The 96th edition of the Giro d’Italia kicks off on Saturday with 19 WorldTour teams and four wild-card Pro Continental teams. Have you ever wondered about the mysterious sponsors whose names are plastered all over every available square inch of the riders and their equipment? If so, here’s the first of a two-part overview of the 23 teams, their title sponsors and most prominent riders.
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.
Sponsor: A French life assurance and pension provider.
Overview: Ag2r go into the Giro with their usual multi-pronged attack. Their two leaders are both 2013 season hires. Diminutive climber Domenico Pozzovivo crashed out of the recent Giro del Trentino, while young Colombian Carlos Betancur has impressed in recent weeks in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and Ardennes Classics. They’re both probably hoping for a top ten finish. They will be supported by Hubert Dupont, 12th overall in the 2011 Giro, and climber Guillaume Bonnafond. The team also has riders such as Sylvain Georges and Ben Gastauer to grab valuable airtime in breakaways plus Davide Appollonio and Manuel Belletti to mix it up in the sprints.
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 anticipate from a team with a handful of South Americans. Expect them to keep a low profile for the first week and then for the likes of Miguel Angel Rubiano to 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. They also have current Italian national champion Franco Pellizotti, who’ll have assistance from Diego Rosa. Again, this is another team looking to grab airtime, and maybe a stage win, by animating the breaks.
Sponsors: An independent Dutch oil company and a Japanese manufacturer of bike parts and accessories.
Overview: After last year’s success in the Vuelta a Espana, five-stage winner, sprinter John Degenkolb will be looking for a bit of mano a mano action with Mark Cavendish. The team have Simon Geschke for the time trials and solid support from the experienced Koen de Kort. With a nod to their Far Eastern sponsors, they’ve selected Ji Cheng who’ll be the first Chinese rider to take part in the Giro. He was also the first Chinese rider to take part in the Vuelta last year.
Sponsor: A Kazakh business consortium.
Overview: Astana will be looking to add to their promising start to 2013, throwing everything behind Tirreno-Adriatico and Giro del Trentino winner Vincenzo Nibali. He’ll be hoping that it’s third time lucky for him in the Astana vs Sky duel. He’s got Janez Brajkovic, Fredrik Kessiakoff, Paolo Tiralongo and Valerio Agnoli for help in the hills, with Alessandro Vanotti and Tanel Kangert boosting the team time trial. Nibali’s ace is his ability on the descents and he was the only rider in the Tour last year to take the fight to Sky. He’ll have learnt much from that and will be putting those lessons to good effect here.
Sponsors: An industrial pump and an industrial valve manufacturer, presumably both run by avid cycling fans.
Overview: An all-Italian team packed full of young talent, their focus is likely to involve putting riders in breakaways to grab valuable airtime, as their key sprinters Sacha Modolo and Sonny Cobrelli are likely to be outgunned by the big-name sprint trains. In the high mountains, however, they will turn to the in-form Stefano Pirazzi, who looked lively in the recent Giro de Trentino.
Sponsor: Desperately seeking one!
Overview: Robert Gesink will lead a team loaded with talent hoping to redress the disasters that keep befalling him in grand tours. He’ll be supported by Steven Kruijswijk, young gun Wilco Kelderman and old hand Juan Manuel Garate. Jack Bobridge and Stef Clement will add much needed oomph to the team time trial as well as driving the peloton to the foothills, while Maarten Tjallingii will be their man for the sprint stages.
Sponsor: A Swiss bicycle manufacturer.
Overview: Former maglia rosa wearer Cadel Evans has stated he’s not using the Giro d’Italia to fine tune his form for the Tour, as usual, he’ll be giving it everything. Remember, this is a guy who’s previously successfully doubled up in grand tours. There’s a good mix of youth and experience among his team which includes Vuelta stage winner Steve Cummings and recent Giro del Trentino stage-winner Ivan Santaromita, all of whom are consistent performers, to support him whatever the terrain. The team also includes Taylor Phinney, who delighted everyone last year when he won the coveted jersey in the first day’s team time trial and kept us all entertained with his Giro love story. Now that we’ve seen the confirmed roster we know BMC mean business.
Sponsor: An American bicycle manufacturer.
Overview: The team was due to ride in support of former double Giro winner Ivan Basso, however he has withdrawn at the eleventh hour due to injury. Without Basso, and as an American squad focussing many of its top riders on the upcoming Tour of California, the team’s Giro focus is now likely to shift towards Elia Viviani in the sprints. In the mountains Colombian Jose Sarmiento and Volta a Catalunya King of the Mountains winner Cristiano Salerno will look to make an impact, but Basso leaves behind large boots to fill.
Sponsors: The South American country of the same name.
Overview: A Giro wild-card was just reward for the Colombians whose riders, largely in the WorldTour squads, have been delighting everyone with their aggressive riding. Expect these boys to come to the fore every time the race goes skywards. I would imagine that they’ll be looking primarily for stage wins with former under-23 champion Fabio Duarte. He’ll have the experienced Leonardo Duque as his road captain with Darwin Atapuma, Eduardo Chalapud, Carlos Quintero and Jarlinson Pantano providing support.
Sponsors: A Basque telecoms provider.
Overview: The team’s leader for the Giro will be former Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, who last rode this race in 2005 – he finished 17th. He’ll be looking for at least a podium place to add to those in the other two grand tours, and probably a stage win to give precious WorldTour points to the team. He’ll have support from the uber-experienced Egoi Martinez and the in-form Pablo Urtasun. Generally, the team start on the back-foot after the team time trial, but maybe the addition of experienced trackie and time-trialist Greek Ioannis Tamouridis plus Robert Vrecer will redress this.
Sponsor: The French national lottery.
Overview: French national champion sprinter Nacer Bouhanni will be wearing the number one jersey for the team which is evidently setting their cap at sprint stage wins, as he did in Paris-Nice. He’ll have support from old hands Murilo Fischer and Jussi Veikkanen. They also have young GC hopeful Arnold Jeannesson and the experienced Sandy Casar, the latter probably fulfilling the role of road captain.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the remaining twelve teams, from Garmin-Sharp to Vini Fantini-Selle Italia.