Despite only one previous appearance at Italy’s most famous stage race, Gaviria already has four stage wins under his belt – all picked up in his debut Giro two years ago. It was a race to remember for the youngster, who went on to pick up the Maglia Ciclamino (Points jersey) while at Etixx-Quick-Step (now Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
He will be hopeful of a repeat performance and will count on the support of team-mates Diego Ulissi, Jan Polanc, Juan Sebastian Molano, Simone Consonni, Tom Bohli, Marco Marcato and Valerio Conti.
Whilst Molano and Bohli make their race debuts, there’s plenty of experience in the ranks too. Ulissi has six stage wins at the Giro, while Polanc has two, making this a well-rounded group looking to compete for stage honours.
Commenting ahead of the race, which starts on Saturday in Bologna, UAE Team Emirates general manager Matxin Joxean Fernandez said: “Not being able to count on one man for the general classification, we had to come up with a group to very competitive for the sprints and the hunt for stages wins.
“The goal is to be aggressive, attacking, to try to be protagonists both with our group of fast cyclists supporting Gaviria and with cyclists who have always come up with excellent performances in the Giro: Ulissi, Polanc and Conti.
“We know the stages well, we love the spirit that comes with the Giro, and we are ready to do our best.”
The Giro – which along with the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana make up cycling’s Triple Crown – will see the peloton tackle 21 stages across three weeks of intense cycling, taking in a range of parcours including sprint, hilly and mountain stages.
The opening stage is an 8km individual time trial (ITT) and should set us up nicely for what to expect over the coming weeks. Stage 2 sets off from Bologna to the Tuscan town of Fucecchio, where the sprinters can look to take advantage of the flat finish.
Stage 3 will see riders depart Vinci, birth place of legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci, in what will be another opportunity for sprinters to take the spoils. The fourth stage is a hilly 228km route from Orbetello to Frascati and spectators can expect a punchy finale to the stage as riders battle the uphill finish.
Meanwhile, Stage 5 will be another opportunity for the fast men to show their speed, with a 35km flat line to the finish. Stage 6 is a rolling course, where the all-rounders will compete for the stage win; particularly given there is a difficult 15km climb that is peaked just 10km from the finish.
While not a proper mountain stage, Stage 7 could still prove to be a test for any of the out and out sprinters, with gradual inclines from the half way point until the finish in L’Aquila.
Stage 8 will be another sprint thriller, with a 235km route from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro. The peloton will close week one with the Giro’s second ITT; a 34.7km route that finishes in San Marino.
Following the first rest day, riders climb back onto their bikes and will take on two completely flat stages before they head into the mountains for Stage 12. While not the hardest of mountain stages, it will give the riders a first taste of the Alps and get their legs prepared for what’s to come; with relentless climbs on Stage 13, climaxing with a daunting summit finish ending in Ceresole Reale that should challenge even the best climbers.
Stage 14 will throw four intermediate climbs at the peloton, before a punchy uphill finish in the ski resort of Courmayeur. Any riders who suffered in the early mountain stages will welcome Stage 15.
It's time for the first grand tour of the season, here’s #UAETeamEmirates line-up for the @giroditalia 🇮🇹: @Tom_Bohli 🇨🇭#SimoneConsonni 🇮🇹@valerioconti93 🇮🇹@FndoGaviria 🇨🇴@MarcatoMarco 🇮🇹@sebasmolano_ 🇨🇴@PolancJan 🇸🇮@DiegoUlissi 🇮🇹#RideTogether #YearOfTolerance #Giro pic.twitter.com/BoZttw9vrK— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) 6 May 2019
At 237km, it isn’t the shortest route, but a reasonably flat opening 145km will give riders the chance to stretch their legs, before tackling a handful of smaller climbs with a short downhill finish into the town of Como.
Riders will gather their thoughts on the second rest day, before heading back to the mountains for Stage 16. It’s uphill from the off, with the peloton taking on four climbs across the 226km route, before a prolonged false flat finish in Ponte di Legno.
There’s another four climbs to battle on Stage 17 and it’s here where the General Classification (GC) standings traditionally start to take shape. Stage 18 will be a rare opportunity for the sprinters to pick up the race win, while Stage 19 once again trails through the mountains and ends with a steady 13.6km climb to San Martino Di Castrozza.
If the GC isn’t wrapped up by Stage 19, then spectators will be in for a thrilling penultimate mountain stage. The 20th stage of the Giro is a climbers dream and a sprinters nightmare.
With three intense inclines – Cima Campo (18km at 6 per cent), Passo Manghen (18.9km at 7.6 per cent) and Passo Rolle (20.6 km at 4.7 per cent) – coming in the opening 140km, we can expect ferocious attacks and aggressive riding from the off, with an exhilarating final haul up to Monte Avena.
The GC winner will be crowned the following day in Verona, following the final ITT.
The 2019 Giro d’Italia begins in Bologna on Saturday with an 8.2km individual time trial stage before finishing in Verona on June 2.
Here we look at the five main favourites for overall victory.
Who do you think will win this year’s Giro?
PRIMOZ ROGLIC (Slovenia)
It’s hard to argue whether there is a better rider in the world on form than Roglic at the moment. The Slovenian clinched a stunning victory at the Tour de Romandie on Sunday, winning three of the six stages in Switzerland. It was a dominant display from Roglic and the perfect lead in to the first Grand Tour of the year. His victory in Romandie continues a sizzling run of results this season which has seen the 29-year-old secure victories at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico.
TOM DUMOULIN (Netherlands)
Team: Team Sunweb
The Dutchman showed his class when finishing second in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France last year. Although it is still early in the season and his programme is more geared towards the Tour in July, his form has been mixed, finishing sixth at the UAE Tour and fourth at Tirreno-Adriatico. Confidence and ability is never an issue with Dumoulin but 2019 needs to be the year where he steps up another level again. The volume and severity of the climbs in Italy makes him the best outside Roglic to contend overall.
SIMON YATES (England)
The Englishman won three stages and wore the pink jersey for over two weeks at the Giro last year, but he lost the overall lead on stage 19 and ended up finishing a disappointing 21st overall. Now, looking close to his best again, the 26-year-old comes into the Giro with stage wins at Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol. Yates will want to redeem himself after last year’s meltdown and 2019 presents another opportunity to fight for a maiden podium spot in Italy.
VINCENZO NIBALI (Italy)
The 2013 and 2016 champion still believes he has what it takes to join the illustrious three-time winners’ club. His confidence is high after finishing third at the Tour of the Alps in April and eighth at Milan San-Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. At 34, he needs to stretch those racing legs again and show he still has the pace, power and race-craft that has seen him widely regarded as one of the best riders of the past decade.
BOB JUNGELS (Luxembourg)
Team: Deceuninck-Quick Step
The Rollingen native is one of Deceuninck-Quick Step’s most instrumental classic riders, winning the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in March, finishing third at Dwars door Vlaanderen and fifth in E3 BinckBank Classic this season. He also took victory on stage four of the Tour of Colombia and finished eighth overall at Paris-Nice. The strongman from Luxembourg wore the maglia rosa briefly during the 2016 edition of the Giro and went on to seal sixth. Can he get close to pink again with more experience and miles under his belt?
UAE Team Emirates’ fine season continued as riders Alexander Kristoff and Rui Costa simultaneously achieved podium finishes at Eschborn-Frankfurt and the Tour of Romandie.
Kristoff secured another podium finish at Eschborn-Frankfurt, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be a fifth successive victory for the sprinter.
A breakaway ruled the early hours of the race, but they were eventually caught by the ferocious pace of the chasing group in the final kilometres. Approaching the closing meters, Kristoff began his sprint, but with 200m to go he bumped against Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe); the collision forced the Norwegian to reset and move towards the centre of the road.
He battled hard with the other sprinters to cross the line in third behind eventual winner Ackermann and second placed John Degenkolb (Trek- Segafredo).
Commenting on the podium finish, Kristoff said: “Today my feelings were not perfect, so much so that on the undulating section, I slipped behind a couple of times.
“I was able to return to the group thanks to the support of Rory Sutherland and (Stake) Vegard Laengen. On the final circuit, I tried to hold on to the sprint, but I wasn’t brilliant.
“It was a pity we didn’t manage to prolong the winning streak in this race but given the feelings I had today, the podium is a good result.”
There was also a podium finish for former world champion, Costa, who is currently competing at the Tour of Romandie.
After a good performance in the prologue – where he picked up 10th place – Costa secured another strong result, placing third on Stage 1; the result promoting him to second place in the General Classification (GC) standings.
Costa said: “I am satisfied with today’s result that came after battling with high-level rider. I tried to make the most of the good work done by my team-mates, who were very alert and kept me protected the whole stage.
“In the sprint, I gave my best, but (Tom) Roglic was very fast. Still, I take a lot of morale from the first two days of the Tour de Romandie.”