Bradley Wiggins’ rivals for the Giro d’Italia

I’ve looked at the important stages and the Sky team riding in support of Wiggins. Now let’s look at his rivals.

I’ll keep this brief, because I don’t think there are a huge number of contenders based on current form. That isn’t to say no-one else can win. It’s more that these are the guys to focus on initially. Others might reveal themselves (not like that) over the course of the race, but let’s keep things simple initially.

1. Vincenzo Nibali

I actually have Nibali down as the favourite, if only because he has more opportunities to put time into Wiggins than Wiggins has opportunities to put time into him. The British rider is heavily focused on the time trial, whereas Nibali will fancy his chances on all of the hilly and mountain stages which feature steeper gradients. He’s lighter than Wiggins and the steeper it is, the more that matters.

Wiggins is talking about losing 10 or 20 seconds on summit finishes, but with a 20 second time bonus for the winner of each stage, this could add up to considerably more. Then again, you don’t listen to cyclists before a race – they’ll say anything. After all, at last year’s Tour, Wiggins put time into Nibali in the mountains, which is worth remembering.

2. Ryder Hesjedal

The reigning Giro champion is gifted with 8.3 litre lungs and acute masochism. Last year, commentators pondered when he’d lose touch with the climbers, but he never did. Like everyone else, Hesjedal will have to gain time on Wiggins in the mountains.

3. Cadel Evans

I thought long and hard about limiting my list of Wiggins’ rivals to two, but Evans just sneaks in. It was only just over a month ago I was writing about how extraordinarily shit he’s been this season, but since then he’s demonstrated some very competent climbing form at the Giro del Trentino, where he finished 8th overall.

His inclusion here owes more to his rapid rate of improvement and his potential to improve further than it does to his actual form, however. Basically, he will have to improve considerably to win, but that is possible.

Evans himself is still exploring semantics with regards to why he’s racing the Giro. It’s NOT for training, he says, but at the same time he evaluates his chances thus:

“I’m not putting bets on myself for the pink jersey in Brescia, put it that way.”

I think it boils down to something like: ‘training by racing to win, albeit with no expectation of actually winning’.

Or maybe he really fancies his chances and is just bullshitting. Like I say, you can’t trust these guys.

Non-rivals

These riders are getting mentions on other websites, but I’m consciously omitting them. Here’s why.

I would have left Ivan Basso out even if he hadn’t developed a cyst ‘in an undisclosed location’ (a location that prevents him from pedalling, presumably). Basso always loses time these days. His notable victories are from another era. Also, he’s dropped out now.

Michele Scarponi is often pretty strong, but is generally just off the pace. Samuel Sanchez is much the same.

Robert Gesink tends to appear in the riding-for-15th-place group along with Jurgen Van Den Broeck (I have perhaps unfairly crowned Van Den Broeck king of this segment of the peloton). Gesink is a bit younger than the other non-rivals I’ve listed, however, so he might do summat.

In summary

Let’s just follow the race and see what happens.