will attempt to build on his third-place finish at the 2020 Vuelta, while Astana are hoping for a strong showing from Russian Aleksandr Vlasov, 25.
The other Britons riding are Carthy's team-mate Simon Carr, Deceunick-Quick-Step's James Knox, Eolo-Kometa's Mark Christian and Israel Start-Up Nation's Alex Dowsett, who won a stage last year.
An exciting sprinting year? Most of cycling's major sprint showdowns happen at the Tour, but there is an impressive cast of fast finishers at this year's Giro.
Australia's Caleb Ewan, 26, has won three Giro stages before and will be the focus for his Lotto Soudal team.
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, 27, of Team Jumbo-Visma is racing for the first time since he was suspended for causing the crash at the Tour of Poland that saw Fabio Jakobsen suffer serious injuries.
UAE Team Emirates' Fernando Gaviria, 26, has won five Giro stages before and the Colombian, who caught Covid-19 twice last year, is looking to recapture the form he showed early in his career.
Former three-time world champion Peter Sagan, 31, won a stage and finished second four times on his Giro debut last year and the Slovak will also target stage wins on days that do not suit pure sprinters.
The course The route features 21 stages, starting and ending with individual time trials, in which Yates will have to limit his losses to his rivals who are stronger against the clock.
A particularly mountainous course, which features a total elevation gain of more than 47,000m, sees plenty of climbing in week one amid the sprint stages, with an uphill finish on stage four and key mountain days on stages eight and nine.
The second week starts with stage 11, which includes testing gravel sections, before the riders tackle Monte Zoncolan, one of the toughest climbs in cycling, on stage 14.
A brutal third week includes three decisive mountain stages in four days, before the closing time trial, which could see the race decided on the final day, as it was last year.
Britain's Simon Yates begins his bid for Giro d'Italia victory on Saturday looking to end three years of heartbreak and misfortune at the race.Having won three stages and led for 13 days in 2018, he cracked in the final week, before an underwhelming
Taco van der Hoorn took a remarkable solo victory from the breakaway as Filippo Ganna retained the pink jersey on stage three of the Giro d’Italia. The 27-year-old Van der Hoorn, making his Grand Tour debut in this race, held his hand to his mouth in shock as he crossed the line just four seconds before the charging peloton in Canale.
Davide Cimolai won the race for second place just ahead of Peter Sagan, whose Bora-Hansgrohe team had done so much of the work on the front of the peloton, pushing to try to drop rival sprinters but getting their timing wrong when it came to chasing down the break.
“I can’t believe it,” Van der Hoorn said. “I just wanted to go in the break and be aggressive for the whole Giro, I know how difficult it is to try to win a stage or even get to the finish line with the group but if there’s even 0.5% of a chance you just take it.”
Attention now turns to Tuesday’s 187km hilly stage from Piacenza to the uphill finish in Sestola, where the first major changes to the overall standings since the opening time trial could come.
Taco van der Hoorn took a remarkable solo victory from the breakaway as Filippo Ganna retained the pink jersey on stage three of the Giro d’Italia. The 27-year-old Van der Hoorn, making his Grand Tour debut in this race, held his hand to his mouth
Britain's Simon Yates and Hugh Carthy both gained time on a soggy stage six at the Giro d'Italia which saw another rider hit by a car.
Carthy of EF Education-Nippo is sixth, 38 seconds down, and Yates 49 seconds back in 10th for Team Bike Exchange.
But Yates' team car hit Deceuninck-Quick Step's Pieter Serry late in an eventful 160km stage to Ascoli Piceno, won by Bahrain Victorious' Gino Mader.
Attila Valter of Groupama-FDJ gained the overall leader's pink jersey.
Belgian Serry, 32, was furious after being struck from behind as the driver of the Bike Exchange car was passing an item through the window of an official race organiser's car.
The driver has since been excluded from the race and handed a fine of 2,000 Swiss Francs (£1,573).
The incident comes just one day after Bahrain Victorious' lead rider Mikel Landa suffered a broken collarbone and ribs after crashing with two other riders and a race marshal.
Hungarian Valter, 22, benefitted from a breakaway by the whole Ineos Grenadiers team at the top of a climb with around 35km to go in torrential rain.
Ineos' 24-year-old lead rider Egan Bernal - the 2019 Tour de France winner - was led up the final climb and now sits third overall, 16 seconds behind Valter, with Quick Step's Remco Evenepoel a staggering second, 11 seconds down.
Evenepoel, 21, has put in some superb performances on his Grand Tour debut, just nine months after crashing off a bridge and breaking his pelvis in Italy during the Il Lombardia one-day race.
Meanwhile, 2017 Giro d'Italia winner Tom Dumoulin will make a surprise comeback after announcing he would take a break from cycling in January.
The Jumbo-Visma rider will compete in the Tour de Suisse in June.
General classification 1. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ 22hrs 17mins 6secs
9. Dan Martin (Ire) Israel Start-up Nation +47secs
10. Simon Yates (GB) Team Bike Exchange +49secs
Britain's Simon Yates and Hugh Carthy both gained time on a soggy stage six at the Giro d'Italia which saw another rider hit by a car.Carthy of EF Education-Nippo is sixth, 38 seconds down, and Yates 49 seconds back in 10th for Team Bike Exchange.But
Colombia's Egan Bernal took the overall lead in the Giro d'Italia after storming to victory on the ninth stage.The 2019 Tour de France winner got his first win of the season as Hungary's Attila Valter - the previous overall leader - lost pace on the
Colombia's Egan Bernal took control of the overall standings in the Giro d'Italia by extending his lead in the race to 45 seconds.
Switzerland's Mauro Schmid won a dramatic stage 11 from a breakaway as riders struggled with the intense gravel roads of Tuscany.
British duo Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates moved up to fourth and fifth respectively despite losing time.
"I'm happy to arrive at the front but we need to stay focused," said Bernal.
Yates, 28, who had questioned whether the 162km run from Perugia to the town of Montalcino had a place on a Grand Tour due to the high risk of mechanical issues and crashes, said he was pleased overall with his performance on Wednesday.
The Team Bike Exchange rider added: "Onwards and upwards. It wasn't a day I was looking forward to but I think I did a good ride. The legs were good, and that's the main thing."
Several general classification contenders were left reeling by the famed Strade Bianche, with Belgium's Remco Evenepoel conceding more than two minutes to fall from second to seventh overall.
The 21-year-old, riding his maiden career Grand Tour and first race since fracturing his pelvis last year, ran into trouble on the third gravel section and looked nervous on the descents.
He then found himself in an angry discussion with Deceuninck-QuickStep team-mate Joao Almeida and ripped out his earpiece after the Portuguese left it late to drop back to help - leaving his bid for the pink jersey over.
Qhubeka-Assos' Schmid held off Alessandro Covi of UAE Team Emirates in a two-man sprint to the line to take his first professional victory.
Stage 12 takes place on Thursday with the 212km route setting off from Siena and finishing in Bagno di Romagna.
Colombia's Egan Bernal took control of the overall standings in the Giro d'Italia by extending his lead in the race to 45 seconds.Switzerland's Mauro Schmid won a dramatic stage 11 from a breakaway as riders struggled with the intense gravel roads of
Italy's Andrea Vendrame claimed victory on stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia as compatriot and former race leader Alessandro de Marchi crashed out.
Movistar's Marc Soler and De Marchi's British team-mate Alex Dowsett were among those to also withdraw as the riders contended with tough conditions.
Colombian Egan Bernal remains 45 seconds ahead of Russian Aleksandr Vlasov in the overall standings.
British duo Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates stay fourth and fifth respectively.
Stage winner Vendrame, of AG2R Citroen, sprinted clear of DSM's Chris Hamilton to take victory in Bagno di Romagna.
On an otherwise quiet day in the general classification battle, Trek-Segafredo's Vincenzo Nibali attacked late on and gained seven seconds on the main group featuring leader Bernal, climbing to 13th overall.
Israel Start-Up Nation's De Marchi, who wore the pink jersey for two days, crashed 20km into the race and was taken away in an ambulance.
His team confirmed the rider had broken his right collarbone and six ribs, along with his first and second thoracic vertebra - and would remain in hospital for "at least one night".
De Marchi had previously criticised the finish to stage five which saw Mikel Landa suffer a nasty crash as "a crazy circus" and "too dangerous".
Soler, who had been 11th overall, fell shortly after the start of the stage in Siena and was forced to stop after 50km with a back issue.
Briton Dowsett's withdrawal was due to stomach problems while Swiss rider Gino Mader of Bahrain Victorious, winner of stage six, also left the race.
Friday's stage 13 is a flat 198km route from Ravenna to Verona, before the riders tackle one of cycling's toughest ascents, Monte Zoncolan, on Saturday.
Italy's Andrea Vendrame claimed victory on stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia as compatriot and former race leader Alessandro de Marchi crashed out.Movistar's Marc Soler and De Marchi's British team-mate Alex Dowsett were among those to also withdraw as t
Italy's Lorenzo Fortunato impressively climbed to his maiden career win on stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia, as Egan Bernal added to his overall lead at the summit of Monte Zoncolan.
Fortunato, riding for Eolo-Kometa, won the 205km stage in five hours 17 minutes 22 seconds.
Colombian Bernal came fourth, but crucially extended his race lead to 93 seconds.
Briton Simon Yates finished sixth and moved up to second overall.
Italy's Damiano Caruso is third overall, 1:51 back.
Russian Aleksander Vlasov lost more than a minute on Ineos Grenadiers rider Bernal in the pink jersey on the final climb of the mountain stage - which included scaling gradients of over 20% in the final three kilometres.
"I think that I'm in a really good position now. I don't need to attack on every mountain stage," said 2019 Tour de France winner Bernal.
"I just need to be calm and patient. Finally I followed Yates and I tried to make an acceleration in the final and I think that I did a good race."
Sunday's 15th stage is 147km cross-border circuit between Italy and Slovenia which takes in three climbs.
Italy's Lorenzo Fortunato impressively climbed to his maiden career win on stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia, as Egan Bernal added to his overall lead at the summit of Monte Zoncolan.Fortunato, riding for Eolo-Kometa, won the 205km stage in five hours 17
Simon Yates' general classification hopes at the Giro d'Italia suffered a blow as he dropped from second to fifth overall after struggling on the rain-hit stage 16.
The Briton lost two minutes and 37 seconds to leader Egan Bernal over the Cima Coppi.
Team BikeExchange leader Yates is now 4:20 down on the Colombian, who took the stage win.
Yates' compatriot Hugh Carthy finished fifth and is now third overall.
Carthy is 3:40 behind overall leader Bernal, who finished Monday's stage 27s ahead of France's Romain Bardet and Italy's Damiano Caruso.
The stage had been cut back to 153km from the original 212km and two climbs removed, because of rain and freezing weather.
"I wanted to put on a show," Bernal said. "This is the kind of cycling I like, when it's wet and cold and you need grit. "I wanted to do something special. It's risky but I thought I could do it, and the team believed in me."
Tuesday is a rest day at the Giro d'Italia, which ends in Milan on Sunday.
Simon Yates' general classification hopes at the Giro d'Italia suffered a blow as he dropped from second to fifth overall after struggling on the rain-hit stage 16.The Briton lost two minutes and 37 seconds to leader Egan Bernal over the Cima Coppi.T