Giro d'Italia picks
Last Post 05/17/2011 06:23 AM by Alexandra Jade. 7 Replies.
Author Messages
Alexandra Jade


04/30/2011 03:17 AM
Ahh, the Grand Tours are almost upon us again. May and July have to be my favorite months of the year. We've got a provisional Giro d'Italia start list, and while a few names may change between now and next Saturday, it's a pretty good picture of who will take the start. I'm going to use the points system again like I did for last year's Vuelta. With 21 stages and four jersey classifications, that's 125 points. Will be aiming for half.

Stage 1 - Turin, team time trial (21.5 km)

The only major TTT so far this season was at Tirreno-Adriatico. Unsurprisingly, Angelo Zomegnan, race director for both the Giro and the Tirreno-Adriatico, loves the TTT, but this year all three Grand Tours will have one. So eyes will be on this stage to see who may fare well in the corresponding stages at the Tour and the Vuelta. The Rabobank team won the TTT at Tirreno-Adriatico, but that course was much simpler than this one. It was a flat out-and-back, while this one, though flat, is much more technical, with several sharp turns in the second half.

5-point pick: HTC-Highroad. The American team has already stated this will be a goal of theirs, likely to put Mark Cavendish in the maglia rosa ahead of the obviously sprinter-friendly stage 2.

4-point pick: Garmin-Cervélo. They've also always coveted the TTT, and I don't see one weak link in their squad.

3-point pick: Team RadioShack. I'd like to put Liquigas here, but I'm underwhelmed by the engines they're bringing. Johan Bruyneel-led squads usually have good engines at their core, and there are a few present here.

2-point pick: Liquigas-Cannondale. They did win the TTT last year, but I'm not seeing much beyond Nibali in terms of engine strength.

1-point pick: Team Sky. They merit mention in any TTT, but the lack of both Wiggins and Boasson Hagen makes me bearish on their chances.

Stage 2 - Alba to Parma, flat stage (242 km)

This one's got the sprinters licking their chops, no doubt about it. A 300 meter hill occurs, to award the first green jersey, but it's 30 km from the finish. No hindrance to the fast men. The one sprinter who has proven himself perhaps the best in the world this season is not present in the Giro peloton, so this result is a bit up in the air.

5-point pick: Tyler Farrar. His two Tirreno-Adriatico sprints were both dynamite; if not for an error from leadout man Thor Hushovd, he'd have won both.

4-point pick: Mark Cavendish. To have him any lower than this would just be foolish. He hasn't been brilliant so far this season, but the same was true last year when he rode the Tour of California and took a win there.

3-point pick: Francisco Ventoso. Ventoso's got four wins this season, more than both Farrar and Cavendish. They have come in somewhat lesser races, though.

2-point pick: Daniele Bennati. Once thought of as the fastest thing on two wheels and later fallen on hard times, Bennati's coming off a great Circuit de la Sarthe, where he took two sprint wins.

1-point pick: Theo Bos. The Dutch speedster took two wins at the Tour of Oman.

Stage 3 - Regio Emilia to Rapallo, hilly stage (178 km)

There's two climbs in the final 50 km of this stage. They're nothing for the GC men to fuss themselves about, but they'll probably leave the sprinters behind, meaning we could well have a new maglia rosa after day three. This day looks ripe for the picking from a breakaway.

5-point pick: Jérôme Pineau. The Quick Step Frenchman quietly had a pretty darn good season last year, highlighted by a Giro stage win and a long stint in the mountains jersey at the Tour. Both are again goals for him this year. He says he's identified several Giro stages that look suitable for breakaways, and that he'll try to slip into one that may go all the way.

4-point pick: Danilo Napolitano. Skilled rider on a team with little to lose. Just like

3-point pick: Sebastian Lang.

2-point pick: Steven Kruijswijk.


1-point pick: Cyril Dessel.

Stage 4 - Quarto dei Mille to Livorno, flat stage (208 km)

There's a fairly tall climb in this stage, but it comes after only about 40 km. There's a potentially nasty little wall about 10 km from the end. If any top sprinter has a mechanical or for any other reason isn't at the front at this point, his chances for the day will be done.

5-point pick: Tyler Farrar. Farrar, much like Thor Hushovd, has always been just that tiny bit better than other "pure" sprinters at dragging his ass over a hill. The short wall will be no problem for him.

4-point pick: Alessandro Petacchi. It's a little funny to go from not even having him in my top 5 in the first flat stage to second pick here, but I'm not liking Cavendish one iota in this stage.

3-point pick: Mark Cavendish. Of course, he could easily prove me wrong. One remembers stage 19 of the 2009 Tour de France, which seemed quite unlikely to go to a field sprinter, but Cavendish stayed with the first group on the road and won a reduced sprint.

2-point pick: Francisco Ventoso. I'm confident he'll be a factor.

1-point pick: Sacha Modolo. A classics rider who packs a pretty good sprint finish. If any of the above are missing, Colnago's sprinter has a shot.

Stage 5 - Pimbino to Orvieto, hilly stage (201 km)

Four climbs in the last 80 km. Again, none look worthy of attention from the big boys, but there may be surprises.

5-point pick: Stefano Garzelli. Bib number one this year (though one wonders if it's because he's the most senior former Giro champion, or if it's because he's the leader of the alphabetically first squad), and would do well to go for the prize he won the last time he wore bib one - the mountains jersey. He looked okay at Tirreno-Adriatico (it was a terrible route for him), and I could see the big names giving him some rope here, since the monstrous peaks in week three likely will keep him from the front group.

4-point pick: Marco Pinotti. He's likely to get rope, but I do think he'll be on the attack.

3-point pick: Johnny Hoogerland. Talk about a team that's got to be hungry for a result. This stage has a profile very much like the Ardennes classics that Hoogerland covets so.

2-point pick: Yaroslav Popovych. I definitely could see the Ukrainian on the attack as well.

1-point pick: Christophe Le Mével. He's supposedly Garmin's GC man, but he stands little chance of...standing a chance. Still, a decent stage for him.

Stage 6 - Orvieto to Fiuggi Terme, hilly stage (195 km)

There's only one categorized climb on this course, but the profile looks like a saw blade. Tons of tiny little ups and downs.

5-point pick: Alessandro Ballan. If the last stage somewhat resembled the Ardennes classics, this one somewhat resembles the cobbled classics, at least in terms of profile. Ballan's got to have this one circled.

4-point pick: Greg Van Avermaet. He's been even more consistent in the classics than his leader, and he too could have this one in his crosshairs.

3-point pick: Jérôme Pineau. Another good stage for the attacker.

2-point pick: Vasil Kiryienka. Finally this year, at Pais Vasco, Kiryienka won a stage from one of his suicide breaks. If once, why not twice.

1-point pick: Domenik Klemme. Leopard Trek's first ever winner could be a good man from the breakaway.

Stage 7 - Maddaloni to Montevergine di Mercogliano, mountain stage (100 km)

Two tough climbs in this stage, including a summit finish, though with only 100 km of road to cover, the big guns may not yet feel it's time to show themselves.

5-point pick: José Serpa. With Scarponi gone, he's evidently Androni Giocattoli's top man. I could see him attacking out of a leading group and being given leeway by the Nibalis and Contadors of the world.

4-point pick: Joaquim Rodríguez. He's got Danilo Di Luca on his squad, and much as I hate to say it, Di Luca knows this climb better than anyone, having won here before twice.

3-point pick: Danilo Di Luca. Of course, that also makes "The Killer" a favorite himself. He's no GC threat this time around, either, meaning the favorites will let him go.

2-point pick: Domenico Pozzovivo. A solid climber and the GC man for another team that has no hope of winning the GC.

1-point pick: Alberto Contador. If he wants it, who's really gonna stop him? I just don't see how more than a few seconds can be won here, so I don't think he's gonna go for it.

Stage 8 - Sapri to Tropea, flat stage (214 km)

This one will be over before it starts.

5-point pick: Mark Cavendish. I definitely the Manxman to have found his legs by this point.

4-point pick: Tyler Farrar. I like Cavendish better in a straight-out sprint, which this will be, but Farrar has beaten him before.

3-point pick: Alessandro Petacchi. A good stage for the Italian sprint ace as well, dead flat run in to the finish on straight roads.

2-point pick: Theo Bos.

1-point pick: Francisco Ventoso. I'm not as confident of either of them in a full sprint, which this will be. I expect no fewer than 180 riders to finish with the same time.

Stage 9 - Messina to Mount Etna, mountain stage (159 km)

Now the big boys get to come out and play. Two very hard climbs in this stage, including a summit finish at nearly 2000 m in elevation. The stage itself is of an appreciable distance as well, meaning minutes could be taken here, not just seconds.

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. This was not one of the climbs that Contador reconned, but you've gotta like his shot at such a hard climb at the finish.

4-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. Probably Contador's biggest rival for the maglia rosa, Nibali will be certain to put in a good ride on this day.

3-point pick: Michele Scarponi.

2-point pick: Joaquim Rodríguez. Any GC hopes these two guys have will rest on their climbing abilities, meaning this is a very important stage for them.

1-point pick: Emanuele Sella. If any part of what we saw in 2008 was legitimate, this'll be a good stage for him.

Stage 10 - Termoli to Teramo, flat stage (156 km)

The first stage after the first rest day will be little more than a second rest day. This stage is flat, and quite short. There's a slight uphill at the finish, but I'm not expecting it will be a problem for anyone.

5-point pick: Tyler Farrar.

4-point pick: Mark Cavendish.

3-point pick: Alessandro Petacchi.

2-point pick: Daniele Bennati.

1-point pick: Theo Bos.

Stage 11 - Teramo to Castelfiardo, hilly stage (162 km)

You may not be able to win the Giro on a stage like this, but you sure can lose it on a stage like this. No fewer than 17 climbs dot the course, four of them categorized.

5-point pick: Alex Rasmussen. Brian Holm called Rasmussen "the strongest rider [he's] ever seen" when the Dane first joined the HTC team. A little of that strength would go a long, long way here.

4-point pick: Ben Hermans. The Belgian had a consistent if not remarkable classics season, consistently finishing in the top 20. With a peloton of riders with other ambitions, he could show himself well here.

3-point pick: Alessandro Ballan. You've again got to like Ballan here.

2-point pick: Fabian Wegmann. Podium finisher at the GP Indurain, another hilly classic.

1-point pick: Davide Malacarne. Winner of the mountains prize at the Tirreno-Adriatico from a day-long breakaway

Stage 12 - Castelfiardo to Ravenna, flat stage (171 km)

Stages don't come any flatter than this one. Likely the end of the road for Cavendish, Farrar, and some of the other sprinters.

5-point pick: Mark Cavendish.

4-point pick: Tyler Farrar.

3-point pick: Alessandro Petacchi.

2-point pick: Daniele Bennati.

1-point pick: Robbie McEwen. I don't think McEwen's actually going to be a factor anywhere, but I felt like giving him a mention.

Stage 13 - Spilimbergo to Grossglockner (Austria), mountain stage (159 km)

Fun and games in the Austrian heights. Just two categorized climbs on this course, but there are two others that look plenty difficult, and the Grossglockner finish is pretty steep, too.

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. El Pistolero reconned this climb. It's tough not to like him here.

4-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali.

3-point pick: Denis Menchov. I thought about putting him above Nibali, but I like the Liquigas support squad better than Geox's, even if Sastre really is just going to be a super-domestique.

2-point pick: Michele Scarponi.

1-point pick: Joaquim Rodríguez.

Stage 14 - Lienz to Monte Zoncolan, mountain stage (210 km)

What a brutally, crushingly difficult stage. Stages with a climb as hard as the Zoncolan usually don't go over 200 km, let alone a stage with both the Zoncolan and the new climb Monte Crostis, which looks like it could be even harder. There's five other climbs, three categorized, in the first half of the course. We could easily be looking at more than seven hours in the saddle on this day.

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. Contador rode the Zoncolan and said he liked it, though he said he was afraid of the Crostis, which boggles the mind.

4-point pick: Joaquim Rodríguez. Purrito has to be targeting this stage. It's one of only two stages where he may be able to pick up sufficient time to cover his atrocious time trial ability.

3-point pick: Igor Antón. Euskaltel has said that Igor likes the Giro route, and if so, he's got to be licking his chops for this stage.

2-point pick: Michele Scarponi.

1-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. Ironically enough, I think the Spaniards will fare better than the Italians on this stage.

Stage 15 - Conegliano to Gardeccia, mountain stage (230 km)'s not uncommon for stages of this difficulty to come consecutively in the third week of a Grand Tour, but they're usually separated by a rest day. The second rest day doesn't come until after this stage, so we are going to see some tired riders on this one. There are five climbs including a summit finish, and while they are easier than stage 14's, they'd have to be.

5-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. There's so much descending in this course, I can't see it favoring Contador.

4-point pick: Denis Menchov.

3-point pick: Alberto Contador. I'm really not sure I like him here. He reconned most of these climbs as well, and came away very impressed, calling the stage something he's never seen before.

2-point pick: Roman Kreuziger. I'm fully confident in saying that the Crostis and the Zoncolan will be too hard for him, but he may do well on several lesser climbs.

1-point pick: Giovanni Visconti. Another man I expect will be left behind on the Zoncolan who may do better here.

Stage 16 - Belluno to Nevegal, mountain time trial (12.7 km)

This replaces Plan de Corones, and looks like a far easier climb.

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. I feel a bit silly picking him so much, but really, who's better on his own in a climb?

4-point pick: Stefano Garzelli. He's not much of a time trialist, but he did win the Corones last year.

3-point pick: Denis Menchov.

2-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. Of course, Contador is not the only GC man who can climb and time trial deftly.

1-point pick: John Gadret. Did well on the Corones last year as well, and another fine mountain goat who's always done well at the Giro.

(won't win the stage, or come close, but will limit their losses well: Joaquim Rodríguez, Igor Antón)

Stage 17 - Feltre to Sondrio, hilly stage (246 km)

Long stage with two climbs toward the end. The harder of the two crests 80 km from the finish, so I think the big boys will take it easy on this day.

5-point pick: Roman Kreuziger. He fancies himself a favorite for the maglia rosa, but I think by this time he'll be looking for a stage win.

4-point pick: Giovanni Visconti. Same.

3-point pick: Emanuele Sella.

2-point pick: Juan José Cobo. It'll depend on where Menchov, or perhaps Sastre, sits on GC, but in a vacuum this is a good stage for him.

1-point pick: David Arroyo.

Stage 18 - Morbegno to Sondrio, hilly stage (147 km)

Two sides to this story. For about 105 km, Mark Cavendish would look like a 5-point pick, but after that, we've got the San Pellegrino Terme to worry about. The finishes comes on a lengthy downhill, which plays a factor into who will be a favorite.

5-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. I'm strongly reminded of Nibali's stage win in last year's Giro by this profile.

4-point pick: David Arroyo. If he crests the San Pellegrino Terme at the front and bombs the descent, I'm not sure anyone can catch him.

3-point pick: Rinaldo Nocentini.

2-point pick: Mikel Nieve.

1-point pick: Craig Lewis. Three names out of the hat for if the breakaway isn't caught.

Stage 19 - Bergamo to Macugnaga, mountain stage (211 km)

They're sure not getting much easier. Another 200+ km stage, with a summit finish.

5-point pick: Giovanni Visconti. Great stage for him to stage-hunt.

4-point pick: Kanstantsin Sivtstov. HTC fancies him an overall favorite. Not sure I buy it. He'll be stage-hunting, and I think this one's gonna go to the breakaway, though it'll take a mountain goat.

3-point pick: Roman Kreuziger.

2-point pick: José Serpa.

1-point pick: Domenico Pozzovivo.

Stage 20 - Verbania to Sestriere, mountain stage (242 km)

You'd think there'd be an easy one in the final week somewhere, to entice a sprinter or two to stay in the race, but no. 190 some flat km precede the Colle delle Finestre and the summit finish at Sestriere, a popular ski resort.

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. I can absolutely see Contador putting an exclamation point on a maglia rosa in the final road stage, because the Finestre is a brutally difficult climb. Sestriere's probably not too tough, though.

4-point pick: Michele Scarponi.

3-point pick: Joaquim Rodríguez.

2-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali.

1-point pick: Denis Menchov.

Stage 21 - Milan, time trial (32.8 km)

This time trial is for the specialists. It's pancake flat and highly technical.

5-point pick: Marco Pinotti. He's aiming for GC, meaning that barring injury he should see the race out. He's probably the best "pure" time trialist in the field.

4-point pick: Alberto Contador. This guy's kinda good at everything.

3-point pick: Denis Menchov. It reminds me of the time trial Menchov would have won in 2009 had his bike not turned into a jetski at the wrong moment.

2-point pick: Marzio Bruseghin. Another good time trialist, unlikely to abandon his home Grand Tour.

1-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali.

Points classification:

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. I have him down as much as anyone to be a stage winner.

4-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali.

3-point pick: Denis Menchov.

2-point pick: Michele Scarponi.

1-point pick: Stefano Garzelli.

I'm quite sure the maglia rosso passione will go to a GC contender.

Mountains classification:

5-point pick: John Gadret. This one's always the toughest to predict, and the one man who said he might be targeting this award no longer has a job. Gadret strikes me as the sort of rider who's a strong enough climber to win the award, but not so strong that the favorites won't let him go. Much like

4-point pick: Roman Kreuziger.

3-point pick: Stefano Garzelli.

2-point pick: José Serpa.

1-point pick: Emanuele Sella.

Youth classification:

5-point pick: Steven Kruijswijk. Solidly 18th in last year's Giro (after being a late replacement) and still young enough to win the award.

4-point pick: Rafael Valls. He's young enough to win the award, and he's someone I've heard of.

3-point pick: Davide Appollonio. Talented rider, and young.

2-point pick: Kevin Seeldraeyers. Amazing to think he won this jersey two years ago, has done nothing since, and is still eligible.

1-point pick: Alessandro de Marchi. Screwball pick of an eligible rider from an Italian team.

General classification

5-point pick: Alberto Contador. Frankly, I believe this stands as good a chance as any to be the first Grand Tour Contador's entered since his "arrival" that he won't win, but until it happens, you can't honestly expect it.

4-point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. Squad leader for the best stage racing team in the world. Anyone put in that position would be a favorite, let alone a prior Grand Tour winner.

3-point pick: Denis Menchov. You know he wants it. The squad will be very anxious to be a major contender.

2-point pick: Michele Scarponi. There's little enough time trialing to give Scarponi and

1-point pick: Joaquim Rodríguez. a realistic chance
Alexandra Jade


05/02/2011 03:54 PM
Ballan is out...huh. Didn't really see that coming. Consider everyone else moved up a line where I picked him, and I'll just not have a 1-point pick for those stages.
Alexandra Jade


05/04/2011 05:00 AM
And Graeme Brown for Theo Bos.


05/07/2011 05:43 AM
Great write up, any thoughts on Jose Rujano you'd like to share? The situation on the Androni team is clear as mud to me.
Alexandra Jade


05/08/2011 01:29 AM
Looks like I had the stage lengths wrong. Ah well. A perfect five on day one, though picking a winner from 23 possibilities is a little easier than picking a winner from 207. Perhaps more impressive, my top four picks for the TTT all finished in the top five (who saw Omega doing that well?).
Alexandra Jade


05/08/2011 01:34 AM
Posted By kim jensen on 05/07/2011 05:43 AM
Great write up, any thoughts on Jose Rujano you'd like to share? The situation on the Androni team is clear as mud to me.

I'm expecting more from Sella and Serpa. Any of them could in theory be Androni's GC man (they'll probably all finish in the top 25), but none really have the chops to hang in with the Contadors and Menchovs and Nibalis of the world. Sella in particular has quietly had a pretty good season. He could definitely take one of the high mountain stages. If, as I said above, any part of what we saw from him in 2008 was genuine (and his 2011 season so far suggests that maybe part of it was), he could show quite well perhaps on the Zoncolan. Serpa is a rider I've always liked, but much like Roman Kreuziger he strikes me as someone who's better off in the super-domestique role. Without Scarponi, he's now fending for himself, unless Sella or Rujano get anointed leader (which I don't see happening).

Rujano's best results since his Giro podium in 2005 have come in the Tour de Langkawi, a race that hardly compares. So you're right, he's a bit of a wildcard.


05/08/2011 09:58 AM
Rujano has logged a couple of decent results so far this year though, he took 8th overall in the Giro del Trentino and won the mountain competition in Coppi e Bartali.

I'm looking forward to see what guys like Rujano, Duarte, Sella and several others can do in the mountains. And what about Leopard Trek after Bennati has gone MIA? Who should we look for in this race except maybe for Feillu, Oliver Zaugg?

Same for BMC without Ballan, Johan Tschopp to aim for the mountain jersey?
Alexandra Jade


05/17/2011 06:23 AM
I'm not gonna bother tallying my points on this one. I did a remarkable job picking riders who got pulled at the last minute. Not to entire team pulling out

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