Today starts the first Grand Tour of 2014, the 97th edition of the Giro díItalia. Although, we better could rename it to Giro díItalia e Irlande, because we start on the island of Ireland this time. The departure town is Bel(la)fast, capital of Northern Ireland. After Dublin, which is the finishing town of the third stage, the second time a Grand Tour starts at this island. Departure and finish city would be a better option, looking at the amount of inhabitants of both cities.
The Giro is by the most beautiful Grand Tour of the year? Why? Iíll tell you now. Flat is a relative term, because the Giro is never flat. At the complete course the riders will face the most dehumanizing hills and Mountains. Controle freaks will run away screaming, because itís impossible to take controle like Sky can do in the Tour. There is one small detail which I donít like: the English information instead of the Italians texts. I want ultimo chilometro and no last kilometer and more of this.
The unofficial departure is already on Friday, because the riders need an extra day to travel from one side of the World (Dublin) to the other side (Bari in southern Italy). A wise decision, because their boat trip takes about 24 hours. Bulk Transportation shoud be as cheap and uncomfortable possible. After this trip weíll finally get the official start of the Giro. The fact that the Giro already starts on Friday is an unique fact for a Grand Tour.
The Giro wants to be a second Tour de France. After the Grand Depart outside Italy, theyíve another two new things in the Giro. Although, itís actually nothing new at all. The Organisation Committee of the Giro just have copy/pasted all of this of the Tour de France. They will start with a (T)TT and some boring flat stages. Donít be surprised if there are a lot of crashes, because everyone wants to be in the front of the peloton.
Next to that theyíve a new Points rules for both the points classification and KOM classification. The first one has to be won by a sprinter and the second one by someone in the top 10 in the general classification. So, no more Tutti Pazzi per Pirazzi. You now can earn the most points for the points jersey in the flat stages and the most KOM points on the final climbs in the mountain stages. So, no more Joaquim Rodriguez in purple or Stefano Pirazzi in the green jersey, but someone like Ben Swift in the purple jersey and someone like Nairo Quintana in the green jersey.
But the classifications will be decided on the road, so weíll look at the course. The first stage is the TTT, followed by three typical flat stages. After this trio for the sprinters, thereís another trio for specialists: the puncheurs and other specialists for the hilly stages. Stage 8 and 9 are the first mountainous stages, both finishing on the summit of a mountain. After a few flat stages, the ITT and another hilly stage, the riders will face another mountain stage, surprisingly another summit finish. After another flat stage, the desert of this edition wil consist of another three mountain stages, including an ICTT. The penultimate stage of the Giro finishes on the feared Zoncolan. The final stage is flat and finishes in Trieste.
You can conclude that the Giro is very tough with 8 finishes on mountain summits, including the ICTT, and another two finishes on the summit of a steep hill. With this stages, a TTT and another ITT there are enough opportunities for the classification riders to make a difference for the general classification.
Favorites and la Maglia Rosa
The best climbers are the biggest favorites for the overall victory the Giro, like they always are. The climbs are long and steep, with gradients up to tens of percents. Not only on the hills on the course, but also on the Mountains in the Alpes and Apennines, with climbs of at least 15 km long. The circa 200 riders in the peloton will call for their mother at least one million times. If you want to win with a bet, place this one at Unibet. You will surely win this bet.
The big battle of the Giro will be Joaquim Rodriguez vs. Nairo Quintana, by far the best two climbers in this peloton. They even have to use some binoculars to see the other competitors. Especially Quintana is a specialist, because of his background in Colombia. My favorite is Quintana. Heís the better climber of this duo, he has better abilities in the ITT and his team is very good team in riding a TTT. He was the better one in the final rehearsal last Tour, too.
Two other favorites are Cadel Evans and Rigoberto Uran. Evans finished at the final podium last year and has some history in the Tour, including his victory in the 2011 edition. Besides that, heís very experienced and a very tough climber to beat. Uran was the neighbour of the Aussie and the absent winner Vincenzo Nibali on the final podium. His course knowledge is good enough to perform on the Italian roads.
Their competition comes from the teams of Tinkoff-Saxo Bank and Garmin-Sharp. Both teams has one of the Roche-Martin cousins, competing because they ride in their home country. And if they arenít able to perform or what so ever, they both have a team mate who can. Garmin has former winner Ryder Hesjedal and Tinkoff has Rafal Majka, the second major climbing talent from Poland. He already finished at the 7th place last year.
A Giro is no Giro without any Italian classification rider. The most well-known of these group are Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi, both former winner. Basso has won in 2006 and 2010 and Scarponi in 2011. The last one has also another team mate with Fabio Aru, a talented climber. The next one is Domenico Pozzovivo, an experienced climber finishing in the top 10 in 2012 and 2013. The Lampre duo will be Damiano Cunego (winner in 2004) and Diego Ulissi, but weíll have to see what they can do this three weeks. Another Italian contender is Franco Pellizotti.
Een Giro zal geen Giro zijn als er ook geen blik aan Italiaanse ronderenners is opengetrokken. De prominentste daarvan zijn de beide oud-winnaars Ivan Basso (2006, 2010) en Michele Scarponi (2011). Die laatste heeft met het talent Fabio Aru nog een schaduwkopman mee. De volgende Italiaanse top 10-kandidaat is Domenico Pozzovivo. Een ervaren ronderenner die de afgelopen twee jaar in de top 10 eindigde. Damiano Cunego (winst in 2004) en Diego Ulissi moeten het doen namens Lampre, maar de vraag is wat er van hen over is na drie weken. Een andere Italiaanse kandidaat is Franco Pellizotti.
Other riders who are able to finish in the top of the overall standings: Wilco Kelderman, Samuel Sanchez, Maxime Monfort, Pierre Rolland, Daniel Moreno, Julian Arredondo and Robert Kiserlovski. The team without a GC contender is Sky, because theyíre afraid. Wiggins still has nightmares thanks to last years edition. Richie Porte has to concentrate on the Tour, because the team is afraid of Alberto Contador and with Sergio Henao they are afraid that he has used some doping.
**** Nairo Quintana
*** Joaquim Rodriguez, Cadel Evans
** Rigoberto Uran, Rafal Majka, Michele Scarponi
* Domenico Pozzovivo, Daniel Martin, Fabio Aru, Franco Pellizotti
Sprinters and il Maglione Viola (Purple)
With the new points rules not the most steady rider will win this jersey, but the best sprinter of the peloton. The best sprinter who will finish the Giro will win, to be precisely. Itís a tradition by the sprinters to not finish the Giro. Although, within the last five days there are now two flat stages, including the last stage. The only question is how many sprinters will ride this final stage. Because of the very heavy final week of the Giro it will be hard to finish in time all stages or even to be motivated enough to finish them all.
The biggest name this year is Marcel Kittel, of course. He won four stages last Tour. This year isnít his best year yet, because he didnít compete in any sprint in a World Tour race so far. He only finished in the top 65 once, a third place in the prologue of the Tour de Romandie. Not so clever to start in Romandie and think you could sprint, looking at his climbing skills.
He maybe seems to be the favorite for the points jersey, but he isnít. The chances he will finish the Giro are limited, instead of his chances losing unnecessary points in other flat stages with some annoying climbs. Climbs which are too difficult for Kittel, the man who canít climb. Flat stages in Italy arenít always really flat.
Thanks to final week, the most important facts are your position as a sprinter in the points classification and if this jersey has become a goal. Itís an open battle in the sprint stages for the points jersey. Next to Kittel youíve sprinters like Elia Viviani, Roberto Ferrari, Giacomo Nizzolo, Davide Appollonio, Tyler Farrar, Nacer Bouhanni, Michael Matthews, Ben Swift and Borut Bozic.
Other sprinters who probably arenít good enough, donít want to or are forbidden to sprint: Luka Mezgec, Alessandro Petacchi, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Chris Sutton, Daniel Ratto, Manuel Belletti, Fabio Felline, Boy van Poppel, Kenny Dehaes, Tosh van der Sande, Danilo Wyss, Nicola Ruffoni, Sonny Colbrelli, Tony Hurel, Koldo Fernandez, Francesco Chicchi and Angel Vicioso.
Michael Matthews, Ben Swift and Giacomo Nizzolo are my favorites for the points jersey. Theyíre a few of the most talented climbers within the group of sprinters and they can sprint, because they donít have to be a domestique for another team mate. Tyler Farrar didnít finish the Giro all four of his earlier starts and Nacer Bouhanni hasnít even finished any World Tour stage race, except the week-long Tour of Beijing.
*** Ben Swift
** Michael Matthews
* Giacomo Nizzolo
KOM classification and la Maglia Verde (green)
As usual, the most uncertain classification in a Grand Tour is the KOM classification. Where the most steady rider will win the overall classification, the points classification or the best youngster classification, it ís not completely the same in this classification. Partly because of the new points rules for the KOM jersey, where the final climbs are the most important.
In ancient times you could win this jersey by attacking at the right moment in the right stages and just finish in the other stages. So, you could finish 40th overall and still be the KOM. Now youíve to wait to the final climb if you want to win this jersey. A very tough mission if youíre depending on the earlier climbs. Youíve to be in the attack of the day for at least 5 times in this very difficult stages and youíve to hope that the big shots will give you a chance to battle for stage victory in the last mountain. Good luck if youíre already a lesser climber.
The results of the change of rules in the Tour: riders like Samuel Sanchez and Nairo Quintana, both GC contenders, won this classification in recent years. And the chances of the best climbers are even bigger in the Giro. Youíve finishes at the summit of 1st and HC Mountains and youíve more mountainous stages than in the Tour. The Tour has less mountain stages and more tough mountain stages finishing after a descent. It seems obvious that the KOM will finish within the best three of the overall standings. No Stefano Pirazzi or Matteo Rabottini, but Nairo Quintana, Joaquim Rodriguez or Rigoberto Uran
*** Nairo Quintana
** Joaquim Rodriguez
* Rigoberto Uran
Like every race there are more competitors than the contenders for one classification or another. Riders like Janez Brajkovic, Enrico Gasparotto, Mikel Landa, Paolo Tiralongo, Patrick Gretsch, Johnny Hoogerland, Emauele Sella, Steven Kruijswijk, Maarten Tjallingii, Daniel Oss, Oscar Gatto, Fabio Duarte, Leonardo Duque, Thomas Dekker, Nathan Haas, Fabian Wegmann, Igor Anton, Adriano Malori, Thomas de Gendt, Wouter Poels, Ivan Santaromita, Luke Durbridge, Giampaolo Caruso, Luca Paolini and Chris Anker SÝrensen are part of the starting list, too.
CommentsHave you overlooked Nico Roche & dan Martin