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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Spotlight on Iván Sosa to deliver for Movistar in GC leadership role

After riding in the shadows at Ineos Grenadiers, the Colombian climber will step into the limelight at the Giro d'Italia this month.

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Iván Sosa delivered Movistar its second GC win in 2022 with the overall at the three-day Vuelta a Asturias on Sunday, can he come through during the Giro d’Italia?

Spain’s lone WorldTour team is hoping so.

With Enric Mas focusing on the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, and Alejandro Valverde on a stage-hunting mission in his final Giro, the Spanish “blues” will be counting on the slender shoulders of the 24-year-old Colombian.

Sosa stood and delivered in Asturias, fending off a late surge from Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and attacking GC rivals in Sunday’s final stage into Oviedo to sew up the overall leader’s jersey.

“It’s a win that gives happiness and confidence ahead of the Giro, where we hope to do in the best possible way,” Sosa said. “We are motivated and excited to do things right in these three weeks that are ahead of us.”

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Movistar has a solid track record at the Giro, with Nairo Quintana taking the pink jersey in 2014, and the team last winning it with Richard Carapaz in a tactical masterpiece in 2019.

Carapaz is now arch-rival No. 1 as he will lead the powerful Ineos Grenadiers squad at the Giro.

In fact, Ineos Grenadiers has won three of the past four pink jerseys, with Chris Froome in 2018, Tao Geoghegan Hart in 2020, and Egan Bernal in 2021. With Carapaz, the UK team will be favorites to win when the Giro starts Friday in Budapest.

How far can Sosa go in the Giro?

It’s hard to say.

After he turned pro in 2017 with Androni and Gianni Savio, many were quick — perhaps too quick — to call him the “next Bernal.”

Sosa made his first big splash in 2018, when he won 10 races in a breakout season, including a stage and the overall at the Vuelta a Burgos, and later with a stage at the Tour de l’Avenir.

Just 10 months younger than Bernal, the comparisons came quick and fast. A natural-born climber, Sosa seemed to have greatness fated into his future. Unlike Bernal, who’s gone on to win both the Giro and the Tour de France as Colombia’s first yellow jersey winner, Sosa’s struggled to meet some of those early expectations.

Iván Sosa: Looking for a breakthrough

Ivan Sosa digs deep to defend his overall in Sunday’s Vuelta a Asturias. (Photo: Rafa Gomez/Sprint Cycling Agency / Movistar Team) 

In 2019, he joined Ineos Grenadiers alongside his former Androni teammate Bernal, but he could never quite follow through on any significant grand tour results in three years with the Ineos behemoth.

In two previous grand tour starts, Sosa was riding to learn the ropes and help other GC captains. In the 2019 Giro, he was 44th overall, and in the 2020 Vuelta, he was 66th. Hardly Bernal-esque results.

Sosa still won seven races across three seasons, with four of those wins coming at the Vuelta a Burgos in a race he’s clearly mastered, but Ineos cut him loose at the end of 2021.

Movistar was quick to pick him up, and expectations are sky-high that he can find his legs during this Giro.

Still only 24, Sosa proved this weekend he can manage a race when a team is fully backing him. He won Saturday’s “queen stage” high in Spain’s Cantabrian range, and then rode protected inside the Movistar train Sunday to fend off Yates and any other would-be challengers to secure the overall.

“I’m very happy with this win,” Sosa said. “The team really helped me a lot during these three days, including Sunday. It was a fast stage, with a hard final, and I believe we’ve managed well the strength and positioning, which was very important, to assure the objective we had for the GC.”

Speaking to the media earlier this season, Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué said the team is giving Sosa room to grow.

“He will be at the Giro, and the goal is to help him progress and see how he manages himself in grand tours,” Unzué said. “We will see how things go in the GC as they unfold. The idea is to try to target some stages and see how far we can go.”

Sosa will see his chances soon enough.

Movistar is bringing Valverde, who has already disavowed the GC, along with a team stacked with support riders and stage-hunters. The team confirmed Monday that American rider Will Barta also gets a nod to race, but the team will be backing Sosa.

It will be his chance to have the leadership he never saw at the star-studded Ineos Grenadiers.

With Movistar looking at the post-Valverde future, Sosa has a wide-open road.