It is still early days, but the 2019 Giro d’Italia is shaping up to have quite the start list.
There’s been a steady stream of early confirmations for the season’s first grand tour, with Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) the latest names to be headed to the corsa rosa, according to reports in the Dutch media.
Other recent confirmations include 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Mikel Landa, Richard Carapaz and world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), as well as Miguel Angel López (Astana), who was third last year.
Though not yet official, there are strong indications that Colombian sensation Egan Bernal (Sky) could be racing the Giro in what would be his first run at the GC in a grand tour.
Among the Italian contingent, two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is confirmed with Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates) still debating between the more favorable Tour or fan-favorite Giro.
Why the apparent uptick in interest? Next year’s challenging route, with a mix of time trial kilometers and knee-busting climbs, is seeing riders like Dumoulin and Nibali put the Giro ahead of the Tour de France in their 2019 priorities.
“We had the Tour de France for a long time in our head but the Giro d’Italia is such a nice course the coming year,” Dumoulin said this week. “I really love Italy, I love the course, and I love the race. So that’s going to be my main focus.”
Dumoulin’s decision to prioritize the Giro ahead of the Tour came as somewhat of a surprise since the big Dutchman has already won the Giro and looks poised to take on the Sky machine at the Tour. His decision to race the Giro came down to the simple fact that the Italian grand tour suits him better.
Though a few marquee names have passed on the Giro next year, including Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas (Sky), and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), the Giro field looks to be stacking up nicely.
With his participation confirmed in a team presentation Friday, the addition of Roglic to the start list will challenge Dumoulin’s time trial supremacy. The Slovenian was fourth in last year’s Tour and will be racing to win the Giro in what’s a logical step in his grand tour progression.
Yates cited “unfinished business” in his decision to return to the Giro after winning the Vuelta a España in September. His early dominance and late-race collapse at the Giro only fueled his ambitions the Vuelta. Rather than tackle the Tour, Yates seems determined to knock off the Giro before setting his sights on July.
Somewhat surprisingly, a few of the Giro-bound riders are also intent on racing the Tour. Dumoulin said it’s likely he’ll race the Tour, while Nibali and Landa have both put the Giro-Tour double at the center of their plans. Last year, Dumoulin and Froome said the extra week between the Giro and Tour, due to soccer’s World Cup, presented the ideal scenario to race the double.
Landa and Nibali, however, both say the elusive double is viable even without the extra week of recovery.
“Vincenzo’s trainer [Paolo Slongo] says the opposite — he thinks it’s easier to hold form without the extra week,” said Bahrain-Merida manager Brent Copeland. “At this stage of Vincenzo’s career, he wants the challenge of the double. He doesn’t want to end his career without at least trying it once.”
Other major teams are still to confirm their calendars. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) or Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) could potentially start the Giro as well. More confirmations will be forthcoming in the next weeks.
All eyes will be on Sky’s intentions with Bernal. Last year, the team made the surprise decision to bring him to the Tour instead of what was expected to be a grand tour debut at the Vuelta. Bernal surpassed expectations throughout the Tour and could be given a leadership role at the Giro. His presence would only further electrify the season’s first grand tour.
The Giro starts May 11 in Bologna and concludes June 2 in Verona with a course that stays completely inside Italy.