Ranking the favorites, outsiders, and wildcards hunting GC at the Giro d’Italia
The 2023 Giro will be about a lot more than just Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel: We dive into who might disrupt in the race for pink.
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Fear not, the 2023 Giro d’Italia will be a lot more than the Remco-Rogo show.
Although Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič fill the column inches ahead of this year’s “corsa rosa,” there’s a full paddock of racers looking to take a ride at the front of what’s being billed a two-horse race.
Like both Roglič and Evenepoel learned before, the Giro d’Italia is never straightforward.
Even the furthest of outsiders could be clutching the “Trofeo Senza Fine” when the race rolls into Roma at the end of this month.
From Teo Geoghegan Hart, João Almeida, and Aleksandr Vlasov to some very wild wildcards, there will be a whole pack of podium potential at the Abruzzan “grande partenza” on Saturday.
Before we dive in deeper, here’s how we rank those that might move and shake the race for the pink jersey:
VeloNews’ Giro d’Italia GC ranking:
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Remco Evenepoel
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐: Primož Roglič (if we could give Rogo 4.5, we would, but emojis say no)
- ⭐⭐⭐: Tao Geoghegan Hart
- ⭐⭐: João Almeida, Geraint Thomas
- ⭐: Hugh Carthy, Jack Haig, Aleksandr Vlasov
- 🃏🃏🃏 very wild wildcards: Jay Vine, Damiano Caruso, Lennard Kämna, Rigoberto Urán
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), 23
Giro Starts: One (2021) – DNF
Grand tour palmarès: Two starts – Best: 1st overall, Vuelta a España (2022)
What can we say that’s not already been said about Remco Evenepoel?
Soudal Quick-Step’s wundercub earlier this month completed a 12-month mega-ride that served two victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a debut grand tour victory, and the rainbow jersey of world champion.
Evenepoel seems to be the racer with the world – and the WorldTour – in the palm of his hand right now.
Hot off the back of his steamroller ride through the Ardennes at “La Doyenne,” Evenepoel roars toward the Abruzzo top of bookies’ betting slips and with a gale-force wind at his back.
“This is a big boost ahead of the Giro d’Italia,” Evenepoel said after he won solo in Liège. “The recent altitude training camps went really well, and this victory, which shows that my form is there and feeds my confidence.”
A lot changed at Soudal Quick-Step since Evenepoel pile-drived into grand tour racing with his wild debut at the 2021 Giro.
The team increasingly pivoted toward stage-racing – possibly to the detriment of its cobblestone crew – and quietly amassed a core of lean, mean climber machines.
Evenepoel’s victory at last year’s Vuelta showed that Lefevere’s “wolf pack” learned how to snarl across a lot longer a time frame than the six hours of a northern classic.
The top climbers like Ilan Van Wilder and Louis Vervaecke that drilled Evenepoel through both the Vuelta and Liège will saddle up alongside Evenepoel this month to make for a top-tier mountain train.
And with some 70km of time trialing on tap, Evenepoel and his massive motor should be able to both reap hefty rewards against the clock and be with the best in the uphills.
Evenepoel’s biggest obstacle?
The Giro d’Italia is an uncaged beast compared to the sun, sangria, and short climbs of the Vuelta a España. It’s as wet, wild, and unpredictable as a race could be.
Evenepoel came out of his world champion’s season, wiser, more mature, and more confident than ever. The “corsa rosa” will test that to the full.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), 33
Giro starts: Two (2016, 2019) – Best: 3rd overall (2019)
Grand tour palmarès: 11 starts – Best: 3x 1st overall, Vuelta a España (2019-21)
It feels a while since Primož Roglič won his last grand tour at the 2021 Vuelta a España, but that guy hasn’t gone anywhere.
Roglič’s 100 percent GC record and five stage wins for this season show the Slovenian is still the stage-racer ace that saw him leveling up to Tadej Pogačar not so long ago.
Jumbo-Visma will land into Italy with a team strong enough to take down the Tour de France. Aces like Sepp Kuss, Robert Gesink, and Jan Tratnik should give Roglič an armchair ride through the sternest ascents.
Yet although Roglič riled and out-raced Remco Evenepoel at the recent Volta a Catalunya, he won’t land into the Abruzzo with the monument-conquering force and pre-race hype of the rival 10 years his younger.
“Remco doesn’t need to prove to me how good and strong he is. The results speak for themselves,” Roglič said. “You have to be where you need to be, and look for your opportunities in these three weeks.”
The Roglič-Evenepoel royal rumble should be one for the ages.
The twosome have a near mirror skillset. There’s little to separate them on the time trial bike, and they’re each other’s match in the mountains.
Roglič’s main hurdle might just be staying upright and staying healthy, particularly at a race with as rude a third week as this Giro. After three DNFs in his past four grand tour appearances, Roglič seems to have a bad deal with Lady Luck.
And for him to have the better of Evenepoel over three weeks?
Roglič packs experience and the ability to win with canny racecraft. The 33-year-old will need to bring every nugget of that racing nous to keep the wolfcub well caged.
Tao, Thomas and the Ineos armada
Tao Geoghegan Hart, 28
Giro starts: Two (2019, 2020) – Best: 1st overall (2020)
Grand tour palmarès: Six starts – Best: 1st overall, Giro d’Italia 2020
Geraint Thomas, 36
Giro starts: Four (2008, 2012, 2017, 2020) – Best: 80th overall (2012)
Grand tour palmarès: 17 starts – Best: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Tour de France (2018, 2019, 2022)
Ineos Grenadiers sails toward the Giro with a full armada of talent.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is the only former Giro winner on the startlist and will line out Saturday touted the “best of rest” behind Evenepoel and Roglič.
And with “TGH” seeing Geraint Thomas, Pavel Sivakov and Thymen Arensman behind him, Ineos Grenadiers isn’t leaving anything to chance in its quest to win its first grand tour since Egan Bernal won pink 24 months ago.
Geoghegan Hart flew off the grid after his victory in the anomaly October edition of the Giro in 2020.
But his all-swinging, fast-sprinting rides this spring through Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of the Alps suggest he’s back to his best.
Is that enough to match Evenepoel and Roglič?
Geoghegan Hart doesn’t have the same TT talent, but can hold his own in the uphills. In a race as attritional and unpredictable as the Giro, “TGH” could well pull an underdog second Giro victory this month.
Thomas makes for an intriguing dark horse in the pink jersey prize fight.
The grand tour veteran saw his spring derailed by sickness but is working his way back.
Thomas is one of the most experienced GC guys in the pack, knows how to handle huge races, and like his podium finish at last year’s Tour showed, understands how to make the most of a race dominated by a duopoly.
Thomas abandoned his past two Giri. Third time lucky for “G”?
Nobody would dare rule him out.
UAE Emirates and the Almeida-Vine mashup
João Almeida, 24
Giro starts: Three (2020-2022) – Best: 4th overall (2020)
Grand tour palmarès: Four starts – Best: 4th overall, Giro d’Italia 2020
UAE Emirates heads to the Giro with a mash-up of the resilient and reliable João Almeida and the unknown GC entity that is Jay Vine.
Almeida has been consistently on the fringes of every grand tour he started, and looked poised to deliver a career-best podium finish at last year’s Giro only for COVID to get in his way.
The 24-year-old finished a close second to Roglič this spring at Tirreno-Adriatico without anyone barely noticing, but was way out of the Slovenian and Evenepoel’s wheels when he rode to third at the Volta a Catalunya.
UAE Emirates is saving its full A-Team to support Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France. But with Jay Vine and Brandon McNulty at his flanks, Almeida still has all the horsepower he could wish for in the ever-mountainous Giro route.
Almeida’s odds at a pink jersey seem long.
But he could well be set for one of the lower steps of the podium he seemed denied last year.
And hey, who knows, what about joker in the pack that is Jay Vine?
The Aussie never raced for grand tour GC before, but clicked up about five sprockets on the TT bike since he joined UAE Emirates this winter.
Vine can rule in the mountains and limit his losses against the clock.
Although it would take a huge serve of Giro’s madness to see him in pink, only a “flaming galah” would play down his chance at a very surprising podium.
Bora-Hansgrohe, Bahrain-Victorious, EF Education-EasyPost come with the wildcards
Defending champions Bora-Hansgrohe carry best odds of the wildcard pack.
Last year’s “maglia rosa” Jai Hindley isn’t racing, but Aleksandr Vlasov hit top-5 in the last two grand tours he finished and has made an impressive start to the season.
With climber ace Lennard Kämna as a foil, Vlasov and Bora-Hansgrohe will be swinging hard in its push for a second-straight pink jersey.
Others that will be at the perimeter of the race for pink?
Look to EF Education-EasyPost and its to-be-revealed switchout jerseys, or the red and yellow of Bahrain-Victorious.
Hugh Carthy knows how to handle the ever-grueling demands of the Giro after making five starts already, and has a heavy-hitting team to support him. Carthy’s quest for a second grand tour podium will be backed by warhorse veteran Rigoberto Urán and a swathe of talent for all terrain.
And Bahrain-Victorious? It looks like it’s taking a “more is more” mentality to its “maglia rosa” mission.
Jack Haig, Damiano Caruso, Santiago Buitrago, and Gino Mäder make for a full phalanx that could land one of its number into the top-5.
G O O S E B U M P S #Giro pic.twitter.com/FXLOtzOo0E
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) April 28, 2023