Giro d’Italia Preview: Looking ahead to the most balanced Corsa Rosa in years
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Giro d’Italia Preview: Looking ahead to the most balanced Corsa Rosa in years

by Ben Atkins at 3:35 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
Where will this year’s first Grand tour be won, and who will win it?

giro dAfter what was widely regarded as the hardest Grand Tour in recent history, the 2012 edition of the Giro d’Italia promises to be a much more human one. With seven mountaintop finishes, as well as numerous other big climbs, however, this year’s edition should still hold up to organiser RCS Sport’s claim that it is the “toughest race in the world's most beautiful place.”

The race will start in Herning, Denmark, the hometown of 1996 Tour de France winner and Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis, which will be the most northerly start of any Grand Tour in history [beating the Vuelta a España’s 2009 start in Essen - ed], but the final maglia rosa of the race will be decided on the roads and mountains of Italy as usual.

Where the race will be won
While the first few Danish stages of the race are flat, there are still plenty of hazards to avoid, particularly the possibility of crosswinds as the first road stage follows the North Sea Coast. Assuming the riders manage to survive the race’s northern excursion, the next big challenge will come in the 32.2km team time trial in Verona, Shakespeare’s city of lovers. The stage could see a number of promising individual riders knocked out of contention as their teams struggle against the clock on the flat course.

The less glamourous mountains of the Apennines at the end of the first week could cause some unprepared riders a few problems. As usual however, the big fight for pink should come in the final week of tough mountain stages, which ends with the highest ever mountaintop finish on the Passo dello Stelvio.

Should the race be close as it arrives in Milan, the final time trial - similar to that originally planned in 2011 - at 31.5km is long enough to make a difference.

Stage 3, starting and finishing in Horsens, Denmark, will be a particularly poignant one, as it will be dedicated to the late Wouter Weylandt. The popular Belgian won stage three of the 2010 Giro, but was tragically killed during the third stage of last year’s race, as he was descending the Passo del Bocco. The race number 108, which he was wearing at the time, has been retired by the race organisation; the Orica-GreenEdge team will wear numbers 100-107 and 109.

Who will win?
michele scarponiThe 2012 Giro is the first in a long time that begins with no outstanding favourite for victory, which, hopefully, should provide fans of the race with a close and exciting contest right to the end.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) has stated that, although he has officially been awarded the 2011 title, and will start this year’s Giro wearing the number one dossard of defending champion, he has declared that he wants to win the race on the road this time. The 32-year-old’s form has been a little uncertain this season so far but, after a strong eighth place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Eagle of Filottrano has declared himself ready.

Scarponi’s biggest challenger could be 2006 and 2010 winner Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) who, after focusing on the Tour de France last year, now hopes to join the ranks of three-time Giro winners. Basso’s season to date has been disrupted by crashes however, and his form is arguably as uncertain as Scarponi’s, but he too has proclaimed himself ready for the race after working hard for his team in the Giro del Trentino, and being there when it counted in the Tour de Romandie.

Arguably the most consistent of the big contenders for this year’s race is last year’s fifth place, and best young rider, Roman Kreuziger (Astana). The Czech has hardly set the World on fire this year, but third place in Tirreno-Adriatico, and sixth in both Trentino and Romandie are testament to the steady season that most of his rivals have lacked.

Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) certainly has the climbing form necessary for the Italian mountains, as shown by his two stages in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and recent victory in la Flèche Wallonne, but also feels that he has overcome his time trialling achilles heel, which has cost him so much in the past. If this is the case, then Purito could well find himself finally stepping onto a Grand Tour podium, after two fourth places in twelve previous attempts.

The disqualification of Contador made AG2R La Mondiale’s John Gadret the first Frenchman to make a Grand Tour podium since Richard Virenque’s second place in the 1997 Tour de France. The cyclocross specialist is focussing his season around the Giro once more, and hopes to at least match last year’s result.

A wildcard of the race could be Colnago-CSF Inox’ ambitious Domenico Pozzivivo. The ambitious 29-year-old has a ninth place in the race to his name, from 2008, and - if the recent Giro del Trentino is anything to go - he has timed his form to perfection.

The late inclusion of Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), following the withdrawal, through injury, of Jakob Fuglsang, could add the Luxembourg champion to the list of genuine contenders. The elder of the Schleck brothers has not raced a Grand Tour purely for himself since he was overtaken in 2009 by younger brother Andy, but if his late inclusion means he is less than prepared for the race, he could have problems.

The other big unknown for the race will be 2004 winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD). The entire blue-fuchsia team is riding behind Scarponi, except for Cunego, who will be riding as a wildcard. After his displays in the Ardennes Classics, and in Trentino, the Piccolo Principe might find himself out performing his teammate.

Who will be the stage winners?
mark cavendishThe Giro will see many of the World’s top sprinters fight out the few flat stages of this year’s race. With many of them targeting the Tour de France, and Olympic Games, however, very few will aim to make it all the way to the finish. Virtually all of the fast men climbed off before last year’s race hit the high mountains, and this year will likely follow that pattern.

Much of the story around the sprints in this year’s Giro d’Italia could be the battle between three former teammates. With the break up of the HTC-Highroad team at the end of last season, World champion Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss and Mark Renshaw went their separate ways; to Team Sky, Orica-GreenEdge and Rabobank respectively. Although Renshaw could well spend a lot of the race leading out Dutch teammate Theo Bos - after the two of them took three stages in the Tour of Turkey between them - the clash between the three ex-Highroad fastmen should be a good one to watch.

After winning two stages in 2010, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) will be looking to score in his return to the Giro after quit last year’s race following the death of his close friend Wouter Weylandt. The American, who dedicated his later Tour de France stage victory to the late Belgian, will doubtless be keen to perform on stage three.

Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the sprinter to beat in the early part of the season and, although he has been a little less convincing since, is hopeful of taking his first ever Grand Tour stage. Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) meanwhile, has had a quiet start to the season, along with most of the high-profile new signings of the American super-team. Who knows how well Thor could have gone in Paris-Roubaix - his big target for the spring - had be not crashed out just as the action was starting, but the former World champion could doubtless do with a victory for his own morale.

Keen to add to his three stages - and points jersey - from his last appearance in his home tour in 2008, is Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan). The Tuscan missed last year’s race after breaking his collarbone in the Tour de Romandie, and will hope to make amends this time. Bennati is one of the few sprinters in the race that is sure to try and make it all the way to Milan, making him one of the favourites for a second points jersey.

In addition to the big names, there are a number of sprinters hoping to break through in the race. Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) is seeking to break into the big time, and is brimming with confidence after his own Turkish stage victory. Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank) took his first ever Grand Tour stage in last year’s Vuelta a España, and will have younger brother Lucas Sebastian with him to help try and achieve one in the Giro.

Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) has been knocking on the door of Grand Tour success, since spending a day in the yellow jersey in the 2008 Tour de France. He has a series of podium and top five places to his name, and the Frenchman now feels ready to take his first win.

Two young names to look out for will be 22-year-old Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and 20-year-old World under-23 champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ-BigMat). Both have taken numerous big-name scalps in some of the lesser races of the season, and will be keen to prove themselves in their debut Grand Tour.

The big name missing from the list of sprinters is that of Alessandro ‘Ale-Jet’ Petacchi (Lampre-ISD). The 38-year-old took his 22nd career Giro stage win last year, but has posted indifferent results this season and has been left at home by his team, which is putting all of its resources behind Scarponi.

95th Giro d’Italia (WT)

Stage 1, 5 May: Herning – Herning ITT (8,7 km)
Stage 2, 6 May: Herning – Herning (206 km)
Stage 3, 7 May: Horsens – Horsens (190 Km)
Rest day, 8 May: Transfer to Italy
Stage 4, 9 May: Verona – Verona TTT (32,2 km)
Stage 5, 10 May: Modena – Fano (199 km)
Stage 6, 11 May: Urbino – Porto Sant’Elpidio (207 Km)
Stage 7, 12 May: Recanati – Rocca di Cambio (202 km)
Stage 8, 13 May: Sulmona – Lago Laceno (229 km)
Stage 9, 14 May: San Giorgio nel Sannio – Frosinone (171 km)
Stage 10, 15 May: Civitavecchia – Assisi (187 km)
Stage 11, 16 May: Assisi – Montecatini Terme (243 Km)
Stage 12, 17 May: Seravezza – Sestri Levante (157 km)
Stage 13, 18 May: Savona – Cervere (121 km)
Stage 14, 19 May: Cherasco – Cervinia (205 km)
Stage 15, 20 May: Busto Arsizio – Lecco/Pian dei Resinelli (172 km)
Rest day, 21 May
Stage 16, 22 May: Limone sul Garda – Falzes/Pfalzen (174 km)
Stage 17, 23 May: Falzes/Pfalzen – Cortina d’Ampezzo (187 km)
Stage 18, 24 May: San Vito di Cadore – Vedelago (139 km)
Stage 19, 25 May: Treviso – Alpe di Pampeago (197km)
Stage 20, 26 May: Caldes/Val di Sole – Passo dello Stelvio (218 km)
Stage 21, 27 May: Milano – Milano ITT (31,5 km)

Provisional Start List

1. Michele Scarponi (Ita)
2. Diego Ulissi (Ita)
3. Matteo Bono (Ita)
4. Damiano Cunego (Ita)
5. Adriano Malori (Ita)
6. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol)
7. Daniele Pietropolli (Ita)
8. Daniele Righi (Ita)
9. Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita)

AG2R La Mondiale
11. John Gadret (Fra)
12. Manuel Belletti (Ita)
13. Julien Berard (Fra)
14. Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra)
15. Hubert Dupont (Fra)
16. Ben Gastauer (Lux)
17. Gregor Gazvoda (Slo)
18. Matteo Montaguti (Ita)
19. Mathieu Perget (Fra)

Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela
21. José Rujano Guillen (Ven)
22. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col)
23. Emanuele Sella (Ita)
24. Roberto Ferrari (Ita)
25. Fabio Felline (Ita)
26. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)
27. Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col)
28. Carlos José Ochoa (Ven)
29. Jackson Rodriguez (Ven)

Astana Pro Team
31. Roman Kreuziger (Cze)
32. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe)
33. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita)
34. Simone Ponzi (Ita)
35. Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz)
36. Andrey Zeits (Kaz)
37. Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel)
38. Egor Silin (Rus)
39. Tanel Kangert (Est)

BMC Racing Team
41. Thor Hushovd (Nor)
42. Mathias Frank (Sui)
43. Alessandro Ballan (Ita)
44. Taylor Phinney (Usa)
45. Marco Pinotti (Ita)
46. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita)
47. Ivan Santaromita (Sui)
48. Johann Tschopp (Sui)
49. Danilo Wyss (Sui)

Colnago-CSF Inox
51. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita)
52. Sacha Modolo (Ita)
53. Enrico Battaglin (Ita)
54. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita)
55. Stefano Pirazzi (Ita)
56. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita)
57. Stefano Locatelli (Ita)
58. Angelo Pagani (Ita)
59. Marco Canola (Ita)

61. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Esp)
62. Adrian Saez De Arregui (Esp)
63. Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Esp)
64. Miguel Minguez Ayala (Esp)
65. Pierre Cazaux (Fra)
66. Victor Cabedo (Esp)
67. Ivan Velasco Murillo (Esp)
68. Amets Txurruka (Esp)
69. Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Esp)

Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
71. Filippo Pozzato (Ita)
72. Oscar Gatto (Ita)
73. Francesco Failli (Ita)
74. Matteo Rabottini (Ita)
75. Andrea Guardini (Ita)
76. Elia Favilli (Ita)
77. Pier Paolo De Negri (Ita)
78. Luca Mazzanti (Ita)
79. Kevin Hulsmans (Bel)

81. Sandy Casar (Fra)
82. Mickael Delage (Fra)
83. Arnaud Démare (Fra)
84. William Bonnet (Fra)
85. Francis Mourey (Fra)
86. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra)
87. Gabriel Rasch (Nor)
88. Dominique Rollin (Can)
89. Jussi Veikkanen (Fin)

91. Tyler Farrar (Usa)
92. Thomas Dekker (Ned)
93. Jack Bauer (Nzl)
94. Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra)
95. Ryder Hesjedal (Can)
96. Robert Hunter (Rsa)
97. Alex Rasmussen (Den)
98. Peter Stetina (Usa)
99. Christian Vandevelde (Usa)

Orica-GreenEdge Cycling Team
100. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus)
101. Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn)
102. Jack Bobridge (Aus)
103. Daryl Impey (Rsa)
104. Jens Keukeleire (Bel)
105. Brett Lancaster (Aus)
106. Christian Meier (Can)
107. Svein Tuft (Can)
109. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu)

Katusha Team
111. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Esp)
112. Pavel Brutt (Rus)
113. Juan Horrach Rippoll (Esp)
114. Alexander Kristoff (Nor)
115. Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr)
116. Alberto Losada Alguacil (Esp)
117. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Esp)
118. Gatis Smukulis (Lat)
119. Angel Vicioso Arcos (Esp)

121. Ivan Basso (Ita)
122. Valerio Agnoli (Ita)
123. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)
124. Eros Capecchi (Ita)
125. Damiano Caruso (Ita)
126. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita)
127. Cristiano Salerno (Ita)
128. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol)
129. Elia Viviani (Ita)

Lotto-Belisol Team
131. Bart De Clercq (Bel)
132. Brian Bulgac (Ned)
133. Francis De Greef (Bel)
134. Kenny De Haes (Bel)
135. Gert Dockx (Bel)
136. Adam Hansen (Aus)
137. Olivier Kaisen (Bel)
138. Gianni Meersman (Bel)
139. Dennis Vanendert (Bel)

Movistar Team
141. Giovanni Visconti (Ita)
142. Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (Crc)
143. José Herrada Lopez (Esp)
144. Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Esp)
145. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Esp)
146. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Esp)
147. Nairo Alexand Quintana Rojas (Col)
148. Branislau Samoilau (Blr)
149. Francisco J. Ventoso Alberdi (Esp)

Omega Pharma-Quick Step
151. Marco Bandiera (Ita)
152. Dario Cataldo (Ita)
153. Francesco Chicchi (Ita)
154. Michal Golas (Pol)
155. Nikolas Maes (Bel)
156. Serge Pauwels (Bel)
157. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol)
158. Martin Velits (Svk)
159. Julien Vermote (Bel)

Rabobank Cycling Team
161. Mark Renshaw (Aus)
162. Juan Manuel Garate (Esp)
163. Theo Bos (Ned)
164. Tom Leezer (Ned)
165. Stef Clement (Ned)
166. Grischa Niermann (Ger)
167. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned)
168. Jos Van Emden (Ned)
169. Dennis Van Winden (Ned)

171. Fränk Schleck (Lux)
172. Jan Bakelandts (Bel)
173. Daniele Bennati (Ita)
174. Ben Hermans (Bel)
175. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita)
176. Nelson Oliveira (Por)
177. Thomas Rohregger (Aut)
178. Jesse Sergent (NZl)
179. Oliver Zaugg (Sui)

Sky Procycling
181. Mark Cavendish (GBr)
182. Bernhard Eisel (Aut)
183. Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Esp)
184. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col)
185. Peter Kennaugh (GBr)
186. Ian Stannard (GBr)
187. Ben Swift (GBr)
188. Geraint Thomas (GBr)
189. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col)

Team NetApp
191. Cesare Benedetti (Ita)
192. Jan Barta (Cze)
193. Timon Seubert (Ger)
194. Markus Eichler (Ger)
195. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol)
196. Reto Hollenstein (Sui)
197. Andreas Dietziker (Sui)
198. Matthias Brandle (Aut)
199. Daniel Schorn (Aut)

Team Saxo Bank
201. Matteo Tosatto (Ita)
202. Anders Lund (Den)
203. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr)
204. Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den)
205. Juan José Haedo (Arg)
206. Luke Roberts (Aus)
207. Mads Christensen (Den)
208. Manuele Boaro (Ita)
209. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg)

Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
211. Matteo Carrara (Ita)
212. Thomas De Gendt (Bel)
213. Romain Feillu (Fra)
214. Sergey Lagutin (Uzb)
215. Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe)
216. Tomasz Marczynski (Pol)
217. Martijn Keizer (Ned)
218. Martin Mortensen (Den)
219. Mirko Selvaggi (Ita)


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