This year’s Giro d’Italia finishes in an old Roman amphitheatre.
With a time trial on the final day that will see each rider cross the line inside Verona’s gladiatorial amphitheatre, this could be one of the great Grand Tours. Both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta de España suit escarabajos far more than the Tour, as they’re packed with mountains and avoid long time trials.
This year is no different, with seven summit finishes and only 60km against the clock after the initial token flat days. Only one of the last eight days is properly flat, so there’ll be little respite for tired legs. Even those time trials feature plenty of ascent and should see light wiry riders limiting their losses against Dutch beefcake Tom Dumoulin. The champion two years ago, if he can keep his kecks clean, he should be the favourite. As a monotonous climber, he can be made to suffer with repeated vicious attacks – exactly what Colombia specialises in.
Miguel Ángel López is Colombia’s best shot at a win, then. The explosive climber is nicknamed ‘Superman’ for a reason: once he’s in flight he’s very, very hard to stop. He has a habit of drifting through the first couple of weeks before bursting into life on the final straight. If he can stay close to the podium in the initial fortnight, he’s a real dark horse for the pink jersey, especially with a rock-solid team.
His main rival will be local hero Vincenzo Nibali, the shark. He’s aiming for a Giro-Tour double, so he’ll have to conserve energy. Simon Yates lost the jersey he’d worn for most of the race as not-dodgy-at-all Christopher Froome mounted a huge attack last year to win, so he’s got plenty of motivation. Former ski-jumper-turned-cyclist Primoz Roglic is an outside shout for Jumbo-Visma. Nairo’s concentrating his energy on trying to challenge the INEOS machine in the Tour, but has great news anyway: Landa is riding the Giro, so at least his own teammates should be working for him in the Tour.
The great Colombian hope for this year had been Egan Bernal, but the precociously talented youngster made an impact of a very different kind when he stacked it on a training ride and shattered his collarbone, ending his race before it b_egan. His friend Iván Sosa has joined the team, which will be invaluable experience for the 21 year old.
Elsewhere in the peloton, look out for Esteban Chaves riding to support Yates. With Bernal forced to back out, INEOS might give Sebastian Henao a lot of freedom – he could go for stages. It’s still a bit strange, but Colombia have plenty of interest in those initial flat stages in the shape of Fernando Gaviria. The speedster could easily take three or more stages, and as rivals are unlikely to make it through the mountains, could hang on for a blue jersey. Juan Molano will support him, and there’s little-known rider Alejandro Osorio riding as domestique for Nippo Vini.
The action kicks off on May 11 and runs until the second of June. Follow it in every local panaderia every morning on Caracol.