Previous Giro D'Italia Winners 2015 | CONTADOR Alberto 2014 | QUINTANA Nairo 2013 | NIBALI Vincenzo 2012 | HESJEDAL Ryder 2011 | SCARPONI Michele 2010 | BASSO Ivan 2009 | MENCHOV Denis 2008 | CONTADOR Alberto 2007 | DI LUCA Danilo 2006 | BASSO Ivan
Top-10 2015 Giro d'Italia 1.CONTADOR Alberto 88:22:25 2.ARU Fabio1:53 3.LANDA Mikel 3:05 4.AMADOR Andrey 8:10 5.HESJEDAL Ryder 9:52 6.KöNIG Leopold 10:41 7.KRUIJSWIJK Steven 10:53 8.CARUSO Damiano 12:08 9.GENIEZ Alexandre 15:51 10.TROFIMOV Yuri 16:14
This is my favourite of the three Grand Tours, more spectacular than the Vuelta a Espana and if less glamorous, also less predictable and formulaic than the Tour de France. Judging by the expected contenders and the parcours, we could be in store for an absolute treat. We have an outright favourite in Vincenzo Nibali, a man who has won all three Grand Tours once including the Giro in 2013. He will have serious competition from a number of established and rising GC stars who will have the full support of their teams.
We have a Big Start in The Netherlands, with a short time trial and two stages for the sprinters before a transfer to Calabria in the South of Italy. There are some more flat and hilly stages before the first big GC test in stage 6. The next significant stage is the stage 9 ITT in Tuscany. Prepare for some shots of vineyards. There is a rest day before a tough Stage 10 in the Apennines that could catch some out. There are then a few transitional stages that get harder and harder leading up to Stage 14 to Corvara in the Dolomites that has some very tough climbs in the last 50km. The following day is the Stage 15 Mountain TT up the Alpe di Siusi. In the last week there are 3 more stages with tough climbs. Stage 19 and 20 will together test all the riders. For the GC guys, they will find the strongest climbers. For the rest, they will simply try to beat the time limit.
The winner is likely to be an excellent time trialler as we have three ITTs in this season's route. Stage 1 is almost short enough to be a prologue and will do little more than give the GC some early shape, but the 40.5km test on stage 9 will see some massive time gaps and the 10.8km uphill TT on stage 15 will cause some sleepless nights. Despite the TT miles though, it is a likely that this Giro will go to a climber extraordinaire. Stages 14, 19 and 20 have some serious tests, not just in terms of length and gradient of the climbs but also in terms of altitude, with 7 peaks above 2000m including the Colla Dell Agnello on Stage 19 and Col de la Bonette on Stage 20 that both top out at over 2700m. Overall, the winner will have to be able to climb, descend, time trial, handle some likely tough weather, deal with pressure of leading a team over a 3 week tour and stay upright.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 13/8
Palmares: 43 Pro Wins Tour de France 2014, Giro d'Italia 2013, Vuelta d'Espana 2010 4 other Grand Tour podium finishes 5 Tour de France stage wins, 5 Giro d'Italia stage wins Tirreno Adriatico 2012, 2013 Il Lombardia 2015 Italian National Champs Road Race 2014, 2015 Giro Record (5 - oldest first): 19, 11, 3, 2, 1
Nibali will surely go down as one of the all-time greats and for this race he looks the complete package. One of only 6 riders to have a Grand Tour grand slam (Anquetil, Contador, Merckx, Gimondi and Hinault being the others) and at 31 he should be at his peak. The 2014 Tour de France winner blew everyone away in the mountains that year, and won stages in both the Alps and Pyrenees. He wasn't able to retain the yellow jersey in 2015 (seems a very difficult thing to do in recent times) and lost time early in the race before finishing very strongly for 4th in the GC, form he kept up for the rest of the year, taking home a whole host of Italian one day races including his first monument in Il Lombardia. His 2013 Giro win was dubbed as a head to head with Bradley Wiggins but of the two only Nibali was able to handle the weather, climbs and descents. His climbing pedigree is not in doubt, he would also expect to make time on most contenders against the clock. He has two uphill ITT Giro stage wins to his name and although he may lose time to the out and out TT specialists on stage 9 it would be no surprise to anyone of he won stage 15. This has been his designated target all year, his Astana team will be strong and on all known pedigree he is certainly the man to beat. The only question mark would be over his recent form/shape but I expect we'll see Nibali in fine fettle come the 6th May.
Mikel Landa (Sky Pro Cycling) 3/1
Palmares:9 Pro Wins 0 Grand Tour wins, 1 Podium finish 2015 Giro d'Italia 2 Giro d'Italia Stage wins & 1 Vuelta a Espana Stage wins all in 2015 Giro de Trentino 2015
Landa first came to prominence with a Stage win in the 2011 Vuelta a Burgos but seemed to markedly step up a level in 2015, his last season for Astana, with a stage win in Vuelta al Pais Vasco, a very strong Giro del Trentino when he was 2nd in two stages and GC. He then followed that up with an exceptional Giro when he won two mountain stages and got a 3rd place finish, at times looking stronger than his team leader Fabio Aru. He was back in support of Aru in the Vuelta as Aru won the GC and Landa took another mountain stage. That strong year got him a move to Sky where he was promised a leader's role and this is his chance to shine. Landa has been in excellent form for Sky so far in 2016, winning a stage on the steep slopes of Pais Vasco when he wasn't suppsed to be in top shape. He then won a stage and the GC in Trentino. Obviously not been there and done that like Nibali, but has no question marks over form or motivation and clearly knows how to win. He hasn't always looked like the strongest rider against the clock, and that could count against him on this parcours but he’ll think that even on the TT bike there are enough uphill sections for him to gain some time, and he's at the right team to improve that discipline so he could surprise. With a very strong looking team he is a massive threat to beat his old team mate to glory.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 7/1
Palmares: 78 Pro Wins Vuelta a Espana 2009 7 other Grand Tour podium finishes (6 Vuelta a Espana & Tour de France 2015) 9 Stages of the Vuelta a Espana Critérium Du Dauphiné Libéré 2008, 2009 Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2006, 2008, 2015 La Fleche Wallonne 2006, 2014, 2015, 2016 Clasica San Sebastian 2008, 2014 Vuelta a Andalucia 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Vuelta a Catalunya 2009 Spanish National Championships Road Race 2008, 2015 Spanish National TT Championships 2014
Somewhat surprisingly Alejandro Valverde, veteran of 18 Grand Tours, has never previously attempted the Giro d’Italia. The evergreen Spaniard is not everyone’s cup of tea but one thing you can guarantee is that no-one will be taking him lightly. He showed once again on the Mur de Huy that there is no-one better on punchy steep climbs of which there will be plenty in this race. He is 36 now so you would think he may be vulnerable to younger legs, especially in the crucial third week when recovery powers are all important. He has shown that he isn’t always as happy on the long climbs but he’s a good time triallist so it would be no surprise to see a very prominent GC showing and stage wins are a sure thing. Like Nibali and Landa, he has the support of a very strong team so he is a massive contender.
Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) 12/1
Palmares: 8 Pro Wins 2nd in Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2014 2 Giro d’Italia stage wins Grand Prix de Quebec 2015 Gran Piemonte 2012 Silver Olympic Road Race 2012
The popular Colombian has been second to superb Giro winners twice, following Nibali home in 2013 and Nairo Quintana in 2014. Certainly in the second of those he was distinctly unfortunate, wearing the leader’s jersey until a controversial stage 15 that took the riders over both the Gavia and the Stelvio. In horrendous conditions the race was seemingly neutralised but somehow Uran lost several minutes to Quintana and he was never quite able to make that time back. He’s a high quality climber and has an excellent time trial. He’s a very good tactician and knows what it is like to compete over 3 weeks for this title. Will this be his turn to stand on the top step of the podium? One thing that could count against him is the relative strength of his team (or lack of).
Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) 14/1
Palmares: 6 Pro Wins 0 Grand Tour wins but 3rd in the 2015 Vuelta a Espana, 6th and 7th in his two Giri d'Italia 3 Tour de France stage wins Tour of Poland 2014
The 26 year old Pole Rafal Majka has a similar profile to Mikel Landa in that he has a chance to lead his team in this Giro after years in service of others. Majka is an excellent climber as he demonstrated when taking the polka dot jersey in the Tour in 2014 along with two mountain stages and followed it up with another stage in 2015. He also got a top 3 placing in the 2015 Vuelta a Espana when Tom Dumoulin cracked on the final mountain stage. It's possible he wasn't at this best there as many of the other riders who had ridden the Tour underperformed in the Vuelta. In that context, and on the back of an extended break at the end of the season it's conceivable that he maintains and upward curve, improves again and challenges here. Like Landa, he's probably an OK time triallist rather than excelling in that discipline and it's possible this will work against him.
Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) 12/1
Palmares: 5 Pro Wins 0 Grand Tours or podiums 1 Giro d'Italia Stage win 2015 Tour de Romandie 2015 Tour of Azerbaijan 2015
Ilnur Zakarin would not have been on most people's list of favourites for the Giro a few months ago but his impressive form in his defence of his 2015 Tour de Romandie overall win has seen his odds shrink. The 26 year old Russian received a 2 year ban for steroids early in his career but the Katusha rider seems determined to make up for lost time. His form on the steep slopes in Switzerland was impressive, on Stage 3 he dropped everyone except Quintana who he beat in a two-up sprint before the places were controversially reversed by the judges. His 2015 win Tour de Romandie win may have been a surprise, but he showed excellent form in the mountains and blew the other GC contenders away despite a mechanical. He followed this form up in last year's Giro, his first Grand Tour, winning Stage 11 solo on the race track at Imola in very wet conditions. There is no question that Zakarin can climb and time trial and he could go very well indeed. Any doubts would be about his ability to mix it at the deep end 3 weeks into a Grand Tour.
Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) 28/1
Palmares: 9 Pro Wins 0 Grand Tour wins or podiums, but led the 2015 Vuelta a Espana until the penultimate stage 2 Vuelta a Espana stage wins 2015
Tom Dumoulin has done a fantastic job of transforming himself from one of the world's top out-and-out time trial specialist into a seemingly genuine GC contender of the Wiggins school of gaining time against the clock and cling on in the mountains school. In the 2015 Vuelta a Espana he surprised everyone by not only making time on the other contenders in the chronos but also by more than holding his own on the steep stuff. Although he eventually cracked on the final mountain stage and ended up finishing 6th, no-one should forget what an impressive effort that was in only his 5th Grand Tour. He was as good as anyone on the shorter climbs in the first two weeks and he was often isolated as soon as the road went up in the third week. If he can recreate that form he could be a massive danger to all on this parcours with all the time trials miles. He has stated that he's here to win the TTs rather than compete for GC but if he gets off to a good start and is near the top of the GC in the second week he could put some time into other contenders. Again you'd think that he might be vulnerable in the very high mountains in week 3 and it's likely he would again struggle for support from his team but if there were any route changes or cancellations due to weather in the third week it would play into his hands and make him a huge danger to all.
Others to watch Domenico Pozzovivo has 5 top 10s in Grand Tours including a best place 5th in the 2014 Giro d'Italia. Now 33, the Italian Ag2r climber should be at his peak and is targeting his home Grand Tour but has not really shown his best form since the serious crash he suffered in last year's race. At his best he was a brilliant climber and although he's often been found out on the time trial bike these are the sorts of time trial where he has performed well in the past. His team-mate JC Peraud was runner up in the 2014 Tour de France and if he could return to anything like that sort of form would be a very dangerous option.
Daniel Chaves won two stages in the first week of last year's Vuelta a Espana in only his third Grand Tour and eventually finished in an excellent 5th place. He is developing into an excellent climber and GC rider but he will struggle for team support in the high mountains against some of these contenders as Orica are going to primarily set up to take stage wins. It would be no surprise to see Chaves take a stage or two and gain another decent finish in the GC but it might be too early for him to think about winning one.
Ryder Hesjedal is Trek's nominated GC rider. The 2012 Giro winning Canadian has not shown much since moving from Cannondale Garmin and although he would be a dangerous man to take lightly it is difficult to see him turning the clock back. Steven Kruijswijk of Lotto Jumbo lost time early on in the 2015 Giro before becoming one of the strongest riders in the mountains as the race wore on, eventually getting 7th place, his second Giro top 10 after an 8th place finish in 2011. He has a decent amount of miles in the legs this year and while he hasn't shown amazing form he could be another interesting wildcard. Another who falls into the interesting wildcard category is Gianluca Brambilla. The Etixx climber has done his time as a super-domestique and was 13th in the 2015 Vuelta when given his first chance to lead. His team are likely to be set up around sprint wins for Marcel Kittel but Brambilla showed how strong he was when he almost won Strade Bianche this year with an ultra aggressive ride and although he is no match for some of these riders on paper he could get a decent finish. Darwen Atapuma looks like being BMC's main GC rider. The 28 year old Colombian will be competing in his 5th Grand Tour and although this is the first time he has had a protected role you'd have to think he'd be unlikely to challenge the big favourites and his team are likely to be set up to win stages with Phillippe Gilbert.