With the Giro d’Italia starting in less than a week, Grand Tour season is officially upon us.
The first Grand Tour of the season, the 104th Giro d’Italia, gets underway on Saturday. The 2021 Giro will be contested with 21 days of racing over a span of 23 days. The race begins in Torino on May 8th, and will conclude in Milan on the 30th.
A season ago, the Giro was held in October, after the Tour de France. It featured a back and forth general classification battle that ultimately saw Tao Geoghegan Hart claim his first Grand Tour victory.
In 2021, many of the major players from last year will be back on the start line.
Now that there is less than a week remaining before the race kicks off, let’s take a look at the pre-race favorites and the decisive stages.
🚴♂It’s been with us for 90 years on gravel and later on asphalt roads in black and white and later in colour worlds. It’s been always the same for 90 years: a dream that is worn, a symbol that is treasured, a legacy that is passed down. 🔜#Giro is coming! pic.twitter.com/EXnsjT7F2D
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) April 22, 2021
Key Stages of the Giro d’Italia
In a Grand Tour, every stage is important. The race is won with consistency over three weeks, but it can be lost at any moment. With that being said, there are definitely a few stages that jump out on paper. The excitement value of the race is made by the approach of the riders. Here are three stages that look as though they will encourage significant general classification action.
Stage 11: Perugia – Montalcino, 162 km
Given the presence of a few different gravel sectors, it is possible that this stage will be raced like a shorter Strade Bianche.
If you go back to the 2010 Giro d’Italia, a similar finish to Montalcino combined with some bad weather to produce an incredible day of racing.
If the weather is similarly unpleasant in 2021, it is very possible that we will see some big gaps between the GC contenders who are comfortable on the gravel and those who are not.
Stage 16: Sacile – Cortina d’Ampezzo, 212 km
There are plenty of stages in the high mountains in this year’s route, but stage 16 is the one being referred to as the 2021 Giro’s queen stage.
The stage features four categorized climbs and over 5,700 meters of elevation gain. The penultimate climb, the Passo Pordoi, is also the Cima Coppi as the highest point of the race.
The fact that the stage takes place on the day before the second rest day means the riders will be encouraged to leave everything on the road.
Stage 21: Sengao – Milano, 30.3 km
A season ago, the final GC of the race was decided by the concluding time trial into Milan. Given that this year’s time trial is twice as long, the possibility for time gaps on the final day is doubled.
The GC contenders who excel in the time trial will look forward to this stage. On the other hand, the pure climbers will need to keep this stage in mind as they attempt to build an advantage in the mountains.
Whatever way the race goes, it is likely that this final time trial will be vital in deciding who stands on the final podium in Milan.
Giro d’Italia Pre-Race Favorites
Look at me, and try to see everything I stand for. I’m a guiding light, an icon, a symbol that sparks the dreams of all cycling enthusiasts. Look closely and you will see that I haven’t really changed. For ninety years now, I’ve been the Maglia Rosa ➡ https://t.co/c2MNTKfvbP pic.twitter.com/GiEV513Gei
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 4, 2021
As always, BetFair has the odds ahead of the Giro d’Italia. Here are the top ten favorites for the overall title.
1. Egan Bernal
Egan Bernal struggled a season ago with recurring back troubles, but the 24-year-old seems to have turned a corner. Bernal has always raced well in Italy, dating back to his time with Italian Pro Conti team Androni.
Bernal rode extremely well en route to a third place at Strade Bianche early this season, which should translate well to the gravel of stage 11. He is also coming off a fourth place at Tirreno – Adriatico in March.
If Bernal is healthy and has peaked at the right time, the general consensus is that this is his race to lose.
2. Remco Evenepoel
The inclusion of Remco as the second favorite is a bit of a controversial one. The 21-year-old phenom has boatloads of talent. However, he has not raced since August of 2020 due to a lengthy injury lay off.
There have also been quotes coming from Evenepoel in the last few days in which he says he will focus on working for teammate João Almeida in this year’s race.
Remco is certainly capable of winning the Giro in the near future. However, the evidence seems to suggest that 2021 might be more about gaining experience for the young Belgian.
3. Simon Yates
Simon Yates has been on terrific form so far this season. He won the Tour of the Alps towards the end of April, establishing himself as the best climber in the race.
Yates came very close to winning the 2018 Giro d’Italia. He led that race until a rather sharp drop in form on the 19th stage. 2021 is a golden opportunity for Yates to implement lessons learned from that race and make amends.
4. Emanuel Buchmann
The last time we saw a full strength Emanuel Buchmann in a Grand Tour was 2019, when he finished fourth in the Tour de France. Buchmann was extremely strong on the long, sustained climbs in that race. That should mean that the Giro is suited to his strengths.
He has had a bit of a quiet season so far, finishing outside the top ten in the two WorldTour stage races he has competed in. However, if he is peaking at the right time, a top five is certainly possible.
5. Aleksandr Vlasov
Aleksandr Vlasov has steadily been improving over the past few years, and it looks as though the 25-year-old is poised to have his best season yet. In 2021, Vlasov has finished second at Paris – Nice and third at the Tour of the Alps.
The Russian has yet to finish in the top ten of a Grand Tour. It seems very likely that he will accomplish that at the Giro d’Italia.
6. Mikel Landa
The mercurial Spanish climber has been strong so far in 2021, especially while racing in Italy. Pello Bilbao will be a strong ally in the mountains for Landa. The Bahrain Victorious team director has gone on record to say that the team will be “all in” for Landa at this race.
Members of the #FreeLanda movement will feel that the Giro presents the Spaniard with a real opportunity to secure his first Grand Tour podium since 2015.
7. Hugh Carthy
Hugh Carthy is a rider whose stock has gone up considerably in the last calendar year. The lanky Brit turned in a hugely impressive third place at the Vuelta a España last October.
Carthy seems to be a rider who excels when the going gets tough. His climbing and time trialing are both solid. Plus, he will have the luxury of being a bit of an outsider compared to a few other names on this list.
8. Pavel Sivakov
The 23-year-old Russian has been very impressive this season. He finished sixth at the Tour of the Alps, but he looked to be the second strongest rider in the race prior to a crash on stage three.
If everything goes according to plan for Ineos, Sivakov will likely be called upon to work for Egan Bernal at some point. However, if Bernal falters, Sivakov is more than capable of picking up the slack. Sivakov finished ninth at the Giro in 2019, and he is stronger now than he was then.
9. João Almeida
If you believe Remco Evenepoel, João Almeida is Deceuninck’s leader for the Giro d’Italia. The 22-year-old is a pretty impressive talent in his own right. Almeida finished fourth at last year’s Giro after leading the race for 15 days.
The Portuguese has been good in 2021 as well. Almeida has three top tens in WorldTour stage races to his name.
Given the comments made by Evenepoel, Almeida is probably one of the more underrated riders in the top ten.
10. Jai Hindley
Jai Hindley has not had the greatest season so far. He finished 18th in Paris – Nice and DNFed Catalunya and the Tour of the Alps. However, Hindley earned his spot in this top ten with a very impressive second place at the 2020 Giro.
The field will definitely be tougher this season. If Hindley can excel in the mountains like he did a year ago, there is no reason why he cannot put in another strong performance.
Outsiders to Watch: Fausto Masnada and Jefferson Alexander Cepeda
BetFair has Fausto Masnada as the 21st ranked favorite, while Jefferson Alexander Cepeda is nowhere to be seen on their list of odds.
Masnada is probably behind Almeida and Evenepoel on Deceuninck’s pecking order. If either of those two riders falter, the Italian is more than capable of producing a top ten. He finished ninth a season ago while working for Almeida. His recent third place at the Tour de Romandie shows that he is climbing and time trialing at a very high level.
Cepeda is just 22 and is riding for a ProTeam, but he has turned some heads this season. The Ecuadorian was very impressive at the recent Tour of the Alps. He finished fourth on GC, ahead of riders like Carthy and Sivakov. This is only Cepeda’s second Grand Tour, so expectations should be kept in check. However, it is likely that he will have a few notable moments over the course of the race.
Apart from having the odds for the overall winner, BetFair also has favorites for the various secondary classifications that will be contested in the Giro d’Italia.
King of the Mountains
Banca Mediolanum celebrates the Giro d'Italia's best climbers with the Maglia Azzurra. For the 19th consecutive year @BancaMediolanum is the sponsor of the King of the Mountains leader’s jersey. #MagliaAzzurra #Giro #GirodItalia #BancaMediolanum pic.twitter.com/gkGypFHajt
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) April 28, 2021
Giulio Ciccone is the favorite for the KOM jersey at the moment. Ciccone is Italian, so he will want to leave his mark on the race. He is also a very good climber in his own right. Ciccone won the competition in 2019 and finished second in 2018, so he has a history of contesting it.
If the competition is won by a rider outside of the GC battle, last year’s winner, Ruben Guerreiro, is another rider to keep an eye on.
💥Find out the top sprinters who will be battling each other for the Maglia Ciclamino for 21 stages at the 2021 Giro d'Italia. 🚴 Who do you think is the number one favourite? @segafredoitalia #Giro #MagliaCiclamino #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/pqtT9NCRWX
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 4, 2021
Peter Sagan is the heavy favorite in this one, which makes a lot of sense. Sagan finished second in this classification a season ago. He also has racked up seven victories in the Tour de France equivalent. He is still a competitive sprinter, and his ability to get over the hills makes it tough for the pure sprinters to compete with him.
Among the top fast men, Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier are two riders to watch.
BetFair’s current favorites for the team classification are Deceuninck Quick Step. Their trio of Almeida, Masnad and Evenepoel should certainly keep them competitive in this category.
Ineos, the third favorites, are another team with a whole host of talented riders.
Young Rider Classification
🚴♂Here are the promising young riders that will be battling each other for the Maglia Bianca at the 2021 #Giro d’Italia!💪Who do you think will be the favourite? ➡ Follow the live race on our site to find out who will win the best young rider's jersey! pic.twitter.com/Zk9ZKEmt2H
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 3, 2021
Given that he is the favorite for overall victory, 24-year-old Egan Bernal is also the favorite for this classification.
Other riders to keep an eye on here include Evenepoel, Vlasov, Almeida, Sivakov, Hindley, Cepeda and Daniel Martinez.
It is always very difficult to predict the outcome of a Grand Tour at the beginning of the race. A crash or a mechanical can take a strong rider out of contention in the blink of an eye. Riders can peak or run out of gas at the decisive moment.
The Giro d’Italia on its own is an extremely beautiful race. The history and the visual contrast of the maglia rosa in the snow gives the event a very special feeling.
The incredibly strong start list is just another reason why this has the ability to be a phenomenal race.
My Picks for the Final Podium: 1. Egan Bernal, 2. Simon Yates, 3. Mikel Landa
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