Who are the main contenders to wear the final Maglia Rosa in the 96th edition of Giro d’Italia on Sunday May 26? 2012 Tour de France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins has thrown down his gauntlet by declaring the Giro d’Italia his prime objective of 2013. His Sky team is solid with support from Columbian climbers Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran and new arrival, Italian Dario Cataldo. Wiggins rode well on the tough climbs of the recent Giro del Trentino, and will certainly shine in the two time trials. But Wiggins may underestimate what it takes to win the Giro d’Italia, especially against his main rival, Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali.
After his podium in last year’s Tour de France behind Sky duo Wiggo and Froome, Vincenzo Nibali changed teams to Astana and his focus on winning his first Giro d’Italia. At 28, the Sicilian hit man is just coming into his own as a Grand Tour rider and his overall wins in Tirreno-Adriatico and Trentino shows he is more than ready to give Sir Wiggo a tough battle all the way to Brescia. Nibali has brought a superb team to back him up, with climbers Fredrik Kessiakoff and Paolo Tiralongo plus his loyal lieutenants Alessandro Vanotti and Valerio Agnoli, managed by experienced diesse Martinelli, the Astana team has home field advantage over Team Sky.
Surprise 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal (above) will be back and if his recent form in the Ardennes classics are any indication; the lean Canadian ex-mountain biker will be a solid contender. His Garmin-Sharp team has yet to be announced, but will likely be supported by an in-form Tom Danielson, back from his doping suspension and Peter Stetina. Hesjedal’s weakness to defend his Giro title may be his team, but the always determined Canadian will try to the end for the Magila Rosa.
As for the best of the rest, Cannondale Pro Cycling, the aging Ivan Basso (above) was pulled from the race just two days before the start due to a cyst in a delicate place, so young Damiano Caruso will get his chance to go for GC while Elia Viviani is for the sprints. Cadel Evans will lead BMC in what is likely a warm-up for the Tour, while Taylor Phinney will chase Maglia Rosa glory again in 2013. With 2010 Giro winner Denis Menchov ailing from a bad knee, Katusha will look for stage wins from Giampaolo Caruso and experienced Luca Paolini. Ag2r La Mondial will field new signings, climbers Domenico Pozzovivo and exciting Colombian Carlos Betancur, who will hunt stage wins.
Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela has Italian champion Franco Pellizotti to fly his Maglia Tricolore in the climbing stages, while Dutch outfit Blanco will hope for good rides by emerging talent Steven Kruijswijk and inconsistent Robert Gesink. Young Italian outfit Bardiani Valvole-Csf Inox has speedy Sascha Modolo for the sprints and sophomore talent Enrico Battaglin for stage wins.
Besides Vincenzo Nibali, another Italian to watch is Lampre?Merida’s climber Michele Scarponi (above) who will team with Columbian climber Jose Serpa in the mountains to cause problems for the other GC men.
Speaking of Columbian climbers, Team Colombia will feature young talents like Jon Atapuma and Fabio Duarte, while Euskaltel-Euskadi has 2008 Olympic champ Samuel Sanchez Samuel with GC ambitions and crafty, experienced Egoi Martinez for stage wins.
Sprints are always exciting at the Giro d’Italia and 2013 will be no exception. Omega Pharma-Quick-Step will bring Mark Cavendish as the fast man to beat. He’ll be challenged by a wealth of fast finishers; including Orica Greenedge’s Matt Goss, FDJ’s French champ Nacer Bouhanni, Argos?Shimano’s John Degenkolb. Lampre-Merida’s Roberto Ferrari, Movistar’s Fran Ventoso, Saxo-Tinkoff’s Daniele Bennati, RadioShack-Leopard’s Giacomo Nizzolo, Lotto-Belisol’s Kenny Dehaes and Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s Francesco Chicchi.
Other riders to watch at the 2013 Giro d’Italia will be Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox’s attacking climber Stefano Pirazzi, FDJ’s audacious attacker Sandy Casar, Movistar’s young talent Be¤at Intxausti, RadioShack-Leopard’s GC dark horse Robert Ki?erlovski and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Polish climber Rafal Majka.
Don’t underestimate team Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s potential impact on the 2013 Giro d’Italia. After a strong Giro in 2012, the fluo yellow boys are back with inspiring, combaitve diesse Luca Scinto, managing riders like attack dog Matteo Rabottini and experienced, aging former Giro winners like Stefano Garzelli and Danilo Di Luca who are supporting an in-form Mauro Santambrogio, Vini Fantini could be the surprise team of the race.
The Giro d’Italia’s penultimate stage on May 25 is what the legend of the Corsa Rosa is all about. Legendary Giro organizer Vincenzo Torriani was the first to include the climb in the race in 1967 but the result was nullified after over-enthusiastic tifosi pushed riders to the top in the horrible weather. Eddy Merckx emerged there to win the stage and his first Giro in 1968. 1974 saw Gibi Baronchelli drop Eddy Merckx and almost win the Giro on the Tre Cime climb. Merckx held on to hold on to the Maglia Rosa by just 12 seconds. See the video of 1974 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8p-wDm5Wbc
The Giro d’Italia last climbed the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in 2007, when Riccardo Ricco won the stage ahead of teammate Leonardo Piepoli. Our call? Despite taking the Maglia Rosa in Stage 18’s cronoscalata, Sir Bradley Wiggins will fall to the inexorable Astana assault of Vincenzo Nibali on the next two stages and look for the Astana rider to capture the Maglia Rosa on the final slopes of the Tre Cime to win the 2013 Giro d’Italia while Wiggo wilts on the steep slopes. Wiggins and his Sky team just may have underestimated the fact that the Giro d’Italia is a much tougher race to control and win than the Tour de France. Plus, a noble ride by Ryder Hesjedal could bring him on to the final podium and don’t be surprised if the Canadian doesn’t pass Wiggo for second spot on the podium in Brescia.