Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia roundtable: Who are the new outside contenders for the pink jersey?

Geraint Thomas is out of the GC and Simon Yates is way off the back – who will step up in the GC battle?

The GC of the Giro d’Italia erupted on the slopes of Mount Etna on Monday.

Geraint Thomas dropped off the back before the climbing even started having crashed in the neutral zone, and a few kilometers later, Simon Yates was also distanced.

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Jonathan Caicedo went on to win the stage as Yates lost over four minutes and Thomas shed over twelve minutes. Young Portuguese rider João Almedia took the pink jersey for Deceuninck-Quick-Step after overnight GC leader Filippo Ganna struggled on the long climb to the top of Etna.

The stage made for a major shakeup of the prospects of the top GC favorites, so what’s next in the battle for the pink jersey? Time to roundtable!

Who are your new dark-horse GC contenders after Yates and Thomas lost so much time today?

Fred Dreier (@freddreier): I really want to see how far Joao Almeida and Brandon McNulty can last in the top-10 at this year’s race. Both guys are potential grand tour stars of tomorrow, and this race is an opportunity for both guys to really test themselves. If one or both of them cracks the top five, that would be such a huge accomplishment.

Andrew Hood (@eurohoody): Well, I guess no one will be asking Brailsford if he regrets not taking Thomas to the Tour de France anymore!? That was unfortunate for Thomas, and for the Giro. To have a big favorite like that lose so much time so early takes the wind out of the GC race. And the same for Yates, who seemed so pleased after limiting his losses in the opening time trial Saturday. Almeida is a real “darkhorse” and so is McNulty, of course, neither has raced longer than 10 days. Nibali looks strong, but it’s a long Giro.

Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): Brandon McNulty looked good today I thought. He’s targeting stages, but he’s a good time trialist, climbed Etna well, and is now eighth, right among the major GC guys. At his level of experience, I don’t see him winning but it would be great to see if he can hold a top-10. Of the more established guys, Kelderman is now a podium possibility. He has a reasonable TT and a solid diesel climbing engine that will rev well in the high Alps in the final week.

Can you see Deceuninck-Quick-Step becoming a more seriously GC-focussed team with youngsters Almeida, James Knox, and Remco Evenepoel?

Fred: No. Deceuninck-Quick-Step is a team for the cobbled classics, hilly classics, and stage victories at the big grand tours. I see other WorldTour teams luring Almeida and Knox away before I see Deceuninck-Quick-Step building a bonafide grand tour lineup around either guy. Remco is different, as he is Belgian, but we have yet to see if he is a grand tour rider yet.

Jim: Those three sure have the talent to turn into top GC riders, and they have the time to do it. However, for Quick-Step to really become a grand tour team, they would have to put a lot of time and money into it, and I can’t see ‘the Wolfpack’ being prepared to take away resources from their classics unit. It may be that those three look to move on before the Belgian team is willing to go all-in for stage races.

Andrew: Maybe, but I don’t believe they will have the pocketbooks to truly load up the team for a legitimate GC run. Committing to the Tour de France fully requires a major financial investment, and from the sounds of it, it doesn’t seem like Lefevere has the money to run the top classics program and a major TdF GC effort. That could change if Evenepoel can recover from his crash and continue on his progression. It’s such a shame he’s not in this Giro.

Does the loss of big-name riders from the GC battle such as Yates and Thomas take away from the drama of the race, or add intrigue and the possibility for excitement?

Jim: I am somewhat biased as the token Brit at VeloNews, and do think it takes some of the shine off the race now the narrative of Thomas looking to rescue the season for Ineos and Yates’ battle with the time trialists is likely over. However, Yates will now go all-in to regain time or win stages, and he’s an exciting rider to watch. Also, having the door open for the “B-List” contenders like Majka, Kelderman and Pozzovivo opens up the GC field, whereas riders like Thomas and Yates could have shut down the race early on.

Andrew: I think it’s a huge loss. Let’s be honest, there were not that many marquee GC names at this Giro to begin with, and to see two of the top favorites take on so much water in the first mountain stage is disappointing. Sure, they can mount a comeback and perhaps win a stage, but winning the pink jersey seems out of reach. It’s a big letdown for Ineos Grenadiers, who actually started the revised racing calendar thinking they could win all three grand tours in 2020. Now it’s all up to Chris Froome at the Vuelta a España, if it happens.

Fred: I believe the loss of Thomas takes away from the drama of the race, as he was the top favorite to win, and you never want to see the top favorite to go out. Whenever that happens it opens the possibility for the ‘well, if so-and-so hadn’t of dropped out’ caveats that are inevitable. Yates is another story — he hasn’t had a strong grand tour showing since 2018. But Thomas has all of the requisite skills to win this Giro, so to lose him is a huge blow.