Hang on, kids, this is going to be a humongous post.STAGE 1
This is a pretty straightforward prologue time trial. Dead flat and short, and not particularly technical, it will favor the powerhouses. Cancellara would have been a cinch pick, but Saxo Bank's sending him to California instead of to the Giro. But Team Saxo Bank may still get the first pink jersey, as Cancellara's teammate and runner-up in the most recent Olympics and
World Championships, Gustav Larsson
seems like the logical favorite among the Giro peloton.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Bradley Wiggins - This isn't necessarily a course that has Wiggins' name written all over it, but he's got to be in the discussion anytime a time trial is run. Especially one that lacks Cancellara.
2. Paul Voss - The young German shocked all when he won the opener to the ProTour Volta a Catalunya earlier this season on a course very much like this.
3. David Millar - The course is probably a little too short for Millar to really excel on, but he's exactly the kind of "powerhouse" that I referred to earlier.
Darkhorses: Ignatas Konovalovas, Andriy Hryvko, Maciej Bodnar, Alexander Vinokourov, Tyler Farrar.STAGE 2
One thing we know for sure, Rabobank will be in the break. Whichever breakaway rider is first over those two tiny hills on course will get the green jersey more than likely until stage 6, and obviously the Giro's lone Dutch team wants as much of the glory in the Netherlands opener as possible. The finish is going to test the rouleur
skills of some of the GC favorites, as, though pancake flat, it passes through some twisting, turning roads before the finish line. But the Giro's fast men will be well-prepared for such an inviting finish. The best-equipped of them for these roads and this finish may be Tyler Farrar
, who is no doubt still smarting from being this close!
at least three times in last year's Giro. Fischer, Bobridge, and Dean, in whatever order, also form a formidable train that should contend with Lampre's and Columbia's.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. André Greipel - Obviously, the season's most prolific winner will be at the front going tooth and nail with everyone else to be first across the line.
2. Alessandro Petacchi - Ale-Jet
won the first two road race stages in last year's Giro with no leadout man. Now that he has Hondo riding for him, there's no reason to think he won't be even better this year.
3. Robbie McEwen - McEwen is 38, and coming off an injury-plagued and honestly just brutally bad 2009 season. He seems healthy now, though, and has always loved the Giro, so he'll give this race everything he can.
Darkhorses: Robert Forster, Baden Cooke, Graeme Brown, Greg Henderson, Leonardo DuqueSTAGE 3
It is frankly silly how flat this stage is. Much of it actually dips below
sea level, which may be a first in the Giro's history. The finish is also much simpler than the previous stage; I can't even imagine what could possibly happen to keep a field sprint from happening. In such conditions, I have to identify André Greipel
as the favorite for victory.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Alessandro Petacchi - Part of the battle will be who can control the race in the final kilometers, but even if Columbia or Garmin takes charge and keeps Lampre out, Petacchi is among the best at "poaching" a leadout.
2. Tyler Farrar - I don't really like Farrar as much in a flat-out drag race as I do Greipel or Petacchi, but it wouldn't be any great surprise to see him win this one.
3. Graeme Brown - A flat-out test of speed suits Brown well, and Rabobank will lean on him in the sprints, especially those on Dutch soil, with Freire out. I'm not sure I realistically see him contending with the three sprint super-heavyweights, though.
Darkhorses: Robbie McEwen, Robert Forster, Baden Cooke, Greg Henderson, Enrico GasparottoSTAGE 4
Most TTT's are dead flat. This one is on a slight uphill for its duration, adding a definite wrinkle to the first stage on Italian soil. It's going to widen the gaps between the haves and the have nots - if Garzelli, Scarponi or Pozzovivo have any dreams of the podium, they'd better factor in a likely loss of upwards to a minute on this stage. There have been two major TTT's so far this season, one in the Tour of Qatar and the other in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. Neither really resembles this stage at all, but the TOQ TTT (acronym overload!) winner Team Sky
looks to have a squad capable of winning this stage, headed of course by Bradley Wiggins.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Team HTC-Columbia - The team that handily won last year's TTT would not surprise any by taking it again. They are the only squad with two national time trial champions, Marco Pinotti and František Raboň, and obviously Greipel win burn a path from Savigliano to Cuneo, so it's all there for them to repeat as TTT winners.
2. Garmin-Transitions - Since they won the TTT in the 2008 Giro, their first-ever Grand Tour, this has been a target of the American team as well as a bone of contention in their rivalry with team Columbia. They were second last year and have much of the same squad in this race, with Wiggins obviously the notable exception. Still, Millar, Vandevelde, and Aussie TT champ Cameron Meyer ought to be a strong force.
3. Team Katusha - I know, I sound very uncreative picking the teams of the sprinters, but Katusha's packing some good TT riders as well. Filippo Pozzato is not known as a time trialist, but he headed the winning Liquigas squad in the TTT that kicked off the 2008 Vuelta. Mikhail Ignatiev is always a scary rider to have out in breakaways because of his TT skills. Karpets and Caruso also ride a good TT, and McEwen should keep the pace just fine, giving them a solid core to work with.
Darkhorses: Team Saxo Bank, Astana, Caisse d'Epargne, Liquigas-Doimo, Cervélo TestTeamSTAGE 5
This one's as straightforward as it looks. The stage has a relatively simple finish, mostly flat and straight with one finishing circuit in Novi Ligure. I again have to look to André Greipel
as the favorite, with the same cast of characters behind him as contenders and darkhorses.STAGE 6
Ah, at last, some real hills. This is definitely not one for the sprinters, but these three climbs aren't so hard that they'll whittle the race down to a super-select group. If there's a group away that's just right and the team with the jersey can control the time gap, this may well be a breakaway stage. As such, it becomes tough to pick. Astana's Enrico Gasparotto
won a stage similar to this one in Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year, so why not him?OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Vasil Kiryienka - A perennial escape artist, Caisse d'Epargne's Belarussian might be the one to come home first if a group stays away ahead of the peloton.
2. Damiano Cunego - Hopefully Cunego doesn't have designs on the podium, because he's simply not that kind of rider anymore. A well-timed attack from Il Piccolo Principe
could easily take this one down.
3. Leonardo Duque - Duque is the kind of sprinter who just might be able to stay with the leading group on this sort of stage (Freire would be too if he rides, but it's doubtful that he will). Certainly, if he's with the gruppo maglia rosa
at the finish, he'll be one of if not the strongest sprinter present.
Darkhorses (aka shots in the friggin' dark): Francesco Masciarelli, Yuriy Krivtsov, William Bonnet, Pablo Lastras, Linus GerdemannSTAGE 7
This one will be fun to watch, but it shouldn't really be selective. It is sort of classics-esque, with a smattering of short but potentially intensive climbing. Passages over unpaved roads will again test the overall contenders. To brush off an old chestnut, you can't win the Giro on a stage like this, but you can probably lose it. This again looks like a nice stage for Damiano Cunego
, who could easily double up.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Michele Scarponi - Scarponi is another savvy classics-trained rider who will do well on such a stage. The hills aren't going to turn him away, and he knows how to win at the Giro.
2. Stefano Garzelli - The Acqua e Sapone captain packs a fair sprint, which may come into play if a group of overall favorites are together at the finish.
3. Thomas Voeckler - I see Voeckler as the type of rider who can get away and stay away in medi-hills like these. He's no real threat, so with the Terminillo looming, the race's overall favorites would likely let a solo rider or small group go on the final climb of the day. This would also fit with Bbox's plan for stage hunting in the Giro.
Darkhorses: David Moncoutié, Sebastian Lang, Mauricio Ardila, Filippo Pozzato, Linus GerdemannSTAGE 8
Okay GC men, time to show yourselves. The Terminillo isn't as hard as the downright evil climbs that come in the race's final week, but it is long
, meaning it could have an effect on the overall standings. No doubt the race's overall favorites will take this one down. World champion Cadel Evans
is a solid pick.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Carlos Sastre - The Cervélo captain will mark the competition on this stage, but his Grand Tour MO has always been to save himself for the gigantic peaks later on.
2. Ivan Basso - The suddenly lonely Basso is the great Italian hope in this race. He'll also have his mind on what's later in the race, but not everyone can hold back on a single day of racing.
3. Domenico Pozzovivo - Colnago CSF's leader will probably stay with the leading group on this day. While I doubt he'll have anyone with him in the approach to the finish, he's also the prospective rider most likely to be allowed leeway in a breakaway attempt.
Darkhorses: Alexander Vinokourov, David Moncoutié, Christian Vandevelde, Stefano Garzelli, Marzio BruseghinSTAGE 9
After stage 3, this is probably the most straightforward sprint stage in the Giro. It'll be a test of speed and teamwork at the line, which once again favors André Greipel
This is an interesting stage. It may be another round for Greipel, Farrar, Petacchi, and the rest, but it may not. I'm going to think optimistically (sorry guys) and say that this won't be a mass finish. Certainly, it is doubtful that a breakaway will make it away on this stage. It will come down to who is the best sprinter in the leading group. If it's not a full field sprint finish, it sounds like a day for Leonardo Duque
1. Matthew Goss - He'll do most of his work for Greipel, but if this course is indeed too selective for the big German, Goss reminds me of Matti Breschel as a type of sprinter who can do well on stages that aren't clear-cut, straightforward sprint stages.
2. Baden Cooke - Cooke will be at the finish no matter what it is, whether it's a field sprint or a select-ish group of sprinters who can make the pace.
3. Enrico Gasparotto - Another hill-capable sprinter. Gasparotto has freely admitted in the past that he's not the best on straightforward sprint stages, so less clear sprint stages should be better for him.
Darkhorses: On the off chance that a breakaway succeeds, how about Michael Schär, Alessandro Bertolini, Andriy Hryvko, Sacha Modolo, and Olivier Kaisen as the day's protagonisti
A demanding stage, but it probably won't be terribly selective. It'll be a surprise if time gaps among the overall contenders range for more than about 30 seconds. This would have been a great stage for Danilo Di Luca
, but obviously we don't need to think about him. It is again classics-esque with its length and solid climbing. So who's the best classics man among the GC contenders, who will surely rule the day? For my money, it has to be Cadel Evans
1. Damiano Cunego - He's less likely to keep the pace on this stage, but if he stays up front all the way, his stage-hunting/classics savvy and sprint abilities make him a possibility for this day.
2. Ivan Basso - Basso will have no problem of staying with the leading group, though I'm not sure he'll try
to win this one.
3. Vladimir Karpets - Karpets is a rider I like to stay with the pink jersey group and
go for broke trying to win the stage, since he has less to lose later in the race than Basso and perhaps Evans do.
Darkhorses: Carlos Sastre, David Moncoutié, Stefano Garzelli, Christian Vandevelde, Bradley WigginsSTAGE 12
Not much to say about this stage. The teams of the sprinters aren't going to let such a cherry day of racing go to waste. Hate to be a broken record, but André Greipel
remains the favorite. I don't necessarily believe he'll win all
of these stages, but he's definitely the favorite for each individually.STAGE 13
The sprinters might want to give it one last go on this stage, but while a mass finish is a veritable given in stage 12, they'll have to work for it on this day. If the right group is away, they may decide it's not worth killing themselves in the 40 km after the Barbotto to try to ensure gruppo compatto
. This looks like one for the breakaway to me, so how about Mikhail Ignatiev
soloing for the win after shedding his former mates with 10-20 km to go.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Yuriy Krivtsov - Another firebrand who loves to spend time out front of the leading group. As are:
2. Vasil Kiryienka
3. Thomas RohreggerSTAGE 14
The Grappa is literally the only feature on this stage, one that is otherwise perfectly flat. I don't think the overall contenders are going to make too much noise on this stage. I certainly think the Grappa itself will go to a breakaway. The question is whether the leader(s) will stay away through the descent or be caught up by the pink jersey group. I'll give the nod to Garmin's Daniel Martin
both as the first atop the Grappa and, maybe a little optimistically, the stage winner.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Alexsandr Dyachenko - A young-ish climber in the making much in the same mold as Martin. This would be a really good stage for him to try to make the break.
2. David Moncoutié - Cofidis' captain has proven his chops as a mountain goat at the Vuelta. He's no overall threat in this race, so he should be able to make an attempt at the right group in a morning break.
3. Sebastian Lang - Lang has done almost nothing since joining Lotto after Gerolsteiner folded. He enters this race as their leader, and is the perfect sort of rider that is a good enough climber to be in the breakaway on mountain stages but is not an overall threat.
Darkhorses: José Serpa, David Arroyo, Iban Mayoz, Daniel Moreno, Bauke MollemaSTAGE 15
The real race begins. The Zoncolan will certainly claim more than a few souls, but this would be a tricky stage even without it. I'm expecting a downright goofy scene with the more exuberant of the tifosi probably able to walk, forget run, walk
alongside some of the riders as the Zoncolan melts their legs. Simoni won't win again, but it'd be inspiring to see him put in a solid effort, maybe a breakaway. If last year is any indication, Carlos Sastre
knows when to show up in the Giro, and he's exactly the kind of rider who can take this stage down. This stage will see some epic time gaps.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Ivan Basso - Wouldn't surprise me to see Sastre and Basso approach the finish together, whether just the two of them or with a few others. I could even dream up a scenario where if one is race leader, the other could help him stay away in exchange for the stage win. They are former teammates, and Sastre was Basso's top lieutenant when he won the 2006 Giro.
2. Cadel Evans - I have to think Evans will dropped just before the summit of the Zoncolan, but, hey, maybe he surprises.
3. Christian Vandevelde - I know CVV prefers the Tour to the Giro, but the relative dearth of overall contenders in this race means he really should give it everything he's got. And that'd start with this stage.
Darkhorses: Vincenzo Nibali, Bradley Wiggins, David Arroyo, Stefano Garzelli, Damiano CunegoSTAGE 16
This is obviously an exceptionally difficult climb, but one wonders if 12.9 km is enough road to provide time gaps among the race's elite. The highest-placed man in the Giro this year that did this very stage in 2008 is Gilberto Simoni - he's obviously not the same rider anymore, and is really no favorite for victory. Further down the list from that climb are Marzio Bruseghin and Domenico Pozzovivo
, whose Colnago CSF team will probably win something
in this race, so why not the Corones?OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Cadel Evans - The world champ is a great climber and a solid time trialist, so he's a logical contender for this stage. He'll either have many men biting at his heels in the overall standings or he'll be the one doing the biting - either way, he'll be very motivated on a climb he specifically scouted days before the race began.
2. Carlos Sastre - Sastre is not known as a particularly good time trialist, but this stage is three parts climbing to every one part time trialing. He'll certainly be in the top five or six, and if he has a really good day, he could be "King of Corones" this time around.
3. Marzio Bruseghin - Bruseghin did well on this climb two years ago, and as a rider he's a good mix of climber and time trialist that the course will demand.
Darkhorses: Ivan Basso, Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Alexander Vinokourov, Vladimir KarpetsSTAGE 17
This looks to be a pretty safe breakaway stage. It's the right length, right profile, right position in the Giro, and if the right group forms, they'll get their chance to stay away. Since I haven't forecasted much of anything for them, how about Quick Step's squad leader Dario Cataldo
making the break and making it stick.OTHERS
Other firebrands to fight it out on this stage could include Alessandro Donati, Ludovic Turpin, Johan Tschopp, Giampaolo Cheula, Tiziano Dall'Antonia, Mauro Facci, and as always, Mikhail Ignatiev and Vasil Kiryienka.STAGE 18
When you consider that Alessandro Petacchi
has never voluntarily abandoned a Giro, the pick for this stage becomes fairly obvious. The only potential fly in the ointment is if a big breakaway group is away and only Lampre tries to chase and gets no help.OTHER CONTENDERS
Greipel and Farrar will be long gone. Probably McEwen, too. But there are some fast men who will probably stick it out.
1. Alberto Loddo - Androni-Diquigiovanni's sprinter has beaten Petacchi once before this year, and realistically he has nothing to look forward to after the Giro, so he won't be part of the exodus before the high mountains.
2. Baden Cooke - It's very doubtful that Cooke features into Saxo Bank's plans for the Tour, so I can see him staying in to Verona.
3. Enrico Gasparotto - The stage doesn't especially suit him, but I don't think he'll abandon his home Grand Tour, making him a possibility in a bunch finish.STAGE 19
One of two final kicks in the ass before the TT in Verona, this course has four climbs, but none juicier than the Passo del Mortirolo. Lance Armstrong rode this climb in training in 2004 and said it was hands down the most difficult climb he had ever ridden. You don't need me to tell you that the race's più forte
will be the ones to conquer the stage. He won two in brilliant fashion last year, so why not a second for Carlos Sastre
this year?OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Ivan Basso - Basso may yet be the strongest climber in the race. I think that title belongs to Sastre, but even if it does, Basso's not so far behind.
2. Cadel Evans - I think Evans will probably surrender a few seconds on this climb, but they won't ultimately knock him from third or fourth overall or wherever he happens to be in the standings.
3. Bradley Wiggins - If he has anything close to the kind of from he did last July, this is a good stage for him.STAGE 20
The amount of climbing in this stage is downright silly, and leads me to believe the stage itself will probably go to a breakaway like the Ventoux from last year's TDF and.....every stage.......from last year's Vuelta. For a breakaway mountain goat, how about Lotto's Daniel Moreno
, who signed for the team to help Cadel Evans but now chases his own ambitions.OTHER CONTENDERS
1. Manuel Belletti - I think the Italian Division 2 teams will be combative and getting men in the break on this stage.
2. Massimo Codol
3. José Serpa - Right type of rider to try to get away, be allowed to get away, and have the legs to stay away.STAGE 21
The ITT that closes the Giro is not a largely ceremonial one like last year's was. The roads aren't flat and straight. This one's not really for the time trial specialists, and will probably instead favor an all-rounder. I'm thinking Bradley Wiggins
is the correct type of rider to get a win here. If he sticks it out this long (who knows if he thinks of the Giro only as Tour preparation), he'll surely want to avenge his single-second loss in the closeout ITT from last year.OTHER CONTENDERS
Wiggins is one of seven national time trial champions in the Giro. The other six are Rubens Bertogliati, Andriy Hryvko, Ignatas Konovalovas, Maciej Bodnar, Marco Pinotti, and František Raboň.YOUTH CLASSIFICATION
Last year's winner Kevin Seeldraeyers isn't in the field, but Francesco Masciarelli
finished only 4 minutes behind him and returns, remaining eligible. He's the logical choice, but this, logically, is usually an award won by someone unexpected.MOUNTAINS CLASSIFICATION
Garzelli does stand a chance to repeat, and Moncoutié's successes in the Vuelta in this classification make him a contender, but I like Daniel Martin
to take the jersey. The team is apparently having him concentrate on the Giro, and putting off his Tour debut for another year. He's got the climbing legs to do it and isn't an overall threat, so he'll be allowed out on break attempts.POINTS CLASSIFICATION
This is harder to predict for the Giro than for the Tour, given that most of the sprinters will not complete the race and that it doesn't necessarily favor the sprinters anyway - unlike in the Tour, flat stages and mountain stages award the same points. Maybe it goes to Petacchi as the sprinter most likely to complete the race. Or maybe it goes to Cadel Evans
, who realistically should finish in the top ten of each mountain stage and time trial.GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
This is the
pick, isn't it? There's talk of how this Giro is so wide open, given that most of the cycling world is focusing on the Tour de France, but I really see it coming down to two names. And they're pretty obvious ones. How Basso reacts to the pressure of being Liquigas' only big gun in the race will ultimately tell the tale, but at this point, my heart and my head are in agreement - Carlos Sastre
will win the 2010 Giro d'Italia.
Let the race begin.