The Giro d’Italia, the first of the year’s three Grand Tours, kicks off on Saturday with 198 riders representing the 18 WorldTour teams and four wild-card entries set to take to the start line.
Many fans will be familiar with the main riders in the peloton, but have you ever wondered who are the mysterious sponsors whose names are plastered all over every available square inch of the riders and their equipment? As the opening instalment of our race preview, here’s the first of a two-part overview of the 22 teams and their title sponsors, which reveals an eclectic mix of bike manufacturers, financial services providers, explosive manufacturers and even countries!
All team line-ups are, of course, subject to change in the final few days before the race starts, but are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. Part two follows tomorrow.
AG2R La Mondiale
Sponsor: A French life insurance and pension provider.
Overview: Still without a win in 2012, AG2R will be looking to at least repeat their success in last year’s Giro where Marco Pantani look-alike John Gadret was third overall and won a stage in the mountains. Weighing in at 58kg, he’ll be looking to take one of the five high mountain finishes. He’ll be strongly supported by Herbert Dupont and the AG2R ‘B’ team where, who knows, one of their youngsters could prove his mettle like Romain Bardet in the recent Tour of Turkey. In any event, they’ll try to get plenty of airtime for their sponsor in breakaways.
Sponsors: An Italian manufacturer of plastic children’s toys and the South American country, several of whose riders feature on the team roster.
Overview: Androni’s squad is built to focus on the big climbs, as you might expect from a team featuring three Venezuelans and two Colombians. Expect them to keep a low profile for the race’s first two weeks and then explode into action on the high mountains. Italian Emanuele Sella is a multiple stage winner who has enjoyed high GC placings (and a doping ban) in the past. Venezuela’s Jose Rujano was sixth overall last year, won one stage on the road and inherited another after Alberto Contador’s subsequent ban. He has also previously finished third overall, in 2005, when he won the mountains classification. Compatriot Jose Serpa has yet to taste success at the Giro, but finished ahead of Rujano to win his second Tour de Langkawi earlier in the year.
Sponsor: A Kazakh business consortium.
Overview: After a slowish start, Astana have blossomed in recent weeks and are poised to propel Giro team leader Roman Kreuziger, who celebrates his birthday on the opening stage, to a high overall placing, maybe even a podium, in this year’s edition. He’s had a solid start to 2012 and the mix of this year’s Giro will be more suited to his all-round skills. He’ll have strong support from – among others – recent Tour of Turkey runner-up Alexandr Dyachenko, Fredrik Kessiakoff and Paolo Tiralongo, himself a stage winner at last year’s Giro.
Sponsor: A Swiss bicycle manufacturer.
Overview: BMC have a number of cards to play in terms of the overall, the jerseys and stage wins. First up is the God of Thunder Thor Hushovd, who’s had a bit of an unsettled start to 2012, but he’ll be looking to contest the points jersey and take one or more of the seven sprint stages. With Marco Pinotti and Taylor Phinney – the latter making his Grand Tour debut – on the team, they could win the team time trial in Verona. Recent Giro della Toscana winner Alessandro Ballan, having finally opened his account with BMC and registered his first win since 2009, will be looking to continue his winning streak in his home tour.
Sponsors: An Italian bicycle manufacturer, an industrial pump manufacturer and an industrial valve manufacturer.
Overview: An all-Italian team packed full of young talent, their focus for the first half of the race is likely to involve putting riders in breakaways to grab valuable airtime, as their key sprinter Sacha Modolo (who won a stage at last week’s Tour of Turkey and has finished fourth in Milan-San Remo) is likely to be seriously outgunned by the big-name sprint trains. In the high mountains, however, they will turn to the in-form Domenico Pozzovivo, who finished ninth in 2008 and won both a stage and the overall at last month’s Giro del Trentino. Youngster Stefano Pirazzi will provide strong support, having won the mountains classification at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Sponsors: A Basque telecoms provider and regional development agency.
Overview: Euskaltel-Euskadi’s leader will be Mikel Nieve who won a stage in last year’s race. At a minimum they’ll be looking for a repeat but will be hoping for a decent GC placing – and WorldTour points – from Nieve. I just hope the team’s found time to practise their team time-trialling. Future Grand Tour winner – as predicted by Inigo Asensio – Jon Izagirre will be making his Grand Tour debut and looking to be in the running for the best young rider jersey. As usual expect attacking riding from Amets Txurruka, former Tour de France ‘most aggressive’ rider and see those orange jerseys in the mix every time the road heads skywards.
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
Sponsors: An Italian wine producer and an Italian saddle manufacturer.
Overview: Farnese Vini will provide a three-pronged attack. Giro debutant Andrea Guardini – winner of six stages at this year’s Tour de Langkawi – will most likely be their featured man on the flat sprints. Meanwhile veterans Filippo Pozzato and Oscar Gatto will target some of the Classics-style finishes which are scattered throughout the middle third of the race. Pozzato won just such a stage two years ago in Porto Recanati.
Sponsors: The French national lottery and a chain of independent builders’ merchants.
Overview: With new sprint sensation under-23 road race champion Arnaud Demarre, the uber-experienced Sandy Casar and Jussi Veikkanen, we can expect to see the team mixing it both in the sprints and the medium mountains stages. As usual, with riders such as Mickael Delage, they’ll be active in breakaways and looking to grab airtime for their sponsors.
Sponsors: A US-based multinational manufacturer of GPS systems and a US corporation specialising in online security.
Overview: Tyler Farrar, former Giro stage winner, will be making an emotional return to the race after the death last year of his best mate Wouter Weylandt. He’ll be looking to open his account with some sprint wins and be contesting the sprint jersey. He’ll be assisted by old sprint hand, Brazilian champion, Murilo Fischer, who will be a regular feature at the front of the peloton in his distinctive green-and-gold national colours. It’s likely that Garmin will also be targetting the Verona team time trial, and the overall with both in-form Ryder Hesjedal and the experienced Christian Vande Velde.
GreenEDGE (now Orica-GreenEDGE)
Sponsors: A conglomerate which provide chemicals and explosives for the mining industry and a wealthy Australian businessman
Overview: GreenEDGE’s debut season has been nothing short of stellar so far, and their focus for the Giro will be on accumulating stage wins. Matt Goss will spearhead their challenge in the sprints – last year’s World Championship silver medallist is already a Giro stage winner (in 2010) and brings with him good form from the Tour of Turkey, where he had four second places and won the points classification. The team will also target the maglia rosa in the race’s early stages, most likely on stage four’s team time trial, where they will lean heavily on Canadian national champion Svein Tuft and Jack Bobridge.
Sponsor: A Russian business conglomerate.
Overview: Fresh from his win in Fleche Wallonne, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco runner-up Joaquim Rodriguez will be looking to use his explosive climbing ability to secure a spot on the podium and win on one or more of the high mountain stages. Not renowned for his time-trialling ability, he’ll need to collect minutes in the high mountains, where he’ll be helped by Daniel Moreno and former Giro stage winner Angel Vicioso, to preserve his GC placing. We can also expect to see Pavel Brut in a number of breakaways.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the remaining teams, from Lampre to Vacansoleil.
Link: Official website
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