It’s the beginning of November, that time of the year when we cycling fans can let our imaginations run wild about what will happen in the next season of bike racing. Now that we have seen the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France routes and digested the 42 stages of racing on tap in 2019, we can start forming some opinions. How do these two grand tours compare? What sort of action do we expect from the GC hitters? Time for a roundtable!
Fred Dreier, @freddreier: Major caveat: I’m always more excited for the Giro d’Italia due to the timing and dynamics of the race. That said, with regards to the actual route, the Tour’s route is more enticing as a fan. The Giro route is again a beast of parcours that saves the big wallop for the third week, with a final individual TT to hang over everyone’s head. With the Tour route, by contrast, the absence of a final, decisive time trial is a positive step in my opinion. I am also curious to see how the three shorter mountain stages (stages 14, 19, and 20) shake up the dynamics of the race. The summit finishes at the Tourmalet and Val Thorens, after so few kilometers of pedaling, should enable some of the punchier climbers to have more strength in their legs.
Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: On the whole, I like this year’s Tour better because it promises must-watch stages throughout all three weeks. The Giro has a sleepy start when it comes to the GC battle, and there are also some dreadfully boring flat stages on the menu (stages 10 and 11, most definitely. I think the Giro’s highest highs will be more exciting than the Tour — the final week, especially — but overall the Tour route has more to offer fans.
Dane Cash, @danecash: I like the Giro route better, let’s get that out of the way first. But I’ll still be more excited to watch cycling’s main event in July. That probably won’t change unless the Giro starts drawing all the sport’s top GC contenders on peak form every year — or unless the ASO decides to build a Tour route of 21 consisting solely of 230-kilometer flat stages.
Which rider does the Giro favor and why? What about the Tour?
Fred: The Giro favors your traditional well-rounded grand tour champion who can time trial and survive long, punishing climbing efforts. In my opinion, it is perfect for Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin. The Tour, by contrast, favors a rider with an extremely strong team for the TTT, and a rider with explosive climbing ability. I think Geraint Thomas is actually better suited for the Tour de France than for the Giro. If Mitchelton-Scott can recruit a few powerful time trialists, then Simon Yates is another rider for the Tour.
Spencer: By now you know I’m a big Nibali fan, so take this with a grain of salt, but this Giro is perfect for him. The time trials have enough climbing to keep a guy like Dumoulin honest. There are plenty of tricky stages where he could scoop up seconds (hello Il Lombardia-inspired stage 15), and plus his experience in grand tours will help him save matches for that crucial final week, like he did when he won in 2016. The Tour favors Chris Froome. Always has, always will. Well, until he gets old and retires.
Dane: There are three time trials on the menu, but the total TT distance is still pretty short compared to past Giri. It’s the kind of route that favors a do-it-all talent. Obviously, Chris Froome fits the bill but I’m not expecting him to go. Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas, and of course Vincenzo Nibali could thrive as well. As for the Tour, Sky will certainly be favored, but it does look like a good race for climbers like Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet, if they can just manage to not lose huge chunks of time in the TTT.
Describe your dream scenario for a GC race at either the Tour or Giro.
Fred: At the Giro, I’d love to see a knock-down, drag-out fight on the long climbs and time trials between Geraint Thomas and Tom Dumoulin. For the Tour, I want to see Chris Froome have to battle a cadre of explosive climbers, namely Simon Yates, Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, and Miguel Ángel López.
Spencer: Team Sky wins the stage 2 TTT at the Tour and then Froome keeps yellow for the remaining 19 stages. Ha! Just kidding folks. I’d love to see Sky cut Egan Bernal loose to ride the Giro as a leader this year. He loses some ground on the time trials, but in the final week he has a knock-down, drag-out fight with Nibali and Adam Yates. Then, it all comes down to that stage 21 time trial, a bunch of climber/GC guys TTing their legs off for all the marbles.
Dane: Dream Tour de France: Froome and Thomas both shine in the early goings but then begin to square off against each other for maximum dramatic effect. That allows Nairo Quintana and Tom Dumoulin to surge into the conversation later in the race. The Condor and the Butterfly (I didn’t make up their nicknames!) duke it out with the Sky duo in the final mountain stages for the yellow jersey.
If Peter Sagan were to race both the Giro and the Tour, how many stages would he win between the two?
Fred: This number will be heavily influenced by whether or not Fernando Gaviria suffers from the UAE-Team Emirates first-year curse (lookin’ at you, Fabio Aru). If the Wolfpack-less Gaviria takes a step back, then I’d say Sagan could win a combined seven stages. But wait, why would Peter Sagan race the Giro and not bask in sunshine at the Amgen Tour of California?
Spencer: As usual, the Giro will have a sub-par field of sprinters and Sagan will scoop up five stages there, thanks in part to the lumpy, tricky stages in the first week. Then he’ll get two stages at the Tour, maybe three. So seven to eight total. Not bad!
Dane: I’ll say six total: three in the Giro and three in the Tour. The first week at the Giro is full of opportunities for the three-time world champ, but I do wonder if he’d stay in the race for the whole Giro. The Tour also has a number of early opportunities, right up until the first rest day.