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Brits abroad: Who's on the Giro d'Italia start list?

Joe Robinson
1 Oct 2020

A look at the British talent taking to the start line of the Giro d'Italia this weekend

The 103rd Giro d'Italia starts this Saturday with a downhill 15.1km time-trial into the Sicilian city of Palermo.

The 176 man field will roll off the start ramp one by one, pitting themselves against the technical course for the first pink jersey of the Italian Grand Tour, which this year takes place in October instead of May due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Among the starters, eight Brits will line up in what will be the biggest selection of UK cycling talent at a Giro since 2009, including two Grand Tour debutants and two previous Grand Tour winners. 

Chief among those fighting for the Maglia Rosa is Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) who will be hellbent on avenging his dramatic capitulation from 2018 and praying he can continue his scintillating form from Tirreno-Adriatico.

In his way, however, will be fellow Brit Geraint Thomas who leads the Ineos Grenadiers team after skipping the Tour de France.

Eight riders taking to the Giro is quite the return for Britain. It's their best showing at the Italian Grand Tour in over a decade and three more riders than took to the startline in 2019. And nothing can ever get worse than 2015 and 2016 when no British riders participated.

Below we take a closer look at the British riders heading to the 2020 Giro d'Italia and what we can expect from them.

British riders at the 2020 Giro d'Italia

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Two years ago at the Giro d'Italia, a certain Simon Yates rocked up and made huge waves in the lap of Italy. He wore the pink jersey for 13 stages, took three stage wins, and looked certain to win the overall title until emphatically losing time on the Colle dell Finestre and eventually finished over an hour down on winner Chris Froome.

It was one of the most exciting Grand Tour performances in recent memory.

While a Vuelta a Espana champion, the Giro is where Yates has unfinished business and we think it'll take a brave rider to get in the way of him and pink this autumn.

While he has the measure of the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang in the high mountains, the only issue could be the three individual time-trials en route to the final finish line, which certainly suit a rider like Geraint Thomas more.

Yates also has the benefit of an exceptionally experienced and talented team for all occasions. A particular nod to Jack Haig, the Aussie gregari who is among the world's best mountain domestiques and in his final year with the team before heading to Bahrain-McLaren.

We highly suspect it could be Yates in pink in Milan in three weeks' time.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)

Having been omitted from the Tour de France, admitting himself that he was not in the form to challenge for the Maillot Jaune, Thomas will now head to the Giro for the first time since 2017 in the quest for Maglia Rosa.

He comes as second favourite with the bookies, behind Yates, and off the back of a good Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished second – again to Yates, and quality time-trial at the World Championships where he took fourth.

With over 50km against the clock at the Giro, Thomas certainly has an upper hand against most of his General Classification rivals. The real question will be whether he can go toe-to-toe with the real mountain goats over passes such as the Agnello, Izoard and Stelvio.

We think he can and we envisage a podium in Milan at the very least for Cardiff boy.

Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers)

Fun Ben Swift fact of the day is that he made his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia in 2009 riding for Katusha. He finished third on Stage 2 in a bunch sprint behind Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish.

A decent sprinter back in the day, now 32 years old we suspect that Swift will race this Giro as an experienced head for the Ineos team, helping to direct on the flat, nervous stages, making sure Thomas is always well-positioned when things get fast.

He may get a chance to race the odd sprint but with the likes of Peter Sagan, Arnaud Demare and Fernando Gaviria all present, it'll be a tough ask for the British National Champion to take home any big scalps.

Tao Geoghan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers)

Tao Geoghegan Hart heads to his second Giro d'Italia as one of Geraint Thomas's key gregari mountain domestiques.

Many believe that the 25-year-old is a future Grand Tour winner but over the next three weeks, he will have to defer any personal ambitions for those of the Ineos Grenadiers.

Looking at the rest of the Ineos Giro team, Geoghegan Hart could realistically be the last man besides Thomas in the mountains when it all kicks off, a huge role that Thomas himself has played in the past.

Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Now with Israel Start-Up Nation, Dowsett can be considered an old hand of the WorldTour these days with over a decade at the highest level. He comes to the Giro with stage victories in mind, mainly the three individual time-trials.

He will have his work cut out considering the opposition around him, the Ineos Grenadiers trio of Filippo Ganna, Rohan Dennis and Thomas are enough on their own. But, he is in good form having taken ninth at the Worlds last week.

Also, his biggest success to date came at the Giro when he raced to victory at the 2013 edition in the Stage 8 time-trial to Saltara. So, you never know whether history could repeat itself.

James Knox (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Could James Knox ride to a top 10 at the Giro d'Italia? Well, after narrowly missing out on that result at last year's Vuelta a Espana and a solid Tirreno-Adriatico, we do not see why not.

Genuinely, the 23-year-old has plugged away with QuickStep for the past three seasons, earning decent results and supporting many riders to victory, to finally position himself as one of the team's go-to riders for the hillier races and with no dedicated team leader, we suspect Knox will get his opportunities at the Giro.

Knox can climb well and, on his day, match the world's best. For the Cumbrian, it will all be a case of taking his opportunities wisely and keeping his powder dry when others around him go pop.

Matt Holmes (Lotto-Soudal)

For any rider making their WorldTour debuts in 2020, it must have been a stressful time. The uncertainty of knowing whether you are good enough at that level combined with that long, four-month period away from racing.

Unless you're Matt Holmes, of course. In that case, you rock up to the Tour Down Under, your first race at WorldTour level, and win the summit finish on Willunga Hill beating Richie Porte in the process.

The Wigan-born rider certainly looks comfortable in cycling's highest echelons and after an attacking Tirreno-Adriatico, we look forward to how he runs on his Grand Tour debut. We suspect a few breakaways are on the horizon.

Jonathan Dibben (Lotto-Soudal)

It was revealed earlier this week that Lotto-Soudal would not be renewing the contract of 10 of their riders, Brit Jonathan Dibben was among that list. That means, unless the 26-year-old has already sorted his future, this could be a very big race for Dibben.

However, we do back the former Team Sky man to taste some success. A former track World Champion and winner of a WorldTour time-trial, we could see Dibben surprising a few on the opening day's 15km downhill TT to Palermo. 

He has tough opposition – Ganna, Dennis, Victor Campaenearts, Thomas, Dowsett – but I really would not be surprised if Dibben pulled out a result.

Recent British riders at the Giro d'Italia

2020 - Adam Yates, Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Alex Dowsett, James Knox, Matt Holmes, Jonathan Dibben
2019 - James Knox, Hugh Carthy, Simon Yates, Scott Davies, Tao Geoghegan Hart
2018 - Chris Froome, Simon Yates, Alex Dowsett, Hugh Carthy  
2017 - Geraint Thomas, Hugh Carthy, Adam Yates 
2016 - No riders 
2015 - No riders  
2014 - Ben Swift  
2013 - David Millar, Adam Blythe, Steve Cummings, Alex Dowsett, Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins  
2012 - Jeremy Hunt, Ian Stannard, Mark Cavendish, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas  
2011 - Mark Cavendish, Adam Blythe, Russell Downing, Peter Kennaugh, David Millar  
2010 - Daniel Lloyd, Adam Blythe, Charlie Wegelius, Bradley Wiggins, Steve Cummings, Chris Froome  
2009 - Chris Froome, Jeremy Hunt, Daniel Lloyd, David Millar, Bradley Wiggins, Ian Stannard, Charlie Wegelius, Mark Cavendish, Ben Swift