It’s not often said that slow and steady wins the race in professional cycling, but a steady approach to this year’s Giro D’Italia could well be the winning one and that might be grounds to support Tom Dumoulin’s bid for a second Giro title here. The Dutchman was second last year in a crazy race that saw Chris Froome take that remarkable win, and now returns with a route that might suit him even more.
There’s 60km of time trialling compared to 44.2km last year, along with three fewer summit finishes, and whilst Dumoulin is a fine climber himself, he definitely ought to relish three hilly time trials as a chance to put time into the field. The Dutchman has not had much racing before today and some might be worried about his poor performance in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but he was fourth in his last stage race (Tirreno-Adriatico) following his sixth at the UAE Tour and being fresh ought to be of huge benefit later on in this tour.
The second and third weeks are backloaded with climbing – indeed four of the race’s toughest stages come from Stages 12 to 16 – and we need only look at last year’s epic turnarounds to see what can happen late. Dumoulin was second last year after finishing 38th in the UAE and then crashing out of Tirreno-Adriatico, and what’s more, he took the Magalia Rosa on the first day’s time trial too.
That he was able to finish second in the Tour de France afterwards shows his class and he might well be best suited to what is an epic route, with Sam Oomen to help him too.
Primoz Roglic is the red hot rider this year. The Slovenian, fourth in last year’s Tour, has been flawless this season, with wins in the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and a complete domination of the Tour of Romandie, taking three stages with a sprint win, the one summit finish and the final TT too. He deserves to be favourite on that basis and is going to take the beating but maintaining such form for the three weeks will be difficult and unlike last year the first week might not give him the grounds to hammer his advantage home unlike last year when Simon Yates was taking lumps out of the field on consecutive days.
Yates himself looked certain to win a first Grand Tour – on Stage 19 he had 3’22 on Chris Froome before he cracked in specular fashion over the last two stages, being cruelly denied for what had been a complete performance. Yates had won three stages and finished runner up on two others (along with three more top five finishes) through the preceding two weeks and would have been deserved winner, but he put that right with a controlled performance to take the Vuelta at the end of last year.
This season he’s had a deliberately low key preparation. Just three stage races this year – the Vuelta Andalucia, Paris-Nice and the Volta Catalunya – have kept things very light and two stage wins in that period show his engine’s still there and working. The big question for him? Time trialling. Yates is not useless against the clock and has worked hard to improve himself on the time trial bike, and he should enjoy the fact the three-time trials this year do have climbing in them, but he may still end up losing a minute to the front two (or more) and it remains to be seen if he can claw that back. He might be a better bet to win individual stages rather than to take the overall Magalia Rosa.
Vincenzo Nibali is one of the most complete riders of the modern era and is another contender who’s clearly aiming to peak through the third week. The Sicilian will enjoy the Stage 12 descent of the Montos climb and he’s been on a steady curve of improvement, with a pair of eighth-place finishes in Milano San-Remo and Liege to add to a third in the Tour of the Alps. His big question is against the clock – the last big ITT performance he was was in the 2017 Vuelta, although he’s not been riding with everything on the line in one since. At least Bahrain, in the shape of Pozzovivo and Caruso, have deep mountain support.
The clock could also beat Miguel Ángel López, one of the best of Colombia’s fine generation of climbers. He was third in last year’s Giro and then the Vuelta, an excellent first season going for the overall titles, and comes here with a low key preparation but also a hard-hitting team. Astana bring Pello Bilbao, Dario Cataldo, Jan Hirt, David Viella, and Andrey Zeits which is more firepower than any other top contender. The climbs in the time trials will help his chances too and he ought to be competitive.
Mikel Landa is the only other rider under 20/1 and whilst he’s technically co-leader with Richard Carapaz (fifth last year) it looks likely that he’ll be making the main bid for Movistar. Landa is a very talented climber who’s also kept himself fresh but he would have wanted more than just three summit finishes and certainly less time against the clock – he shipped buckets to Dumoulin and Roglic in the Basque time trial at the end of the Tour de France last year when he was seventh and there are a lot of valley finishes which don’t really suit him either. Richard Carapaz hasn’t ridden for himself since his fourth last year but if he’s let off the leash and peaks in the second and third week then he can give Movistar a couple of decent options.
Team Ineos were set to give Egan Bernal his first chance at going for a tour title, but his collarbone break means that they now have a side full of climbing talent that is untested at the top level. Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghan Hart were 1-2 in the Tour of the Alps, when Ineos won three of the stages through the week, and both bring huge potential along with Ivan Sosa. It might be wiser for them all to go stage hunting, although Sivakov is a very useful time trialist for such a young age. Tao is less proficient against the clock, as is Sosa, and that might count them out of challenging for a podium.
Ilnur Zakarin ninth in the Tour de France last year and 3rd in the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, has plenty of experience but isn’t as good a descender of time trialist as the front three and perhaps not quite as good a climber as them either, which robs him of each/way appeal.
Bob Jungels has won the white jersey twice and will enjoy all three of the time trials along with a number of the mountain stages that see descents from large climbs before runs through tough valleys, and he will be there or thereabouts for a number of crucial stages.
Rafal Majka has had plenty of stage hunting success along with Davide Formolo and perhaps that will be what they try to do again this season. Majka hasn’t taken a stage yet this season but has looked sharper in Catalunya and also at the Tour of the Alps whilst Formolo won the last stage of Catalunya and was second at Liege.
Advice: 3 pts win Tom Dumoulin (11/4 Sportingbet)