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Giro d'Italia 2019: Who are the favourites and who should you be backing?

Joe Robinson
9 May 2019

A breakdown of the favourites to take the pink jersey at the 102nd Giro d'Italia

Predicting a winner for a three-week, 3,518km stage race around the unforgiving terrain of Italy should be impossible. Throw in the unpredictable weather and truly anything can happen over these 21 stages. However, that does not stop us from trying.

The Giro d'Italia is the first Grand Tour of the season and mixes the chaotic nature of Italian cycling with its brutally hard mountains.

The eventual winner of the pink jersey will have usually battled adversity and often be truly the strongest rider in the race.

The Cannibal riding to victory at the 1973 Giro d'Italia, his fourth of five wins

As with many races, the most successful rider of all time at the Giro is Eddy Merckx. With five victories, he is joined by Il Campionissimo Fausto Coppi and Alfredo Binda as the owner of most pink jerseys.

In recent years, no single rider has managed to dominate proceedings. Only Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador have managed to take home multiple titles in the past 10 editions. The most recent victor was Chris Froome.

Remember it? That 90km attack on the Colle delle Finestre. The capitulation of Simon Yates. The three-minute time swing from Tom Dumoulin

This year's route is surprisingly thin on the ground when it comes to marquee Italian climbs yet there will still be room for ascents of the Passo Gavia and the Mortirolo. The race will also visit the stunning Colle del Nivolet on Stage 13.

Colle del Nivolet in all its glory

Giro d'Italia 2019: Who are the favourites

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Form - 9/10
Team - 8/10
Experience - 7/10
Chances - 8/10
Best result - 58th in 2016

The best one-week stage racer in the world right now. Since Itzulia Basque Country last spring the Slovenian has been unbeaten in all one-week stage races he has entered with the exception of the 2018 Tour of Britain. It’s really quite some run.

The question is now, can he do it over three weeks? The short answer is yes. Fourth at last year’s Tour de France was the proof of that.

He can climb, descend, time-trial, sprint and with every single stage race, he is learning his racecraft. He will also take to the startline with the most rounded and able team of all his General Classification rivals.

It also helps that this year’s Giro contains three individual time-trials that should help Roglic put time into all his main rivals with the exception of Tom Dumoulin.

The only thing stopping Roglic being out-and-out favourite is the fact he is yet to win a Grand Tour, although that could change this May.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)

Form - 6/10
Team - 7/10
Experience - 9/10
Chances - 7/10
Best results - 1st in 2017, 2nd in 2018

Admitting you’re not at the same level as you were in 2017 and 2018 is a brutally honest move, albeit a little naive to admit your weakness to your competitors.

Although Dumoulin’s admittal was not really necessary. All you have to do is look at his results.

Fourth at Tirreno-Adriatico but never really in contention for the win and 50th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It’s been far from ideal for Dumoulin so far this year.

Obviously, Dumoulin’s comments could just be mind games, an attempt to put his competitors into a false sense of security. After all, no rider has been more consistent in Grand Tour racing than Dumoulin over the past few years.

It seems inevitable that the Dutchman will add to his 2017 Giro title at some point and with those three ITTs and a lack of super steep mountain passes, the parcours also suits Dumoulin.

Vital to any success for Dumoulin will be teammate and fellow Dutchman Sam Oomen. The 23-year-old is one of the most talented domestiques in the world and indispensable towards Dumoulin’s potential success.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)

Form - 7/10
Team - 7/10
Experience - 10/10
Chances - 8/10
Best result - 1st in 2013 & 2016

Cyclist’s pick for the Giro. The race’s most experienced GC threat. A four-time Grand Tour winner, including two Giro titles, as well as being a three-time Monument winner.

The last season that saw Nibali go with a Grand Tour or Monument win was 2012.

A rider of true class who can turn it on at just the right moment. When others look stronger, he uses his tactical nous and experience to unravel his rivals over continuous days. Steven Kruiswijk still has Nibali-themed nightmares after 2016.

Nibali's form is not too bad either. Eighth at Milan-San Remo, eighth at Liege. He eventually finished second to Pavel Siakov at the Tour of the Alps but you got the feeling he had more to give.

If he can prevent a haemorrhaging of time in the time-trials (he isn’t too bad against the clock) and is in touching distance of pink in the final week, don’t bet against him getting the job done.

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Form - 8/10
Team - 8/10
Experience - 8/10
Chances - 8/10
Best result - 21st in 2018

There’s a score to settle here. Simon Yates was so close to winning pink in 2018. Two stages away. Actually, more like one ascent of the Colle delle Finestre away.

It all came crashing down so suddenly for the young Buryman who had looked almost untouchable in the mountains before that point. Eventually, he was given a lesson in patience by Chirs Froome, the ultimate race winner.

Some of those demons were buried when he won the Vuelta a Espana later in the year but you expect Yates to ride like a man possessed around Italy this May.

A year older, a year wiser, expect a more conservative approach in the race’s early stages with a big assault on the terribly tough stages in week three such as the penultimate day to Croce d’Aune.

The 26-year-old will also have one of the best gregari in the entire race. The vastly experienced Mikel Nieve and Jack Bauer, supreme climbing talents Esteban Chaves and Lucas Hamilton, diesel engines Chris Juul-Jensen and Luke Durbridge and Brent Bookwalter. No worries about team strength here.

If he avoids cracking like he did last year, Yates will be very tough to beat for pink.

Outsiders

Mikel Landa (Movistar)

Form - 7/10
Team - 8/10
Experience - 8/10
Chances - 7/10
Best result - 3rd in 2015

The ‘Landismo’ movement reignited when the Basque rider placed seventh at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April. It grew even louder when he and Ecuadorian teammate Richard Carapaz took an impressive one-two victory on the queen stage of the Vuelta Asturias.

There is no denying that the 29-year-old is an exceptional climbing talent, it’s just piecing an entire three weeks of racing together that is the issue.

Fundamentally, Landa is average in the time-trials and suspect in the nervous first week of racing. He is also no stranger to bad luck and food poisoning.

Get rid of the bad luck and keep losses to a minimum in the TTs and Landa could podium, but that's much easier said than done.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

Form - 8/10
Team - 9/10
Experience - 7/10
Chances - 7/10
Best result - 3rd in 2018

If it wasn’t for Superman Lopez’s complete lack of time-trialling ability, he would easily be a top three favourite.

Third at the Giro and Vuelta last year, he was arguably the peloton’s most consistent man in the mountains and has added more evidence to that statement this year.

He won the Volta a Catalunya after crossing the line solo on La Molina and also came second atop the Col de Turini at Paris-Nice. He also took the overall honours at Colombia 2.1 race in February, too.

It’s worth noting the absolute nuclear strength of Lopez’s Astana team. Pello Bilbao, Jan Hirt, Ion Izagirre, Manuele Boara, Dario Cataldo, Andrey Zeits and Davide Villella. It’s the kind of team that will be omnipresent in the highest of mountains while all other teams are down to their ones and twos.

Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Form - 7/10
Team - 7/10
Experience - 7/10
Chances - 6/10
Best result - 10th in 2017 & 2018

Italy’s new baby-faced assassin. Formolo is 26-years-old now but looks all of 12. He also rides like a 12-year-old, too. Erratic, pulling faces, unceremoniously blowing up, holding off the peloton at 50kmh.

He won’t win the Giro, that’s for sure, but Italy is in need of a new champion with Nibali ageing and Fabio Aru regressing. Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport even featured him as a favourite in its race preview.

Formolo could be the guy to inject some energy into Italian racing, which in reality is struggling. Expect the Italian to nab a stage win, if not come very close, and hover around the top 10 on GC as he has done for the past two seasons.