Pink bits

Australians have always loved Italian. Starting on Saturday night we’ll once again be able to gorge ourselves on the stuff for three tantalising weeks, with SBS showing and streaming every Giro stage live. So for no other reason than we’re excited, here are some fearless predictions of what we might be able to expect…

Giro

Antipasto – aka Stage One Team Time Trial

The spectacular Stage One 17.6km dash along the coastline from San Lorenzo al Mare to San Remo looms as a battle in three between Orica-GreenEDGE, Team Sky and BMC, with perhaps a sneaky chance for Etixx-Quickstep. In 2014 the TTT win catapulted Orica-GreenEDGE into pink for the entire first week, so it’s an important stage for pleasing your sponsors.

Primo – aka Stage Wins

After doing some nice work in support of Albasini at the recently-completed Tour de Romandie Simon Gerrans looks like he’s getting some semblance of form back after a string of injuries. If he can stay on the bike we wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see him on the podium at some stage. Or not. The Giro is like that. His beard may not be especially aerodynamic.

But the Italian veteran Luca Paolini is still flying, as his the entire Katusha squad. Follwing a win at Gent-Wevelgem and some fine performances in support of Kristoff, he’ll be super motivated to add another Giro stage win to his palmares after winning Stage 3 in 2013 and wearing pink for four days.

We’d never heard of him before 2015, but 22-year old Frenchman Julien Alaphilippe is arguably the most in-form rider in world cycling right now. Can the former CX champion, second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, maintain his current form through a 3-week grand tour? It’s pretty unlikely, in fact chances are he won’t even get a start unless someone gets injured in the next few days. But if he does, who knows? French riders are nothing if not enigmatic.

Diego Ulissi is one we’ll be watching closely. After bursting on to the World Tour at the 2014 Tour Down Under and then claiming two of first eight stages at last year’s Giro, he’s since been cooling his heels on the sidelines courtesy of a drug suspension for the asthma-drug, Salbutamol. Ventolin or not, can he step up this year? Plenty of Italians will be hoping he can.

Last May Orica-GreenEDGE’s young Columbian mountain goat Esteban Chavez headed for California instead of Italy – and came away with a superb stage win on the way to finishing 7th overall. This year he’s heading for the big show, and we think he might just be a sneaky chance on some of the mountain finishes. Of which there are six.

The chances of him claiming a stage win are 1,000-1. Maybe even 2,000-1. But that won’t stop us cheering for the first Ethiopian to ever ride in a Grand Tour, Tsgabu Grmay. We were lucky enough to meet him at the 2015 Tour Down Under where he finished an outstanding 11th on overall GC in his World Tour debut, and he’s a wonderfully polite and humble guy. Not to mention a fine rider.

As anyone who follows Carbon Addiction will know, we have a lot of time for the indomitable Adam Hansen. In his 11th consecutive Grand Tour start we’d love nothing more than to see him cross the line with arms raised after yet another sneaky breakaway. He’s done it before. He can do it again. The one complication in 2015 will be the appearance of Andre Greipel, as along with Greg Henderson, Hansen is one of the Gorilla’s key lieutenants at Lotto-Soudal. Here’s hoping he gets let off the leash, at least a few times.

Il Secondo – aka Overall GC

Rigoberto Uran. Always consistent, but rarely a winner. In fact the Columbian has finished second at the last two Giros, not to mention the 2012 Olympic Games. Will the bridesmaid become the bride in 2015? We doubt it. He always seems to find one rider just a bit better. If he was a horse you’d back him for a place.

He may have finished third overall last year. But hindered by an untimely stomach virus there’s little doubt Fabio Aru is underdone and may well come unstuck in the final week, if not sooner. He has a bigger smile than Mick Jagger, but we doubt we’ll be seeing much of it, this year anyway. Mind you, the five kilos he’s reported to have lost due to his illness may help on those epic climbs.

It may be 12 months later than originally planned by Brailsford, Ellingworth, Kerrison, and Co, but this really is Richie Porte’s grand tour moment. After three overall wins in 2015 already, there can be no excuses this time. With several of his main rivals either absent (Nibali, Quintana, Froome) or undercooked, the moons have aligned for the likeable Tasmanian to finally shine over three weeks. It he can’t? Well, questions will be asked about whether, perhaps, we’ve overrated him as a grand tour contender.

After crashing out of the 2014 TdF Alberto Contador will be keen to make a statement in Italy and may well prove to be Porte’s main rival. He hasn’t done a lot of racing in the lead-up to the Giro, thanks to another crash at this year’s Volta a Catalunya, but reports are he’s been training the house down with Mick Rogers and Ivan Basso in the Canary Islands. He also has Jesus on his side, literally, in Spanish team-mate Jesus Hernandez. We’re likely to get a better handle on Contador’s form at the end of the first week. If he’s ‘on’ watch out.  If he’s not, watch Oleg Tinkov’s Twitter feed. It’s sure to make for interesting reading.

The jockey-sized Italian Domenico Pozzovivo has showed his face at the pointy end of several big races recently, and seems poised for a red hot crack at his home tour after finishing fifth in 2014. The top echelon of GC riders have generally had his measure at key moments in the past. Could this be his year?

Dolce – aka Sprint jersey

Michael Matthews won stage six in 2014 and wore pink for most of the first week, so anything less than a stage win in 2015 will surely be seen as a major disappointment. He’s had a short freshen up after securing multiple podiums in this year’s Classics so his form seems good once again. With the big two absent – Cav and Kittel – but Andre Greipel, Mezgec, Viviani and Modolo all likely to be present, it should make for some cracking sprint finishes.

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