Riders to watch at the 2017 Giro d’Italia

The Giro d’Italia starts this week. Who are the contenders?

In no particular order (largely because I wanted to separate the two pictures)…

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana riding off ( LaPresse - D'Alberto, Ferrari)

Nairo Quintana riding off ( LaPresse – D’Alberto, Ferrari)

Going by who tends to get closest to Chris Froome on one of his good days, Quintana’s the class of the field. He’s racing both the Giro and the Tour de France this year. I wouldn’t expect him to win the latter after riding the former, so that would presumably make this his main aim of the season. Quintana won the Giro in 2014, but somewhat surprisingly his only other Grand Tour win was the Vuelta a Espana last year.

Steven Kruijswijk

Seventh overall in 2015 and fourth in 2016, if Kruijswijk can find a way of negating the impact of his weighty unaerodynamic shoulders, he’s in with a shout. He might also want to avoid crashing and somersaulting while in the overall lead with only one proper stage to go.

Mikel Landa

Another reminder that for all the talk of marginal gains and questionable medical decisions, Team Sky’s greatest strength is its colossal budget. Landa looked like the finest climber in the world in the 2015 Giro while riding for Astana. Rather than try and work out how to beat him, Sky signed him.

Geraint Thomas

I’ve a lot of time for the Welshman. He has a nice deadpan sense of humour and always seems a decent sort. Shame he rides for Sky, whose five year plan to suck all the fun out of cycling seems to become ever clearer.

Tom Dumoulin

I’ve a lot of time for Dumoulin too. I warmed to him when he led the 2016 Vuelta, seemingly against the odds, and I warmed to him even more when his six second advantage over second-placed Fabio Aru was transformed into a 4m36s deficit on the final meaningful stage of that race. Dumoulin is primarily a time-trialist which makes him stand out from his rivals, most of whom are climbers.

Vincenzo Nibali

Tirreno Adriatico 2017 - 52th Edition - 2nd stage Camaiore - Pomarance 228 km - 09/03/2017 - Vincenzo Nibali (ITA - Bahrain - Merida) - photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2017

Vincenzo Nibali (Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto)

If I had to choose, I’d say that Quintana’s best is better than Nibali’s best – yet it’s the Italian who has more of a record of actually winning stuff. If that’s partly because he’s a few years older then a Tour, two Giros and a Vuelta is a Grand Tour record bettered by only nine riders in history.

Ilnur Zakarin

“I think that last year, without my crash on the descent of the Colle dell’Agnello, I would have been able to finish the 2016 Giro in the top five,” said Zakarin. Crashing can indeed slow you down, but fortunately he’s all set for this year’s race. “This year my preparation was a bit disturbed by a bad crash in the Tour of Catalunya.” If he can stay upright, Zakarin should be one to watch.

Rohan Dennis

Dennis keeps talking about how he’s still learning how to race Grand Tours and how this race is just groundwork for the future, but he’s probably bullshitting. I reckon he’s going to have a stab at this one.

Thibaut Pinot

Pinot reckons the Giro suits him on the grounds that it has “the kind of mountains I like and the bad weather.”

Bauke Mollema

You’d generally have Bauke down for an 11th placed finish, but last year he managed to stay second in the Tour de France all the way up until three days to go. He still finished 11th though.

Adam Yates

Last but not least, The Shadow, the man who tried to play the Rohan Dennis’s ‘I’m only here to learn’ card at the Tour de France last year but managed to finish fourth after repeatedly refusing to be dropped, despite regularly giving the impression it was about to happen at any second. Yates is your non-Sky British option.

Stage one (Friday, May 5)

Sort of rolling. Three moderate hills. Nothing too strenuous.

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