Giro d'Italia preview | 2018

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The Giro kicks off this Friday and looks set to be an absolute pearler. The Giro always is great – the Tour pumps out racing that tastes like your supermarket brand, mass-produced white block loaf of bread, but there’s a little bit more TLC going into the hand-produced sourdough from that Italian bakery we call the Giro.

This year’s race looks brutal, to say the least – even the “flat” stages have a couple of climbs coming towards the end, so there’s probably only 4-5 stages that look like finishing in a sprint, and that’s reflected in a weak sprinting field.

This year’s field is very rich in GC guys though, and probably goes 10 deep with contenders – that should be reflected in the racing and make it a pretty watchable 3 weeks.

 Photo- Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo- Twila Federica Muzzi

3 GC Favourites

Tom Dumoulin – Last year’s champ, nobody believed he could do it last year, and nobody’s quite sure he can back it up this year either. The big man is the best TT rider in the world obviously and will have an advantage in the Israeli opener, as well as the 34.2km test against the clock in Stage 16. On the downside though, this year’s race is chockers with climbing talent and chockers with climbing days; it’s gonna be a big ask for him to get through it all again, even if he showed he could last year.

Esteban Chaves – Second place in the 2016 edition, Chaves enters as an unknown quantity in 2018. The course should suit him with a lot of summit finishes, but he hasn’t shown a lot of form this year. He won the Herald Sun Tour, but was fairly anonymous at Paris-Nice, and didn’t finish Catalunya. As heard on this week’s SSS pod, he’s been doing secret training in Colombia, fuelled by his mum’s casseroles, and you’d hope the block of training has held him in good stead. Will a casserole of madness of the Chaves variety arrive at the Giro? We shall see.

Thibaut Pinot – Poor weather is a given at the Giro, and so are fast descents. That’s a pretty toxic potion for old mate Thibaut Pinot who avoids quick descents like he does his ex-girlfriends (or boyfriends, whatever floats his boat). Thankfully there aren’t any stages finishing with a long descent, it’s more the descent into the final climb that’s going to disadvantage him. Others will try to take advantage of that (Chris Froome loves a downhill attack), and it must be pretty frustrating for him knowing he's likely losing any advantage he builds over the top of a climb. He’s in good form though – he won Tour of the Alps and was aggressive as always. You can expect him to be the main aggressor here.

 

3 stages to watch

Stage 6 – Stage 6 is the first big GC rendezvous, as the riders summit Mount Etna. The race has gone up Etna many times including last year, but this is a new road up the volcano. Rolling for the first half of the stage, the last 50km is mostly uphill making for a tough, tough day. The Etna climb goes up in a 15km ramp, descends for 5km or so, and that’s when the official climb finally starts. Officially 14km at 6.5%, the toughest part is the last 5km, which averages almost 8%.

Stage 14 – The mighty Zoncolan makes an appearance at the end of the day, and it’s probably going to make a few more appearances in nightmares the nights before and after. 10.9km at 11%, ramps of 22%, it’s the fifth categorized climb of a day that looks like the least fun that anyone could ever possibly have.

Stage 19 – The Cima Coppi prize will be awarded as the riders crest the highest point of the race, the Colle delle Finestre. The Finistre is consistent at 9-10% the whole way up, with the second half of the hair-pinned climb coming in gravel roads. The riders then summit the Jaffereau, which is 7.2km at 9%, making for another hellish day in what looks an incredibly hard Giro.

 Photo- Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo- Twila Federica Muzzi

3 sprinters to watch

Elia Viviani – Viviani kicked off 2018 as the hottest sprinter in the world, taking six early season wins, including De Panne, and the overall at the Abu Dhabi Tour.  He’s by far the biggest sprinting name here and has big expectations from his team; they dominated sprints here last year, with Fernando Gaviria winning four stages. He’ll have his work cut out to make it all the way Rome though – he struggled at last week’s Romandie, being time cut on the mountain ITT (a lot of guys got cut that day though).

Sacha Modolo  - Modolo has just the one win this year, winning a stage at Andalucia. He’ll face stiffer competition at the Giro and probably be piloting himself in the sprints; his Drapac team fairly focused on Michael Woods’ GC assault. He’s reasonable after a hardish day and doesn’t miss sprinting on a little false flat, so there’ll be goodies for him in the route somewhere.

Sam Bennett – Bennett could have worn the Maglia Rosa here last year; the only problem was that his teammate Lucas Postlberger rode off the peloton during the leadout. Bora is again supporting Bennett in the sprints, and they’ve brought Postlberger back too – Bennett’s a fair shout to be near the front of the sprints this year if everyone on his team’s on the same page. Bennett doesn’t have any wins this year yet as he’s struggled with illness but has increased his form with two podiums at Catalunya, and a top 10 at Eschborn-Frankfurt this week. Last year he had four podiums here, and he’s going to be looking to take another step.

 

3 breakout riders

Pello Bilbao - Bilbao stormed to a summit win on the first stage of the Tour of the Alps a fortnight ago, going on to finish 14th overall. He’s putting together a nice season between that result, and 8th overall at Itzulia. This is his second year with Astana, and as part of their loaded squad, he’ll be looking for a stage win at the Giro. He’s a good chance for a breakaway stage win in the mountains, and maybe a top 10 on GC.

Michael Woods- Woods stepped onto the podium in his most recent race, Liege Bastogne Liege, showing his good spring form. He finished 38th here last year but rebounded to finish 7th at the Vuelta. With the form he’s shown this year, he’s well in the hunt for top 10, maybe top 5, this time around.

Davide Formolo - Formolo took his first pro win in 2015 here but hasn’t taken a win since, though he has had two top 10 grand tour placings. A talented climber, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see him get his second here at his home race. 7th at Tirreno earlier this spring, 7th again at Liege two weeks ago; he’ll be in the mix over the next three and a half weeks.

A massive three weeks coming up! Stay in the Giro loop with our rest day Podcasts and daily "Giro Takes".

See you back at the social club,

Josh

Campbell Flakemore