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.
Sponsors: A US-based multinational manufacturer of GPS systems and a Japanese technology provider.
Overview: The team of defending champion Ryder Hesjedal will be aiming to retain the maglia rosa and will be sending a strong team to support their ambitions with the in-form Peter Stetina and Thomas Dekker. He’ll also have the support of experienced road captain Christian Vande Velde. It’s often more difficult to defend the crown than win it in the first place as Ryder is now firmly on everyone’s radar. He’s shown good form in recent races, particularly where he’s ridden for Catalunya and Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin.
Sponsor: A Russian business conglomerate.
Overview: Last year’s runner-up Joaquim Rodriguez will be riding the Tour de France, so it was going to be a largely Russian squad riding in support of the silent assassin and former winner, Denis Menchov. But he’s injured his knee so step forward Yury Trofimov, 28th on GC in 2010, who’s aiming for a top ten spot. The squad will still largely be Russian – handy for the team time trial – but Yury will have support and guidance from experienced hands such as Spaniard Angel Vicioso and Italian Giampaolo Caruso. That said, you’ll still see a number of their Russians heading up the road in breakaways.
Sponsors: An Italian sheet steel manufacturer and a Taiwanese bike manufacturer.
Overview: Former Giro winner Michele Scarponi, who finished fourth last year, will again lead the team with a blend of youth and experience from largely Eastern Europe and Italy. He’ll have Colombian Jose Serpa for help on the steepest of climbs, but should Scarponi falter, Lampre have enough firepower to go for stage wins with Pippo Pozzato, plus the aptly named Roberto Ferrari can play his part in the sprints.
Sponsors: The Belgian lottery and a Belgian window and door manufacturer.
Overview: A team with a multi-pronged strategy. Lotto-Belisol are throwing their weight behind the GC ambitions of Francis De Greef. Lars Bak will be hoping for luck in the breakways and Adam Hansen, sadly shorn of his Twitter best-buddy Greg Henderson, will be there with Vicente Reynes to handle the lead-outs for Kenny Dehaes and make yet another assault on completing all three grand tours in a year.
Sponsor: A Spanish mobile telecoms operator.
Overview: Benat Intxausti will be playing the best male movistarlet and he’s got plenty of firepower in his supporting cast including former Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo, stage hunters Eros Capecchi and Giovanni Visconti and sprinter Fran Ventoso. The experienced Pablo Lastras will serve as road captain, with additional time-trialling/rouleur firepower with Jose Herrada and Brit Alex Dowsett. And let’s not forget Vladimir Karpets, easily the scariest man in the peloton, as team enforcer!
Sponsors: A Belgian pharmaceutical company and a Belgian laminate flooring manufacturer.
Overview: OPQS are betting the bank on former world champion Mark Cavendish adding to his existing Giro haul of ten stage wins to assuage their disappointing campaign in the cobbled classics. Aside from Cav’s lead-out train, the team have former Giro stage winners Jerome Pineau and recent birthday boy Michal Golas for the medium-mountain stages. Serge Pauwels and Gianluca Brambilla could both look to score on the steep stuff.
Sponsors: A conglomerate that provide chemicals and explosives for the mining industry and a wealthy Australian businessman.
Overview: The Aussie team with its blend of youth and experience will continue to hunt stage wins and maybe even the points jersey with its sprint-heavy squad which includes Leigh Howard, Brett Lancaster and Matthew Goss. Also expect the team to perform well in the team time trial with Luke ‘the Turbo’ Durbridge. But let’s not forget GC hopeful Pieter Weening who often gets overlooked and who wore the maglia rosa for four days in 2011. However, we suspect their shirts will be seen most prominently at the front of a charging peloton in the final kilometres on those flat stages.
Sponsors: A US electronics retailer and a Luxembourg businessman.
Overview: The big-name riders will be mostly supporting the Tour of California, leaving the likes of Robert Kiserlovski to carry the flag assisted by the Portuguese pairing of Nelson Oliviera and Tiago Machado. They’ll have experienced grand tour competitor Yaroslav Popovych as road captain and talented young time-trailist Jesse Sergent for the team time trial. Sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo will be looking to score in his home tour and he’ll have the advantage of Alessandro Petacchi‘s former lead-out, Danilo Hondo.
Sponsors: A Danish and a Russian bank.
Overview: Looking at the likely team composition, I suspect the riders will be on the hunt for stage wins and maybe one of the jerseys. There’s plenty of experience in the ranks with Karsten Kroon, classics rider Matti Breschel and sprinter Daniele Bennati. But possibly of greater interest are riders Rory Sutherland, Rafal Majka and Manuele Boaro. Could one of these spring a surprise?
Sponsor: A satellite television broadcaster.
Overview: Sky will be fielding a stellar team in support of last year’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, looking to cement his place in the history books by becoming the first Brit to win the Giro. He’ll have strong support in the mountains from the Colombian duo of Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran, plus Kanstantsin Siutsou. To deliver him to the foothills, he’ll have rouleurs Christian Knees, Xabier Xandio and Danny Pate. It’s a formidable arsenal with which to repel all boarders.
Sponsors: A European organiser of luxury camping holidays and a Belgian farm supply company.
Overview: The team have decided to leave mercurial Venezuelan Jose Rujano at home, pending a doping investigation. With no recognised overall GC contender, or indeed sprinter, the team will be looking to their more experienced riders such as Grega Bole, Marco Marcato and Rafael Valls to win a stage. At the same time they’re blooding young riders Maurits Lammertink and Willem Wauters. The team will no doubt be riding as aggressively as ever and looking to animate breaks and generally get plenty of airtime for the current sponsors.
Sponsors: An Italian wine producer and an Italian saddle manufacturer.
Overview: Kitty’s favourite Glowsticks have former overall winners Danilo di Luca and Stefano Garzelli, but with their glory days long gone, they’ll probably set their hats at stage wins and support the ambitions of former in-form BMC rider Mauro Santambrogio. They have the experienced Francesco Chicchi and Oscar Gatto in the sprints but, as befits a wild-card team, they’ll be dazzling us most days in that bright kit in the break of the day.
Tomorrow we’ll preview the five key stages of this year’s race.