How the hell … can we predict the winner of the Giro?

The Giro d’Italia starts next week. Euan runs his eye over the contenders and asks… How the hell can we predict the winner of the Giro?

The first grand tour of the year starts on Friday, the 4th of May. But who going to be standing on the podium in the centre of Rome after three weeks-plus of racing? The build-up has been anything but conclusive and someone has stolen the VeloVoices’ crystal ball. So how the hell can we predict the winner of the Giro?

Tom D

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Let’s start with last year’s winner, Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb. 2018 has not been plain sailing for Tom. His Abu Dhabi tour was beset by mechanical issues so severe he threw his bike to the side of the road and turned the air blue. He pulled out of Tirreno-Adriatico after a crash and has raced just two days since then, including last Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

If Carlsberg did grand tour build-ups, it wouldn’t look anything like Tom’s …

Chris Froome

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The Team Sky rider is hoping to win his third back-to-back grand tour at the end of May (here’s a handy asterisk for you to insert where you will *).

Froome started the year with a lower profile than Nairo Quintana’s joke book. At the Tour of Andalusia and Tirreno-Adriatico, he seemed quite happy for others to lead Team Sky although at the Tour of the Alps, he looked closer to the Froome we’ve got used to during the past six summers. 

Froome finished the Tour of the Alps in 4th place and although he looked full of fight, he wasn’t the strongest rider in the race. This reminds me of Froome’s slightly different build-up to the Tour last year. Instead of winning all he could pre-France he opted to peak at the end of the Tour and towards the beginning of the Vuelta. 

The best of the rest?

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There’s another grand tour winner to be considered: Fabio Aru. He hasn’t looked on the ball so far this year and was well beaten on the big climbs at Tirreno and Tour of Catalunya. He was closer to the pace during last week’s Tour of the Alps but didn’t seem to have anything like race-winning edge.

Who else? Mitchelton-Scott is rocking up with co-leaders in Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates. Of the two, it’s Yates who’s had the best results this season with stage wins and high overall placings at Paris-Nice and Catalunya. Chaves found the going much harder in those two races.

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It’s harder to get a steer on where Thibaut Pinot is at as he’s done so little racing. He was 10th at the Tour of Catalunya although I don’t remember seeing him there once. He was much more prominent at the Tour of the Alps – so prominent, in fact, that he won! On that performance, he’s the rider with the strongest claim on a Giro podium place – and if he doesn’t do well, it won’t be through lack of trying. 

How about Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana? He’s produced some trademark performances already this season. Unfortunately, that’s both his trademark great climbs and his trademark loss of time. He was much sharper at the Tour of the Alps but still had the odd slip and gave himself too much to do to get back on terms. There was no time trialling in the Alps either. 

More names to mention: Rusty Woods of EF-Education First. He may have come second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège but at stage races, he hasn’t done anything that suggests he’ll replicate his 7th at last year’s Vuelta. Mind you there was nothing much in his results last year that suggested he’d do so well at the Vuelta so who knows?

For LottoNL-Jumbo, George Bennett was putting in strong performances at the Tour of the Alps but even here he was being beaten by riders who’ll be competing at the Giro. See also Pozzovivo, Domenico.

Smells like team spirit

It’s rare a rider wins a grand tour without a strong team, so which of the contenders has backing he’ll be able to rely on?

Team Sky and Team Sunweb are complete opposites going into this race. Sky have won the GC at 4 stage races so far the season. Sunweb has won just one stage. Dumoulin has shown he can perform even with a weaker team behind him but you can bet he’d rather have a Sky-esque bank of talent to call on.

If one team has shown the very essence of teamwork this year it’s Astana. They were there in numbers all last week on the climbs up the Alps putting Lopez in some very good positions, but while they undoubtedly have strength and togetherness, their tactics need sharpening.

It was noticeable that Thibaut Pinot won the Tour of the Alps in spite of his FDJ team, who were nowhere to be seen when the going got tough. His Giro squad is stronger than his Alpine companions but will they have enough? Over three weeks that could turn into an issue for him especially if he has a bad day or mechanical unluck.

Finally, it feels strange making GT predictions without considering a Movistar rider. As it stands their leader will be Carlos Betancur who last won a stage race in 2014. Surely they could deploy better firepower than that! A last-minute insertion of Paris-Nice winner Marc Soler into the team would change all that.

So… how the hell can we predict the winner of the Giro? We can’t except to say … your podium in Rome will be Chris Froome, Miguel Lopez and Thibaut Pinot. Agree? [No – ed] 

Header image: Tom Dumoulin 2017 ©GETTY/AFP/Luk Benies

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