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'Quintana’s the one to do it': Sean Kelly tips Nairo for Giro/Tour double

Joseph Delves
3 May 2017

Irish legend 'King Kelly' on who to watch in this year's Giro d'Italia, and where the race will be decided

With the 100th Giro d'Italia poised to explode into action in Sardinia on Friday, Cyclist caught up with legendary Irish former pro – and current Eurosport expert – Sean Kelly to get his thoughts on how the first Grand Tour of the year might play out.

Cyclist: Hi Sean. Obvious question first; who do you fancy for the overall?

Sean Kelly: You’d have to go for Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Then defending winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain–Merida) of course. Like Quintana he’ll need to get through the early stage without difficulties, as will all the general classification contenders.

Then there’s a few others that are there, like Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL–Jumbo) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott). But Quintana is the man to beat.

Cyc: Last year Kruijswijk was the race's big surprise. He seemed on course to win before crashing. Do you think he's in with a chance again this year?

SK: He’s been very, very quiet this year. Is that just because he’s building towards the Giro? In previous years he’s not been performing really well before the Giro, but he seems able to come around, and not only last year, where he had an exceptional race.

A little lack of concentration, a crash, and in just one moment he lost his chance to win the Giro, because it looked like he had it pretty much sewn up.

Can he repeat his performance of last year again? That's the big question. I’d be a little bit concerned as to whether he can repeat it.

But he’s done it before, not showing great things in the early season, then turning it around to put in a performance at the Giro. He seems to always go well here.

Cyc: Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) comes into the race with the whole squad set up to support him. Do you think he’s a potential winner?

SK: It’s new terrain for Thomas. He’s not been in this situation before, with the whole team behind him. Up until now he’s always been the backup man at the Grand Tours.

It’s going to be interesting. He’s proven he’s a solid rider over three weeks, working as a backup rider to Froome in France. So we’ve seen how come the final week he can still be very, very competitive, although you do see him occasionally have off days. He’s had moments where he’ll lose a bit of time.

That’ll be the big thing for him in this Giro, it’ll just be about limiting the number of these occasions if he wants to win. To win a big Tour you have to be present every day. He can certainly make up seconds in the time trials, but if he loses big, his challenge for a good placing will be over.  

Cyc: Quintana has stated his desire to race for the win at both the Giro and the Tour. Do you think that’s a realistic aim?

SK: He’s capable of winning both the Giro and the Tour. Last year at the Tour he wasn’t in the best shape (yet was still able to finish third), but then he got it together for the Vuelta and won that.

So there’s no reason he can’t do the Giro and the Tour. The riders we’ve seen trying to do it before are not riders we’ve seen do anything like that, but Quintana, he’s done something similar already. I think he’s capable. Of recent times he’s really the one to do it.

If he makes it through the Giro we might not know until the final week of the Tour. That’ll be the real difficult part, that last week catches everyone.

Cyc: Where do you see this year’s Giro being decided?

SK: There’s so many fences to jump in the early part of the race. Down on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily the racing is going to be very tricky, the roads aren’t great. It’ll be a nervous time for everybody.

Etna is a pretty horrible mountain, and it comes very early in the race on stage four. We could see surprises there. We won’t see who’s going to win the race, but we might see some of the guys that expect to do well losing their overall chance.

The weather down on the islands could play a huge part. If it rains it’ll be treacherous, the roads are very oily and can get so very slippery.

The Blockhaus climb comes early too (on stage nine), but you never know what way it’ll be raced. Sometimes the earlier days can be raced more casually, but in recent years that’s become pretty rare. Normally the racing is very nervous.

We won’t see who’ll win the race on those early mountains, but we could see some of the general classification guys lose their hopes of challenging for the overall victory before the bigger climbs later in the race.

The 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia starts this Friday 5th May, with a stage on the island of Sardinia, before traveling to Sicily and then the Italian mainland.

Watch it exclusively LIVE on Eurosport with daily evening highlights on free-to-air channel Quest.

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