The Giro d’Italia gets under way in Herning Denmark on the 5th of May. It will be one of three stages held in Denmark before it moves to its homeland Italy. It will consist of three Time Trials, seven flat stages, three medium mountain stages and five mountain stages. It has always played second fiddle to the Tour de France, which is most unfair. If anything the Giro has been more exciting to watch over the last number of years. There are various reasons for this, the two biggest ones being, difficulty of the route, which is nearly always more difficult than the Tour and secondly, the pressure of the whole event is nowhere near as bad as the Tour. Riders are a lot more relaxed and a lot more aggressive.
On to the actual race, “A more human Giro” it has been called, ever since the route has been unveiled. In fact on paper it looks quite a bit easier than recent years, with no signs of climbs up Finestre, Crostis and the most feared Mount Zoncolan. There are still some very tough days in the saddle, with the penultimate stage bringing cyclists up the Mortirolo and the monstrous Stelvio Pass rising to 2757 metres above sea level.
We should see major fireworks here and you can bet the crown will be won or lost on this climb. The race hasn’t attracted as many big guns as normal. Familiar faces like Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Samuel Sanchez, Alejandro Valverde, Vicenza Nibali and Dennis Menchov are nowhere to be seen. Instead they are concentrating on winning the Tour de France. It became very obvious last year that it is near impossible to win both. It is just not possible to peak for both races as Alberto Contador found out last year. He won the hardest Giro in history pulling up, but could not find the energy to win the Tour two months later.
Michael Scarponi.The favourite for the race and the winner of this last year. He looks in good shape culminating in his 8th place finish at Liege Bastonge Liege. The course should suit him this year. He has a strong team behind and a great man in Damien Cunego with him. His time trialling is not the best, but he will hope to have built up a lead by the last stage.
Ivan Basso. The two time winner of this but looks to be coming to the end. Has had a bad time of injuries which have disrupted his preparation. He finished nearly 7 minutes down in his prep race for this the Giro del Tireno. This is very worrying, and it’s very hard to see where he is going to make the improvement.
Roman Kreuziger. While preparation has gone badly for Basso, the opposite is true for Kreuziger. He has had a very good preparation. He looks to have improved on last year’s form. His climbing looks to have gone to the next level. He always has one bad day in the mountains, which usually scuppers his chances. If this doesn’t happen this year, he will be a major contender, as his time trialling has improved immeasurably.
Jose Rujano. The diminutive Rujano finished 3rd in this last year. That course suited him perfectly, but this year not so much. He should do well in the high mountains, but there are probably not enough this year for him to win. His time trialling is probably not up to the standard to win this.
Joaquin Rodriguez. Another who has performed very well leading up to this? Prone to the odd bad day, but loves the high mountains. His time trialling leaves a lot to be desired and has set him back in many of a Grand Tour. He will never improve at the TT, so a podium place looks his best option.
Frank Schleck. Was called into this as a late replacement. On his day he could be a match for anyone, but has no real preparation for this. The Tour de France was his main goal, so this hard to see how he is going to go well in this.
Domenico Pozzivivo. He looks like a lively outsider for this. He won the Giro del Tireno, the prep race for this. He looked very strong in the mountains. The main problem with him is can he keep it going for three weeks? It would be hard to think he can in my eyes.
Scarponi is favourite but his price is very short, best priced 11/4. Basso is even worse value at 4/1. The best value looks to be e/w, where first 3 1/4 odds are available at all firms. Rujano at 11/1 and Kreuziger at 9/1 look the value picks for the podium. Two that I haven’t even mentioned at bigger prices are Damien Cunego at 20/1 and Hesjedal at 50/1. The former will be out to help his team mate Scarponi, but has looked strong this year and could go well if allowed to. Hesjedal is only a hunch on my part as he has been in and out of form.
A few other markets that interest me is firstly the King of the Mountains. Joaquin Rodriguez is 16/1 with numerous firms to win this, a crazy price in my opinion. I would have him closer to 6/1, he is definitley worth an investment e/w. I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Androni at 9/2 with Ladbrokes for the team classification. Rujano, Serpa and Sella are all excellent climbers and the team will go very close to winning this.
There are also markets for number of stage wins. This can be hit and miss but a few at good prices are Thomas De Gendt 4/1 to win one stage or more, Rigoberto Uran 3/1 to win one stage or more and Ryder Hesfedal 5/1 to win one stage or more, all with Sportingbet.