It’s May, guys. May is here! That means we can officially start acting like it’s spring. Fish out the lightweight, short-sleeve jersey and throw them bib tights back in the drawer – we wanna see some bare knees and elbows from now on when you hit the roads, streets and trails!
May also means the first of the Grand Tours in road cycling is upon us, the Giro D’Italia. Kicking off this weekend the race will take three weeks to travel the length and breadth of Italy’s famous ‘boot’, before finishing up in Turin on the 29th.
Who’s going to win?
Well this is a hard one to call. The bookies have Vicenzo Nibali as the favourite, but we’re not too sure. He looked a little bit erratic last year – finishing his Grand Tour campaign by being kicked out of the Vuelta for hanging onto a car was a particular highlight – with his win at the Giro de Lombardia just about saving his fairly middling season. Still, he’s the only man in the race who has won all three of the Grand Tours, so that’s got to count for something.
Also in with a very good shout are Mikel Landa of Team Sky, who managed a third place in the last edition riding in support of Astana teammate Fabio Aru, and Rafael Majka of Tinkoff. The Polish rider excels in the mountains and has been developing into a strong second GC leader (behind Alberto Contador) in the last year or so. There are a lot of time trials (three to be precise) in this year’s Giro, which could play into the hands of a specialist like Tom Dumoulin or Rigoberto Uran – both of whom are not quite as strong on the climbs as Landa and Nibali. Speaking of climbers, don’t count out Alejandro Valverde, Movistar’s old warhorse, either!
Away from the general classification battle the sprints will be contested by Marcel Kittel for Etixx, young gun Caleb Ewan from Orica-Greenedge and Andre ‘the Gorilla’ Greipel.
What's the route like?
Starting in the Netherlands meant it was never going to be hilly from the start, but it doesn’t take long before the riders will be asked to do some serious climbing. After the initial three days in Holland, the teams have a rest day when they will travel to the southern end of Italy. A couple of low key days later and they’re heading into the first summit finish. It’s classified as a ‘medium’ mountain day, but that’s really just a testament to how tough this race is – the two major climbs, the Bocca di Selva and the finish at Roccaraso are more than 1,300 and 1,500 metres above sea level.
A couple more low-key days and then its the ITT through the Chianti region – with a fairly bumpy 40-kilometre parcours it’s guaranteed to be a stern test and a day that will definitely have some impact on the GC.
After the TT comes the second rest day and a couple more quiet medium mountain or flat days (watch out for Kittel and his fast mates hoovering up the sprint points). Then all hell breaks loose. A mega mountainous stage 14 is followed up with another individual time trial, this time a 10km uphill slog. Perhaps mercifully, the next day is the Giro’s final rest day, but then we’re right back into the swing of things with stage 16 looking to be another hilly one.
If it hasn’t been decided already, stages 19 and 20 will effectively seal the race. They’re both immense mountain days in the alps and will require every last ounce of energy from the GC hopefuls.
If it’s the Giro D’Italia, why is it starting in Holland?
Well, just like the Tour de France, the Giro has a foreign start every couple of years to improve the race’s international profile. It came to the United Kingdom in 2014 when it started in Northern Ireland, and has started in the Netherlands three times. The last time it started in Dutch territory was 2010 when a certain Bradley Wiggins won the opening TT.
Who is Britain’s best hope for a victory this year?
Well.. this is a little embarrassing. Based on the provisional startlists we’ve got our grubby mitts on, there is not one single Brit involved in this year’s Giro D’Italia. You can always cheer for those lovable Aussies at Orica-Greenedge, or even better, pick a true underdog and support wildcard invitees Nippo - Vini Fantini – they've got a former winner of the Giro in their roster, 40-year-old Damiano Cunego so you never know!