By David Hunter
Are you ready for the first grand tour of the year? 2018 has been a year for the youngsters, with many riders taking landmark victories. We’ve seen the likes of Benoot, Valgren, Alaphilippe, Jungels, McCarthy and Soler take big wins, but will we see a young rider take their first grand tour?
A summit finish on Monte Zoncolan! 9.5km at 12.4%.
A time trial for the specialists.
Colle Delle Finestre appears in the middle of the stage, before a final climb of 6.7km at 9.3%.
Three big climbs in the last 85km means the penultimate stage will still offer hope to those trying to win the pink jersey.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m a little disappointed in the route of the 2018 Giro. The early mountain stages look too easy and unlikely to split the big riders. In terms of the GC battle, I don’t think we’ll see much movement until Zoncolan. However, the riders make the race, not the route. I’m hopefully that we’ll see lots of attacking racing in the first two weeks of the race.
I’m hugely disappointed in the organisers. They must have been offered a lot of money to take the race to Israel, but money isn’t everything. Don’t expect to see any of the riders speak out about the current political situation in Israel, they will just want to focus on riding the race.
Chris Froome – there is still no outcome of his drugs case, it seems to be dragging on forever. Froome is well within his rights to participate in the Giro, but it does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. The organisers are rumoured to be paying €2 million for Froome to be here, it seems like they have money to burn. Away from the scandal, Froome is looking to win the pink jersey and hold all three grand tour titles. His form in 2018 has been poor, especially in the Tour of the Alps. He looked a significant amount away from Pinot, something that must be a huge concern for his team. His support is strong, with Elissonde, De La Cruz and Henao. Sky also bring Wout Poels, who is not back in form yet after his crash in Paris-Nice. The Dutchman will grow into the race and be ready for the big mountain stages in the final week.
Tom Dumoulin – the defending champion is back to try and defend his pink jersey. He’s not enjoyed a great start to the year, but he was impressive in Liège. The route looks good for him, he’ll be hoping for a big performance in the TT. In terms of support, his team don’t look the strongest. He was left isolated in mountain stages in 2017, but this year he has Sam Oomen, a young man with a big future. The big moment for Dumoulin will be the Zoncolan climb, if he can stay with his rivals, they will be very worried about the rest of the race.
Thibaut Pinot – arrives in fine form. He took an impressive win in the Tour of the Alps and sent a big message to his rivals. He was 4th here in 2017 and his team will be very confident of going better this year. His TT skills don’t seem to be as good as they used to, which is a concern. If he wants to win the pink jersey he can’t afford to lose over a minute to his rivals. He is good in the mountains, but that would be too much to make up.
Miguel Angel Lopez – took two stages and finished 8th in the 2017 Vuelta. This season we’ve seen him go very close, finishing 2nd in Oman and Abu Dhabi, before claiming 3rd place in the Alps. The Colombian arrives with a very strong team, no doubt we’ll see them taking a grip of many stages. Having a strong team will be a massive help, but only if Astana can manage to have another rider high on GC. As they have Jan Hirt and LL Sanchez, there is a real chance of having two men in the top 10 and making the other teams chase.
Fabio Aru – as usual, the Italian arrives with little form to speak of. This shouldn’t cause any concern, he rarely performs well outside of grand tours. Aru usually saves his best performances for the Giro and he is a proven GT rider. He will be targeting the podium, but given the level of competition, he might have to settle for the top 5.
Domenico Pozzovivo – now a veteran, the Italian shows no signs of slowing down. He is outstanding in the Alps and arrives full of confidence. The TTs will be his downfall, making it almost impossible for him to win the pink jersey, but he is a serious contender for the podium.
Simon Yates – Mitchelton-Scott arrive with an incredibly talented team, Yates and Chaves will be go leaders. Yates has enjoyed a fine start to 2018, finishing 2nd in Paris-Nice and 4th in Catalunya. In his last two seasons, he’s posted fine results in grand tours, taking 6th in the Vuelta and 7th in the Tour. Now 25 years old, I think he’s ready to start competing for the podium in these races, just like he does in one week races. If Chaves can also find form, they will form a strong partnership.
George Bennett – the Kiwi continues to improve. In terms of grand tours, he seems to be getting to grips with them. After finishing 10th in the 2016 Vuelta, he was sitting in 12th place in the Tour, before having to abandon on stage 16. Bennett is a true fighter and managed to finish 5th in the Alps, despite being knocked down by a car just one day before the race started. He is a serious contender for the top 5.
Can Froome put everything to one side and win the grand slam? I don’t think so.
That should leave us with a battle between Dumoulin, Pinot and Lopez. Given the amount of TT kilometres in the race, I think we’ll see Tom Dumoulin successfully defend his title.
Follow us on @CiclismoInter
Join us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional
Copyright © 2012-2018 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved