Each Group’s Mojo On the Giro d’Italia
I’ll keep the intro short… this post sort of speaks for itself. It’s time to see what each team might see as the bar being set for it at the Giro d’Italia. Feel free to move the bar up or down, but I think this is a pretty reasonable start.
This year promises to be a very crowded GC competition, and with a lot of young riders among them, making the maglia bianca no easy pickings. The number of punchy climbs and few flat stages also puts the points competition in play for someone other than a bunch sprinter. Feeling left out after all that? The good news is the variety of terrain. Every ambitious rider in the peloton can probably point to a handful of stages that have them salivating.
Let’s get started. Here is a link to the startlist.
Giro History: Well, they are French, so if they had top-level assets to deploy to a grand tour, it wouldn’t be the Giro. In 16 prior participations, they have brought home one jersey, the young rider comp, via Carlos Betancur in 2013. Last year Aurelien Paret-Peintre and Larry Warbasse both finished in the back end of the top 20.
Prominent Players: Warbasse, Tony Gallopin, Clement Champoussin, Andrea Vendrame
What Success Looks Like: Champoussin doing stuff that makes people excited. Defying (my) stereotype of French teams half-assing the Giro, AG2R are doing the right thing in bringing along their next big grand tour talent by sending Champoussin to the Giro. He’s had success in Italy already (2nd in the Piccolo Lombardia, won Giro del Friuli), so it’s not going to be some terrible shock to his system to translate his talents to Italian roads. Rather, I think you can expect more of what he’s shown already, solid time trialing and the ability to hang with the best climbers. The maglia bianca competition will be fierce and exciting, so if Champoussin can get close to that prize, it’s been worthwhile. Gallopin should get ready for some long breakaways. Vendrame could bag a sprint.
Giro History: None!
Prominent Players: Tim Merlier, Gianni Vermeersch
What Success Looks Like: Stage wins. Merlier is a sprinter of some note and might make it into some smaller groups that guys like Elia Viviani might not. Vermeersch is going to empty the tank in a breakaway or three.
Giro History: One of the regular wildcards, although this year they were initially excluded in favor of Vini Zabu, who then got into doping trouble and forfeited their ticket to Gianni Savio’s squad. I would guess their initial exclusion had to do with the fact that they have only one stage win and no jerseys since 2012, and not for lack of trying.
Prominent Players: Jefferson Cepeda
What Success Looks Like: Uh, don’t look now, but the latest Colombian climbing sensation may be the 22-year-old Cepeda, recruited from Medellin and already getting results in his second season of full-time European racing, placing fourth in the Tour of the Alps. Androni actually threw him straight into the Giro last fall to get his feet wet, and while he didn’t achieve any results of note, he’s undoubtedly better for the experience. If he dons the maglia bianca at some point, that’s probably a win. If he keeps it? In this field? Look out.
Giro History: Three overall victories, most recently Vincenzo Nibali in 2016. They most recently won stages (plural) in 2019. Jakob Fuglsang finished sixth last year.
Prominent Players: Alexander Vlasov, Fabio Felline, Harold Tejada
What Success Looks Like: Vlasov on the Podium. The young Russian is a massive talent and got his grand tour career going with 11th at the Vuelta last fall. He has followed up with a brilliant spring, second in Paris-Nice and third in the Tour of the Alps. And whatever you think of the kid, you have to wish him improved luck after he abandoned the Giro on stage 2 last year with stomach problems.
Felline is the B-list sprinter who will go hunting for wins. Tejada will be working for Vlasov but will be interesting to watch after an impressive Tour de France debut and a decent performance at Catalunya spent hanging around some exclusive company. Former U23 world champ Samuele Battistella might be someone to keep an eye on as well, though he does not appear to be on top form of late.
Giro History: Invited all four years of its existence, and bagged three stages in the process. Pello Bilbao was a threat to the podium last year, ending up fifth.
Prominent Players: Bilbao, Mikel Landa, Gino Mäder, Matej Mohoric
What Success Looks Like: Landa or Bilbao threatening to win. Landa is the presumptive team leader but Bilbao is more or less Landa’s equal and on top form, second in the Tour of the Alps. Neither is more than a dark horse, given their 30+ ages and history of close calls, but together they could make some real noise. Mäder came on quickly in the Vuelta last year and will be there to help his captains and himself as opportunities arise. Mohoric is the unsexy workhorse veteran who always seems about to win a stage.
Giro History: Another of the perpetual wild cards, only the more successful one, with 25 stage wins over the years.
Prominent Players: Hm, Giovanni Visconti?
What Success Looks Like: For all their success, Bardiani are getting a bit stale of late. They hired Visconti from Vini Zabu, and the veteran stage hunter was second on the Etna stage last year, though he hasn’t actually won one since 2013. Young Samuele Zoccaratto might be a sprinty climber type worth watching on some of the semi-hilly stages.
Giro History: They’re regulars now, being World Tour, and this year will be their sixth start. They’ve bagged a few stages and a points jersey (Pascal Ackermann, 2019).
Prominent Players: Peter Sagan, Emanuel Buchmann
What Success Looks Like: Stage wins, predominantly involving Sagan. The Slovakian is a big name, always a hit in Italy, and IIRC he speaks the language pretty well from his Liquigas roots. Buchmann could get his career prospects back on track with a good overall performance. Giovanni Aleotti is a neo-pro with some real climbing chops, although I wouldn’t expect too much right away.
Giro History: Pretty thin, as they made their triumphant (ahem) return to the race just last fall after a decade’s absence. Some would argue they were absent from the Giro going back much further than 2010.
Prominent Players: Elia Viviani
What Success Looks Like: Viviani sprint wins. Simone Consonni might be plan B on days when Viv slides off the back.
Deceuninck Quick Step
Giro History: About what you would think. They are invited every year and they walk away with one or two stage wins each time. Although, oddly enough when you consider their performance last year, they haven’t bagged a stage or a points comp in a few years.
Prominent Players: Fausto Masnada, Remco Evenepoel, Joao Almeida, Mikel Honore, James Knox
What Success Looks Like: Overall victory, or something very close to it, with riders all over the big stages. Almeida was the big name last year, holding the maglia rosa for 15 stages before sagging on the Stelvio. Masnada, meanwhile, has been steadily lifting his game and arrives in top form after taking third in Romandie. Honore and Knox could be seen almost anywhere.
But the story of stories is the return to racing for Remco Evenepoel, sidelined since his horrible crash at the Giro di Lombardia last August. Evenepoel is as talented as they come, and while it’s a bit much to think he can win in his first grand tour, particularly coming off a nine-month layoff, there is almost nothing you would put definitively out of reach for the ultra talented 21-year-old. This is potentially the biggest story of the Giro.
EF Education Nippo
Giro History: Thirteen consecutive appearances, one overall victory (Ryder Hesjedal, 2012), and a steady diet of stage wins, all things considered. Last year Ruben Guerreiro bagged a win and the KOM jersey, along with another stage for Jonathan Caicedo.
Prominent Players: Guerreiro, Hugh Carthy, Simon Carr
What Success Looks Like: Carthy in the GC mix, and a stage or two for the secondary climbers. Guerreiro has been around for a bit so I’m not sure he’s about to explode onto the scene, but he’s been very solid this spring and could hang around and/or provide some top level support to Carthy. Carr is another kid with some big potential, and I stuck him on the prominent list because EF have a habit of launching kids ahead of schedule.
Giro History: None, being a somewhat newly (re)created project combining the support of former Giro winners Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso, so I guess that’s their Giro history? They will be well-directed from the background?
Prominent Players: Francesco Gavazzi, Vincenzo Albanese
What Success Looks Like: A stage win. They have two OK sprinters, which is a good start for a team in the rather early stages of its roster construction. Let’s face it, if they had two fewer international superstar former Giro winners around, they wouldn’t have come anywhere near sniffing a Giro wildcard. But I wouldn’t write off their chances at making an impression somewhere.
Giro History: Sixteen editions spent mostly wandering aimlessly around Italy with riders who can’t believe they aren’t going to make the Tour squad. Although Arnaud Demare came last year, taking four stages and the points comp.
Prominent Players: Rudy Molard, Attila Valter
What Success Looks Like: Stage wins. Valter is one of the new kids and will be well under the radar. Molard is just a guy. Seb Reichenbach might be a better bet to do something. Simon Guglielmi is another rider from the young talent wave, probably a bit early to show much but worth a look.
Giro History: Annual participants since 2010, with two wins, including Tao Geoghegan Hart’s win last year.
Prominent Players: Egan Bernal, Filippo Ganna, Dani Martinez, Gianni Moscon
What Success Looks Like: Overall victory. That’s the bar set for Bernal wherever he goes for the foreseeable future. Moscon has been hot and could bag a stage, and Ganna will be the favorite in the opening stage, ready to don pink for a day or three. But in the end the team is built to support Bernal, assuming he’s getting back on form. Martinez, Narvaez and Castroviejo make a pretty solid supporting cast.
Giro History: Newcomers.
Prominent Players: Rein Taaramae? Ricardo Minali?
What Success Looks Like: A stage win. The odd mention on TV.
Israel Start-Up Nation
Giro History: Three straight years. Alex Dowsett won a stage last year.
Prominent Players: Dan Martin, Patrick Bevin
What Success Looks Like: Stage wins. Do we dare get sucked into Dan Martin, GC contender? His fourth at the Vuelta just a few months ago would say yes, but he hasn’t raced the Giro in a decade and hasn’t been anything special this year, so let’s rate that as a pretty distant possibility. Bevin has shown a good turn of speed lately.
Giro History: The ancient Dutch squad has 18 Giri to its name and just the one victory by Menchov back in 2009. They have routinely held back their A Team for the Tour, though occasionally their B team is good enough to win, save for the odd snow incident.
Prominent Players: Dylan Groenewegen, George Bennett
What Success Looks Like: Stage wins, and a sense of normalcy in Groenewegen’s return from his long suspension. Jos van Emden can’t be ruled out in a time trial.
Giro History: 20 years in a row I think? Also they have won stages nearly every time, save for three, including last year.
Prominent Players: Caleb Ewan, Thomas De Gendt
What Success Looks Like: Ewan sprint wins and points jersey. Pretty straightforward. Ewan hasn’t finished off a points victory, and maybe he has no plans to do so here either, but that would be a reasonable goal. Not that sprinters can count on winning points in the Giro.
Giro History: Lengthy. They’ve had three riders win four Giri, each rider being the first from his country to do so: Indurain, Quintana and Carapaz. The bulk of their 23 stage wins are by GC contenders.
Prominent Players: Marc Soler, Einer Rubio
What Success Looks Like: Some sort of mountain relevance. Rubio was good last year in the race, so a breakthrough this time around wouldn’t be a shock, though in a crowded field it’s a lot to ask. Soler is another guy. Dario Cataldo will probably show up on TV.
Giro History: Nine straight starts. Simon Yates’ near-win was the high point, and maybe the low one too.
Prominent Players: Yates, Nicholas Schultz.
What Success Looks Like: Yates not being left on his own too often while he tries to climb the GC ladder. He just rode a blistering Tour of the Alps, taking the win, so any help at all and you have a legit GC contender. Schultz has been good this spring, so there is hope.
Giro History: Joined as Sunweb in 2013 and have been a fixture since. One win via Tom Dumoulin, and they positively blistered the course last year, with Hindley and Kelderman taking second and third.
Prominent Players: Hindley, Romain Bardet, Nico Roche
What Success Looks Like: Hindley, more like Windley, amirite? The Aussie has had a rocky spring from illness and crashes, with a mere 15 race days in his legs, so it’ll take a quick ramping up if he’s to challenge again. But he was a few km from overall victory last fall, so there’s no ignoring him. Bardet is even more mysterious, being a Frenchman coming from a French team which never even considered sending him to the Giro. He’s here now and looks good, however. Roche is the consummate pro, he will solidify things if the two main guys are in the mix.
Team Qhubeka Assos
Giro History: Last five years, coupla stage wins.
Prominent Players: Giacomo Nizzolo, Domenico Pozzovivo
What Success Looks Like: Stages, maybe a top ten for Pozzerwagen. Somehow Nizzolo has won the points comp twice but has yet to take a stage win.
Giro History: Regulars for a decade. No overall wins but a handful of stages and alternate jerseys.
Prominent Players: Vincenzo Nibali, Giulio Ciccone, Gianluca Brambilla, Bauke Mollema
What Success Looks Like: Nibali is the race’s greatest hero among active riders, but his days of threatening to win are likely over, right? Weeellll… he was second in 2019, the last normal race year. But the odds are long, and the competition is way up. Mollema and Brambilla are stage threats, with Mollema looking to complete his lifetime task of stages in the three grand tours. But he’s also got a couple top 10 GC finishes too.
UAE Team Emirates
Giro History: Technically their lineage only goes back to 2005, although they were formed in part from Lampre. But that technicality means they only get credit for 15 appearances and one win, the late Michele Scarponi.
Prominent Players: Diego Ulissi, Davide Formolo, Fernando Gaviria
What Success Looks Like: Stages. Formolo has been tenth twice, but isn’t likely to climb much higher this year. Is Gaviria still fast? Anyway, Ulissi is pretty reliable on home soil. They won’t go too quietly.