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The dark horses of the Giro d'Italia 2022

Will Strickson
5 May 2022

The full list of riders who might surprise you at this year's Giro

Everybody loves an underdog. And while usually – especially last season – you could point to only two or three riders with a genuine chance at winning a Grand Tour, the 2022 Giro d'Italia is perfectly poised for surprises.

Without Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič or Egan Bernal on the start list, it's anyone's game. The last Grand Tour that wasn't won by one of those three men was the 2020 Giro at which Tao Geoghegan Hart triumphed, narrowly edging out Jai Hindley for the maglia rosa.

Could we see a similar story this time around? With just 26km of time-trials over the three weeks, those climbers that lose time in TTs are in with a shot, and riders that regular find their way onto podiums, as well as into top five and top ten places, could go all-out on a potential once in a lifetime shot.

While there are Grand Tour winners lining up at the Grande Partenza in Hungary, there are plenty of dark horses looking to make history.

Aside from the six favourites generally viewed as a cut above the rest, here are the riders to keep an eye on over the next three weeks.

Pello Bilbao

As this picture demonstrates fabulously, Pello Bilbao (second from right) has been an excellent bridesmaid. A talented climber who has spent years as a domestique for teammates Mikel Landa, Jack Haig and Damiano Caruso. This year, it's Pello time.

Having been given the team leader's race number, it looks like Bilbao may actually have a shot of going for glory right from the start, unlike last year's Tour de France – where he salvaged ninth overall after initially supporting teammate Jack Haig before he crashed out.

While he does have climbing talent, where Bilbao will shine and make time is on descents. He is downright deadly downhill, so mountain stages with descent finishes could be see the 32-year-old taking stage wins and making significant inroads in the general classification.

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde has only ridden the Giro d'Italia once, in 2016, when he finished third. At 42 years old, he couldn't have wished for a better opportunity to go out on top.

The old man has only won one Grand Tour in his career, taking the 2009 Vuelta, and would surely love to add the Giro to his list in his final season.

Despite his age, Valverde clearly has the legs, taking second at Strade Bianche and Flèche Wallonne this year as well as taking the overall title at the four-day Gran Camiño against a strong field.

Surely Movistar won't make him work for Iván Sosa.

Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley

Is this 2020? Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley, teammates, at the Giro, in with a shot of winning?

Ah no, they're on Bora-Hansgrohe this time and sadly Hindley hasn't rediscovered the form of that race, so Kelderman is firmly in charge here. Although that's how it went last time until the Dutchman struggled late on, could it happen again?

Unlikely. Kelderman, who did finish third in 2020, is arguably the most underrated GC rider in the peloton. He has top fives in all three Grand Tours, including fifth at the Tour in 2021, and could be in for his highest ever placing this time out.

His 2022 form doesn't give anything away but here's hoping he at least breaks his seven year wait for a win, be that a stage or overall.

Hugh Carthy and Simon Carr

Hugh Carthy is one of the coolest men in the peloton, on undoubtedly the coolest team. However he hasn't been on top of his game since the 2020 Vuelta where he finished third and won the queen stage over the fearsome Alto de l'Angliru.

With another beautiful EF Education-EasyPost jersey for this year's Giro, could the big man refind his very long legs?

Supporting Carthy, or taking over if his struggles continue, is Simon Carr. The British (via France) rider is an incredibly talented climber and proved a vital domestique during his first year with the team in 2021. At just 23, he's certainly one to challenge in future seasons, but could this be the breakthrough?

It's more likely he'll turn to stages or the King of the Mountains jersey should Carthy drop out of contention, but we'd love Carr to give it a go.

Giulio Ciccone and Juan Pedro López

With Vincenzo Nibali now at Astana, Trek-Segafredo's GC crown is there for Giulio Ciccone to take with both hands.

Having learnt from Lo Squalo over the past few years, the 27-year-old should be ready to step up to being a bona fide contender, especially on a parcours like this in his home country.

Ciccone had rotten luck with crashes at both the Giro and Vuelta in 2021, so he'll be hoping for at least a clean run, but if not the team have a bogey card to play: Juan Pedro López.

Juanpe is three years Ciccone's junior and has been on the up for a while, culminating in a strong Vuelta finishing 13th on GC and third in the youth classification. He could be one to spoil João Almeida's run at the maglia blanca, which many – myself included – are handing to the UAE's Portuguese star before a pedal has been stroked.

But if López is given any freedom, we could have an entertaining fight on our hands. 

Guillaume Martin

Ah Le Philosophe. Guillaume Martin may be the brightest mind in cycling, he might also be a valid contender for a podium. Some brave soul might even predict such an eventuality.

Martin has almost become a joke in the past year or so as he keeps sneaking himself into top tens he seemingly has no right to be on. He's made a habit of losing time early on before getting into the breakaway that's gifted ten minutes, rocketing the Frenchman into the upper echelons of the GC battle and then clinging on for dear life over the last mountain stages and TTs.

The lack of time-trials will benefit him and so will the lack of Pog, Rog and Bernal. It all depends whether any team is willing to take control of the race and bring the breaks back. Ineos may be his downfall, sadly.

However, the start in Hungary is very close to his spiritual home in Transylvania, so maybe the ancestors will give him a hand.

Tom Dumoulin and Tobias Foss

Tom Dumoulin is the headline, Tobias Foss is the wildcard. Jumbo-Visma have two talented TT-oriented contenders at their disposal, which doesn't sound great considering the route but if they hold on over the climbs those 26km could prove vital – especially the first round on Stage 2.

Although the Windmill hasn't been at his best since his return at the end of 2021, it looks like his team are trusting him to give the Giro a shot. Everyone likes that.

Foss, a super strong young Norwegian will be on hand as a domestique should Tom pull through, but will also be well placed to continue his development and potentially challenge for the young riders' classification.

No expectations here but they couldn't be left off.

Richie Porte

Pello Bilbao has been a good bridesmaid, but Richie Porte could be the GOAT of bridesmaids. The Tasmanian sacrificed the best years of his career for Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Bernal, and he'll likely sacrifice this one for Richard Carapaz.

He'll be happy to do it, of course, and he did have a spell at BMC where he was given his own shot at glory, but on paper Porte really could give this one a bash.

His talents both uphill and in TTs are more than well documented at this point, so if Ineos Grenadiers use him as a card rather than just part of a mountain train, he could find his way to a late career podium.

Attila Valter

Hungary for success? Attila the Hun? The headlines write themselves. Groupama-FDJ's Attila Valter found himself in the maglia rosa for a stage in 2021 as he emerged as a real talent for the future.

The Hungarian will be over the moon to be back to race in his home country for the first three stages and he has a chance to make a real impression.

At just 23, his stock is rising and he'll be fighting for the white jersey, coming in sixth in that competition last year. His team will largely be focussed on trying to win sprints with Arnaud Démare, so freedom to race looks to be his.

If his fourth place at Strade Bianche earlier this year is anything to go by, Valter is set to make a big impression.

Photos: Chris Auld

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