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Pinkalicious; 2016 Giro d’Italia preview

May 3, 2016

It’s May … and aside from the usual Communist celebrations, it also means that it’s time for the Giro d’Italia. Spring is in the air, as is the smell of momma’s marinara and homemade sausage. So boil some water for your pasta, make sure you still have some extra virgin olive oil, and shred some fresh parmigiano reggiano. We can get some gelato later, and a nice espresso.

This year’s Giro begins in the Netherlands and includes three individual time trials. In recent years, the Giro has established itself as being very climber friendly, with intensely difficult stages, usually packed into the last week. With seven flatter stages that favor the sprinters, there should be plenty of opportunity for the fast-twitch fellas, but with seven climbing stages and four mountaintop finishes, the climbers will still be licking their lips. Those three ITTs are gonna be pivotal though; either because a good time trialist can grab a narrow victory, or because a poor TT could spell disaster for lesser riders against the clock.

And what about the teams themselves … let’s have a look.

AG2R La Mondiale
POZZOVIVO Domenico
BONNAFOND Guillaume
DOMONT Axel
DUPONT Hubert
GRETSCH Patrick
HOULE Hugo
KADRI Biel
MONTAGUTI Matteo
PERAUD Jean Christophe
Director: KASPUTIS Arturas

Once again, AG2R is backing the pint-sized Pozzovivo as their GC guy. He’s had some excellent rides in the race over the years. He’s an incredible climber when he’s on form, but he’s also prone to that pesky “bad day”, and has a pretty poor record in TTs. JC Peraud is a former podium finisher in the Tour de France, and noted tough guy, as well as former French TT champion. If he’s got the legs, he can ride aggressively and surprise some folks.

Astana Pro Team
NIBALI Vincenzo
AGNOLI Valerio
CAPECCHI Eros
FUGLSANG Jakob
KANGERT Tanel
KOZHATAYEV Bakhtiyar
MALACARNE Davide
SCARPONI Michele
ZEITS Andrey
Director: SHEFER Alexandr

Team Vino … or Astana … will be all in for former Giro, Vuelta, and Tour winner Nibali. Nibz will be looking to add another Giro win as he prepares for the Olympics. If he slumps, Jakob Fuglsang will be there to be Plan B (which many other teams would be happy to have as their Plan A). Forever Astana has proven to be one of the best Grand Tour teams around in recent years. Almost too mechanically good … but nobody has tested positive recently. #moo

Bardiani – CSF
PIRAZZI Stefano
ANDREETTA Simone
BARBIN Enrico
BOEM Nicola
BONGIORNO Francesco Manuel
CICCONE Giulio
COLBRELLI Sonny
MAESTRI Mirco
RUFFONI Nicola
Director: ZANATTA Stefano

One of the Italian wildcard teams, Bardiani is always an animator in the Giro … because they have to be, if they want to return the following year (which they do). Packed full of stage hunters, they can be expected to be in the breaks damn near every single day. They’ll likely even get another stage win. They have plenty of talent, even if none of them stand a chance for the GC.

BMC Racing
ATAPUMA HURTADO Darwin
DE MARCHI Alessandro
DILLIER Silvan
KUNG Stefan
OSS Daniel
QUINZIATO Manuel
ROSSKOPF Joseph
ZABEL Rick
SENNI Manuel
Director: PIVA Valerio

I’m sure Jim Ochowicz is already preparing his “there are too many riders and too many Continental teams in the race” speeches. That said, BMC is still showing up to race. With all the team’s Grand Tour hopes pinned on the Tour, they will be at the Giro without a clear favorite for GC in Italy. Loaded with plenty of talented riders, just the same, they will still possibly come away with a stage. Without GC pressure, a rider like Darwin Atapuma could sneak away with a stage win in the mountains. Guys like Oss, Quinziato, and De Marchi are all aggressive riders looking for stage wins, and the young Rick Zabel (son of Eric) will be looking to those seven sprint stages.

Cannondale Pro Cycling
URAN URAN Rigoberto
CARDOSO Andre Fernando S.M.
CLARKE Simon
DOMBROWSKI Joseph Lloyd
FORMOLO Davide
MOSER Moreno
NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas
BETTIOL Alberto
BROWN Nate
Director: GUIDI Fabrizio

Rigoberto Uran Uran is hungry like a wolf to finally win a Grand Tour, having been on the Giro podium twice before already. Hopefully he doesn’t come undone with all the girls on film. He’s got the reflexes, and a view to the kill, especially with the rest of the wild boys to take care of him. But this is planet earth, and he’ll have his hands full. And he’ll be looking forward to Rio, like many riders.

Cannondale, under the previous name of Garmin, won the Giro with Ryder Hesjedal, who is now riding for Trek-Seafood … Segafredo. Young American Joe Dombrowski is looking forward to his first Giro, and will be hoping to learn from Uran how to put together a good three week ride. Look for the boys in green to put in a good ride, with highlights likely coming from Formolo (stage winner last year), Moser, Navardauskas, and of course Uran Uran.

Is there something I should know? Probably.

Dimension Data
ANTON HERNANDEZ Igor
FRAILE MATARRANZA Omar
JIM Songezo
KUDUS GHEBREMEDHIN Merhawi
SBARAGLI Kristian
SIUTSOU Kanstantsin
THOMSON Jay Robert
VAN ZYL Johann
VENTER Jacobus
Director: HAMMOND Roger

Without a clear GC rider, Dimension Data will be looking for stage wins, and learning experiences for the four African riders on the team. They won’t be short of talent and they’ll look to exploit that. There was a time when the team, under the Qhubeka name, was considered an oddity at the big races, but they’ve proven to be the real deal … and only getting realer all the time.

Etixx – Quick-Step
JUNGELS Bob
BRAMBILLA Gianluca
DE LA CRUZ MELGAREJO David
KITTEL Marcel
SABATINI Fabio
SERRY Pieter
TRENTIN Matteo
VERONA QUINTANILLA Carlos
WISNIOWSKI Lukasz
Director: BRAMATI Davide

Marcel Kittel 2.0 looks to be firing again. That’s bad news for the other sprinters in this year’s Giro, if the German Wünderboy is firing on all 8 cylinders. He’s hungry to continue proving he’s back, and regain supremacy in the sprint pecking order. If he’s “on”, it won’t be a surprise if he takes 3 or more stages. He’ll be backed by a strong squad without a GC rider to contend with, so he’ll be expected to bring home the pancetta.

FDJ
DEMARE Arnaud
COURTEILLE Arnaud
DELAGE Mickael
FISCHER Murilo Antonio
GENIEZ Alexandre
KONOVALOVAS Ignatas
LE GAC Olivier
SARREAU Marc
VAUGRENARD Benoit
Director: GUESDON Frederic

Built around Milan-San Remo winner Arnaud Demare, FDJ will be hunting for opportunities to catch other teams sleeping. Their main star, Thibaut Pinot, is saving his energy for the Tour, so they will be hoping they can set up Demare for a few wins. He’s got some speed, but has never been able to quite match the pure sprinters in the big gallops. It’s not to say he can’t … but he hasn’t. More than likely, he’ll get close, possibly get one win, but likely the boys will spend a lot of time in breaks and hoping EQS screws up Kittel’s leadout. (Note; the team is directed by 1997 Paris-Roubaix winner Frederic Guesdon.)

Gazprom – Rusvelo
KOLOBNEV Alexandr
RYBALKIN Alexey
ERSHOV Artur
FIRSANOV Sergey
FOLIFOROV Alexander
OVECHKIN Artem
SAVITSKIY Ivan
SEROV Alexander
SOLOMENNIKOV Andrey
Director: DEVOTI Michele

All Russia, all the time. Pass the vodka and vodka sauce, with vodka. I doubt they have a poster on the team bus of Putin riding a tank bare-chested, but they might. An entirely Russian team, one of the wildcard invites, these grim hard men can be counted on to slog away in fruitless breakaways, hoping for a surprise win. The best part might just be listening to the TV announcers try to say the names of the riders. Expectations are low for the team, from an outside viewpoint, but they have to be taken serious because they aren’t there just to steal the little bottles of shampoo at the hotels.

Giant – Alpecin
DUMOULIN Tom
ARNDT Nikias
DE BACKER Bert
HAGA Chad
JI Cheng
LUDVIGSSON Tobias
PREIDLER Georg
STAMSNIJDER Tom
TIMMER Albert
Director: REEF Marc

With three TTs, look for Tom Dumoulin to try to win at least one of them, and possibly both of the longer ones. Coming off injury in the same training crash as Chad Haga in Spain, when hit by a driver, Dumoulin and Haga will be emotional favorites for many team fans. Dumoulin is prepping for the Olympics, so his GC ambitions may be on hold, in theory, but if his stellar ride at last year’s Vuelta means anything … don’t rule him out for another big ride.

IAM Cycling
PELUCCHI Matteo
BRANDLE Matthias
HAUSSLER Heinrich
HOWARD Leigh
KLUGE Roger
TANNER David
WARBASSE Lawrence
WYSS Marcel
LAENGEN Vegard Stake
Director: CHIESA Mario

There’s a lot of talented guys on this team, and they ride bikes pretty well. Heinrich Haussler is having a great year, and Leigh Howard is almost always strong. Warbasse, Kluge, Brandle, Tanner … all solid riders. Without a major GC threat, the boys will be loose to chase stage victories, and they have the depth to do it. Will they? I’d say chances are pretty solid.

Katusha
TAARAMAE Rein
BELKOV Maxim
KOCHETKOV Pavel
KUZNETSOV Viacheslav
VOROBYEV Anton
PORSEV Alexander
SILIN Egor
TCATEVITCH Alexey
ZAKARIN Ilnur
Director: AZEVEDO Jose

Katusha returns with another solid team for the Giro. Ilnur Zakarin won a stage last year and has shown this year that he’s got good form. With a squad of geographically Soviet riders, like Gazprom, one can expect to see their stoic faces pushing the pace on hard stages. Without a true GC or sprint specialist at the race, they’ll be looking to put the hurt on the other teams when possible, with Zakarin hunting for opportunities to chip away at the outer edges of the GC battle.

Lampre – Merida
ULISSI Diego
CONTI Valerio
FERRARI Roberto
KOSHEVOY Ilia
MODOLO Sacha
MOHORIC Matej
MORI Manuele
NIEMIEC Przemyslaw
PETILLI Simone
Director: SCIREA Mario

With former multi-stage winners Diego Ulissi and Sacha Modolo, and a host of strong support riders, Lampre-Merida looks to make things interesting. They aren’t a true GC team, but this is the Giro and it always has at least a few surprises. It’s likely they’ll find a way to win a stage or two, though Ulissi is now a known commodity and will have a much harder time getting away than in years past. That said … he just might.

Lotto – Soudal
WELLENS Tim
BAK Lars Ytting
DE BIE Sean
GREIPEL André
HANSEN Adam
LIGTHART Pim
MONFORT Maxime
ROELANDTS Jurgen
VANENDERT Jelle
Director: LEYSEN Bart

Greipel. Gorilla. #quadgod. AND the ever-zany Grand Tour Marathon Man, Adam Hansen. Stacked with talent, and one of the best sprinters in the business, Lotto-Soudal shouldn’t walk away empty handed. Greipel can still give Kittel a run for his money in the German Sprint König competition. And with Hansen, Wellens, Monfort, and Roelandts as additional weapons, the kids should grab a few podium appearances. Or several.

LottoNL – Jumbo
KRUIJSWIJK Steven
BATTAGLIN Enrico
HOFLAND Moreno
CASTELIJNS Twan
KEIZER Martijn
ROGLIC Primoz
TANKINK Bram
TJALLINGII Maarten
VAN EMDEN Jos
Director: BOVEN Jan

No GC leader to weigh them down, the Dutch Boys should have the reigns off to hunt stages. Since they aren’t beholden to a top tier sprinter either, they can be surgically sneaky over the three weeks. As the GC teams and sprint trains fight for position, the LottoNL kids should be hoping to score something big. And they might. After a spring campaign dedicated to Sep Vanmarcke, the team will have 21 chances to grab a win.

Movistar
VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro
AMADOR BIKKAZAKOVA Andrey
BETANCUR, Carlos
HERRADA LOPEZ José
MORENO BAZAN Javier
ROJAS GIL Jose Joaquin
SUTHERLAND Rory
SÜTTERLIN Jasha
VISCONTI Giovanni
Director: GARCIA ACOSTA Jose Vicente

Alejandro Valverde is the team’s main GC threat … whether that makes you feel woozy or not … but the secondary story has been the return to semi-form of Carlos Betancur. Betancur had a tumultuous relationship with AG2R, and suffered from a noticeable lack of discipline. He looks to be doing better now, and the former Best Young Rider winner of the 2012 Giro hopes to show he’s once again serious about racing. Movistar has no shortage of strong riders, and is bringing a solid team to support Valverde and possibly Betancur. A top 5 GC finish is within reach, and anything less would be considered a failure- regardless of a possible stage win.

Nippo – Vini Fanitini
CUNEGO Damiano
BERLATO Giacomo
BISOLTI Alessandro
BOLE Grega
YAMAMOTO, Genki
FILOSI Iuri
GROSU Eduard Michael
STACCHIOTTI Riccardo
ZILIOLI Gianfranco
Director: GIULIANI Stefano

Lead by former winner Damiano Cunego, Nippo-Vini Fantini will be hunting for stage wins. Cunego is a long way away from his 2004 Giro win, but he’s still a favorite with the tifosi, and offers a steady hand to guide the younger riders on the team. They really only have the hope of winning  a stage if the other teams are too busy watching each other, which happens. They will be hoping that there are a LOT of lapses in concentration by the other teams over the three weeks of racing.

Orica – GreenEdge
CHAVES RUBIO Johan Esteban
BEWLEY Sam
EWAN Caleb
HEPBURN Michael
HOWSON Damien
MEZGEC Luka
PLAZA MOLINA Ruben
TUFT Svein
TXURRUKA Amets
Director: WHITE Matthew

Orica is putting their efforts into emerging GC threat Esteban Chaves and young sprint rocket Caleb Ewan. Both riders proved their potential at last year’s Vuelta, and will be hoping to continue that arch of progression in Italy. Orica’s had one helluva year, with Mathew Hayman’s incredible win at Paris-Roubaix as a milestone. They’d like to continue their run of good fortune, and the Giro has been very good to them over the years, with several stage wins. Ewan might not be ready to challenge Kittel and Greipel yet, but if he gets a little lucky, he might just sneak past them in his head-down sprint style.

Oh, and Svein Tuft. That guy …

Wilier – Southeast
POZZATO Filippo
AMERZQUETA MORENO Julen
BELLETTI Manuel
BERTAZZO Liam
BUSATO Matteo
RODRIGUEZ Cristian
MARECZKO Jakub
MARTINEZ Daniel
ZHUPA Eugert
Director: SCINTO Luca

Another wildcard team, Southeast will be looking for miracles to grab stage wins. Filippo Pozzato has had a good run of form this spring, so he’ll be getting leaned on pretty heavily to try something special over the course of the Giro. The rest of the team is made up of plucky scrappers, but they’ll likely be in a bit over their collective heads. Expect to see them paired up often with other wildcard teams Bardiani and Nippo-Vini Fantini.

Team Sky
LANDA MEANA Mikel
BOSWELL Ian
DEIGNAN Philip
HENAO GOMEZ Sebastian
NIEVE Mikel
KNEES Christian
LOPEZ GARCIA David
ROCHE Nicholas
VIVIANI Elia
Director: CIONI Dario

SKY churns out GC guys like crazy these days. Landa is their latest GC threat to get a chance in Italy. Paired with sprinter Viviani, and guys like Roche and Henao, SKY brings a formidable team. But this ain’t the Tour, where they always shine. Italy has been less kind to the team over the years, so they’d like to change that. But will they?  Possibly … possibly not. Landa comes in as a hot favorite, but we’ll see if he lives up to SKY’s PR campaign.

Tinkoff
MAJKA Rafal
BOARO Manuele
BRUTT Pavel
HERNANDEZ BLAZQUEZ Jesus
MCCARTHY Jay
POLJANSKI Pawel
ROVNY Ivan
PETROV Evgeny
TOSATTO Matteo
Director: CENGHIALTA Bruno

Without last year’s winner, Contador, on the team for this Giro, Stinkoff … TINKOFF … will be putting the GC duties onto Polish climbing ace Rafal Majka. He’ll be getting his chance to let his GC hopes soar. Potentially the final Giro for Pavel Tinkov’s riders, the lads will be looking to show they’re not distracted by their quirky team owner. Good luck with that …

Trek – Segafredo
HESJEDAL Ryder
ALAFACI Eugenio
BOBRIDGE Jack
CANCELLARA Fabian
COLEDAN Marco
DIDIER Laurent
NIZZOLO Giacomo
VAN POPPEL Boy
ZOIDL Riccardo
Director: BAFFI Adriano

The GC rests on Ryder Hesjedal, winner in 2012, but the likely story of the team will be the final Giro for Fabian Cancellara (who has the same birthday as me … just many years after mine). Fabz will undoubtedly be looking at all three TTs, especially with only Tom Dumoulin to really worry about, since Tony Martin is not participating. Trek has not been a true GC team for a number of years now, and they’re really only an outlier in that discussion still. But they know how to ride for three weeks really, really well. With Nizzolo and Van Poppel for the sprints, Cancellara and Bobridge for the TTs, and Hesjedal as a GC dark horse, they’ll have a reason to ride .

 

When the first rider rolls down the start ramp in Friday’s prologue TT, we’ll get to see the beauty of the Giro begin. In recent years, the Giro has produced arguably the best Grand Tour racing we’ve seen. The Tour may be the most important race of the year, but the Giro seems to find a way, in typical Italian fashion, to produce more excitement and drama. Like a perfectly pulled espresso, it’s a rich and full-bodied race, that will give you the jitters if you consume too much.

Bring it on!

Tim

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