Ahead of the Giro d’Italia which gets underway on Thursday, we take a look at six riders expected to challenge for the pink jersey.
Who do you think will win?
Has the pedigree and is in fine form with victories at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Tirreno- Adriatico plus a runner-up at Vuelta Asturias.
Time trials are always seen as an Achilles heel for the Colombian but he’s been improving on that front and with so many climbs to suit his best attributes, there’s a very good reason why he’s the No1 favourite for a second pink jersey.
The Giro has become his race and last season’s victory – where he came back from 4:43 down in the last two mountain stages – is ample reason why he can never be counted out, especially with so much home support.
Emotionally, Michele Scarponi’s death will be in the background throughout but, at the same, victory would also be the perfect tribute to his friend.
Team Sky have placed their faith in the Welshman who has three top-20 finishes at the Tour de France super-domestique for Chris Froome, but hasn’t raced in the Giro since 2012.
Now is his time to show he be a genuine GC contender, although Spain’s Mikel Landa is ‘coleader’ indicating Sky have a contingency plan.
Victory at the Tour de Alps puts him in a good place.
Was within two stages of victory last year only to suffer a catastrophic crash and allow Nibali in.
There was an element of misfortune about it but that’s bike racing and the 29-year-old will want to put himself back in contention quickly.
Excelled in the time trials and up the climbs, so he has the all-round ability to match the challenges of the route. One issue, however, is his form with two retirements and a best of eighth over his last five races.
Is competing in his first Giro, which is slightly curious given his position as the man most likely to end France’s long wait for a Tour winner.
Climbing is his primary calling card so he should be in contention at some stage, while his time-trialling is something he’s successfully worked out.
He arguably has the weakest team of the main contenders in FDJ, however, and may have to target a podium place.
Failed to finish both the Giro and the Tour last year, meaning 2017 will be one of redemption for the Dutchman.
His third place at the Abu Dhabi Tour has been his best finish this season but he also managed sixth at the Tirreno- Adriatico.
The volume and severity of the climbs over the route perhaps makes him the best of the outsiders but he has the pace to claim stage wins and, who knows, maybe contend overall.
Simone Petilli is confident he will be at peak form for the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia to help deliver positive results for UAE Team Emirates.
The 23-year-old Italian, who debuted at the iconic Corsa Rosa last year, was “honoured” to have featured at the Grand Tour race in his homeland.
And he is hopeful he can improve on an impressive outing that saw him finish 77th overall as well as 16th in the Youth Classification.
“It’s a big month with the Giro d’Italia. I’m in good form but I will be at my best in the next few weeks,” said the Bellano native when speaking to Sport360 at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race in Belgium last month.
“My best form will be possible at the Giro. That’s my main objective. I stayed in altitude at Mount Etna with the team in training camp in March. I worked hard to be ready for the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race but I think my best form will be now at the Giro.”
Alongside the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, the Giro makes up cycling’s holy trinity of races during the season.
And, being Italian and competing in the 100th edition of the Giro is something that resonates even more with climbing specialist Petilli.
“It’s special and as an Italian it’s one of the best races of the season,” he said.
“As a new professional rider last year I raced the Giro for the first time and it was an honour for me. This year, with much more experience, hopefully I will catch some results for me and for the team. I will work well to be ready.”
Previous Giro winners Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) – who will be looking to make it back-to-back successes and a third Giro crown overall – will be among the favourites.
Team UAE’s main hope will be Portuguese rider Rui Costa following injury to Darwin Atapuma – who finished ninth in last year’s GC with BMC Racing Team – while Sacha Modolo will also be a leading contender for the sprint finishes.
Youngster Petilli will play a supporting role, and that suits him fine.
“I think now I can’t be the leader of the team because we have very strong team,” he said when asked if he has ambitions of one day winning the Giro himself.
“I will help the leaders on the stages and if I can have some opportunities to catch them I will do my best. The route is very hard from start to finish and it and the sport is very dangerous sometimes.”
UAE Team Emirates: Valerio Conti, Roberto Ferrari, Marco Marcato, Sacha Modolo, Simone Petilli, Edward Ravasi (ITA); Matej Mohoric, Jan Polanc (SLO); Rui Costa (POR)
Starting in Naples, the first Grand Tour of the season takes place from Friday, May 5 and running until Sunday, May 28 with 21 stages contested for the famous winner’s Pink Jersey – the Maglia Rosa.
Three-time stage winner at the Tour de France, Rui Costa will seek stage wins for UAE Team Emirates on his Giro d’Italia debut.
“This will be my first participation at the Giro, I’m excited, motivated and looking forward to a competitive debut at the 100th edition of this race,” said Costa. “I believe that there are some stages with courses that are suited to my strengths.
“I’ve recently undergone altitude training on Mount Etna in preparation for the Giro. Of course a victory during my debut in this special edition of the race would be incredible and I will give it everything I have to win some stages this year.”
Sprinter and team-mate Sacha Modolo will also be looking for stage wins and the Italian rider is excited about taking part of such an historic edition of his nation’s grandest cycling race.
“For an Italian rider, the Giro d’Italia is the dream,” said Modolo. “I’m fortunate to have previously won two stages at the Giro and I cant wait to be able to race there again and hopefully relive the incredible rush I felt when winning.
“I am hoping to be the leader of my nation’s race and be able to don the Pink Jersey. We have a strong line-up and I am relying on a team effort to put me in a great position for the sprints”.
The Giro d’Italia has been held annually since its first edition in 1909, with 2017 marking its centurion edition.
It is one of a trio of three-week Grand Tours that include the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.
While the route changes each year, the format of the race remains the same, with at least two Time Trials, a passage through the mountains of the Alps, including the Dolomites.
The team’s line-up includes two riders who have clinched stage wins at the Giro d’Italia in previous years: Modolo, who obtained two stage victories in 2015, and Jan Polanc, winner of the Abetone stage in 2015.
Marco Marcato, Matej Mohoric, Valerio Conti, Roberto Ferrari, Simone Petilli and Edward Ravasi complete the line-up.