In advance of this Saturday’s start of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, here is the second part of VeloVoices’ 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! Only in cycling …
The final list of participants is subject to change in the last few days before the race, but these are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing.
Overview: Michele Scarponi, who was named 2011 Giro winner after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title earlier this year, will lead the team, with 2004 winner Damiano Cunego riding for stage wins, not the overall. In what is almost certainly his last year of cycling, Alessandro Petacchi is skipping the Giro to concentrate on his preparations for the Tour de France. With no sprinter to need lead-out men, the team can field more help for Scarponi.
Overview: It’s been a little ‘will he-won’t he’ with 2010 Giro winner Ivan Basso but he has announced that he will be riding this year’s Grand Tour. The 34-year-old will have the support in the mountains from Cristiano Salerno, while Fabio Sabatini will be hoping to nab some sprints. Liquigas‘ focus, however, will be getting Basso the maglia rosa for the third time in his career.
Sponsors: The Belgian lottery and a Belgian window and door manufacturer.
Overview: At time of going to press, Lotto-Belisol’s roster wasn’t confirmed, but one thing was certain. Andre Greipel would not be riding the Italian tour. Gianni Meersman has made the Giro a target but knee problems still mean there’s a question mark around his participation. Danish rider Lars Bak will return to racing at the Giro after breaking his hand at Omloop.
Sponsor: A Spanish mobile telecoms operator.
Overview: Alejandro Valverde is obviously not going to be in the Giro team [owing to his, ahem, past pharmaceutical misdemeanours – Ed], but the team is taking Benat Intxausti who won the overall at the Vuelta a Asturias last week and has twice placed in the top four at Vuelta a Pais Vasco. Three-time Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti will target stage victories and Francisco Ventoso, one of an elite group who can count stage wins at all three Grand Tours, will be looking to add to his first Giro victory last year.
Sponsor: A US computer storage and data management company.
Overview: NetApp was the surprise recipient of a wildcard invitation to the Giro, the German team’s first Grand Tour. Three riders who did very well in this year’s Settimana Coppi e Bartali will be riding the Giro – team leader Jan Barta won the race, while climber Bartosz Huzarski and Cesare Benedetti both wore the leader’s jersey for a stage at Settimana. The team will look to get into breakaways and take a stage win.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Overview: OPQS have definitely been the team of the 2012 season so far, already notching up 31 wins from 11 riders. Italian sprinter Francesco Chicchi will be seeking sprint wins to add to his five so far this season while the featured climbers and GC hopefuls are Dario Cataldo and Serge Pauwels. Considering the way the team works so well together, they should have a successful three weeks.
Sponsor: A Dutch bank.
Overview: With Mark Renshaw and Theo Bos, who have just come off a rather good Tour of Turkey, Rabobank is definitely targetting the sprint wins. Will they be able to team up to outsprint Renshaw’s former teammate Mark Cavendish? With four times Dutch National TT champion, Stef Clement, they might start the race off with a win in Herning.
Overview: RadioShack have had an abysmal season so far, so the knee injury of their Giro hopeful Jakob Fuglsang seemed to be par for the course. Taking his place as leader will be Frank Schleck, who has only ridden the Giro once, in 2005. As Frank wasn’t preparing for this race, it’s anyone’s guess as to how he’ll do – who knows, he might surprise us all! Frank will have the support of Oliver Zaugg, last year’s surprise Giro di Lombardia winner, while Daniele Bennati will be looking for stage wins.
Sponsor: A Danish bank.
Overview: It has been a tough start to the season for the Contador-less Saxo Bank, with the team sitting last in the WorldTour standings. They enter the Giro with a largely journeyman squad which contains neither a recognised GC contender nor a top climber: Chris Anker Sorensen and Sergio Paulinho will sit this one out. The team will hope to pick up results through sprinter Juan Jose Haedo – who has yet to win a Grand Tour stage – and via breakaways, but this will be a far cry from last year’s race, when Contador dominated the entire field prior to his retroactive suspension.
Sponsor: A satellite television broadcaster.
Overview: Sky’s Giro focus will be on securing stages for Mark Cavendish and a possible stint in the maglia rosa. Cavendish wore the leader’s jersey in two previous years, and has a total of seven individual stage wins in his three participations in the race. He will be ably supported in the lead-out by Geraint Thomas and road captain and ladies favourite Bernie Eisel. It’s unlikely Cavendish will complete the hellishly steep third week, but the team’s Colombian climbers Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao will target a strong finish in the GC. Juan Antonio Flecha will also be on the look-out for an opportunistic breakaway win.
Sponsors: A European organiser of luxury camping holidays and a Belgian farm supply company.
Overview: Vacansoleil-DCM is fielding a team of riders from eight different countries, none of which is Italy. This team is all about the breakaways, so keep an eye on Thomas de Gendt, Stefan Denifl and Romain Feillu to be out in front for many of the stages while Gustav Larsson will look to win a time trial stage. Someone who is not going to be riding the Giro is Martin Mortensen, who had been hoping to ride, as the Giro starts in his hometown. However, the fickle finger of fate meant that he was not picked for the squad. Polish champ Tomasz Marczynski is making his Grand Tour debut so if you see him on the screen, give him an encouraging shout.
Tomorrow we’ll preview the five key stages of this year’s race.
Giro d’Italia preview
Link: Official website