The 100th Giro d’Italia kicks off Friday, May 5 and promises three weeks of thrilling races through Italy’s biggest mountains and beyond. Here are 10 top favorites for the season’s first grand tour, the Corsa Rosa.
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
Ilnur Zakarin was looking like a true GC rider in the 2016 Giro d’Italia, riding fifth overall, only a few seconds behind eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Then stage 19 reshuffled the deck. Zakarin hit the deck — as did race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) — and he had to withdraw from the race. Katusha-Alpecin’s 27-year-old leader has yet to win a race this year, but he’s shown promise with a sixth-place finish at Paris-Nice. His 15th place result at Tour de Romandie, a race he won in 2015, may be a bit underwhelming. Still, the Russian is a proven performer in both climbs and time trials.
9. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
This 24-year-old Luxembourger announced himself as a GC rider in the 2016 Giro, finishing sixth overall after a three-day stint in the pink jersey. He also won the best young rider classification that race. Quick-Step Floors isn’t traditionally a team for the grand tour overall classifications, but Jungels may change that. He’s shown good form through the Ardennes classics and capping off his pre-Giro race schedule with an eighth-place overall result at Tour de Romandie in Switzerland.
8. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb)
The Netherlands’s grand tour dreams have focused on Tom Dumoulin since he came within one stage of winning the 2015 Vuelta a Espana. The 26-year-old’s grand tour campaigns did not go so well last year, as he did not finish the Giro or the Tour, abandoning the latter with a fractured arm. Does he fit the classic climber mold, the type of rider that usually prevails in the Giro? No, but his TT talent could make a big difference, as this year’s route includes 67.2km of time trial racing, split into two stages.
7. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)
Like Zakarin, Kruijswijk must rue the 19th stage of the 2016 Giro. If only he hadn’t crashed into that snowbank! Could he have gone toe-to-toe with Nibali in the final two days of climbing? He’ll have another chance this year, but so far, the 29-year-old Dutchman has yet to show the brilliant form that earned him four podium finishes in 2016 Giro stages. Plus, Kruijswijk crashed last week at Tour de Yorkshire — not an ideal lead-up to his biggest race of the season.
6. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Geraint Thomas always delivers as a super-domestique. He always disappoints as a GC leader in the grand tours. What will it take for the Brit to prove himself? He’ll need to take advantage of the Giro’s two time trials, which suit his strengths. He must also avoid un jour sans in the Giro’s final week, which is packed with climbs into the high mountains. Thomas showed his form with a win at Tour of the Alps a few weeks ago. Consistency is key, and it is much more difficult to achieve in a three-week race.
5. Adam Yates (Orica-Scott)
Adam Yates proved his grand tour pedigree at last year’s Tour de France, where he finished fourth overall. Plus, the 24-year-old is flying on the eve of the Giro with a fourth-place overall result at Volta a Catalunya and eighth place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His weakness will be those two time trials, especially the final one on stage 21. Orica-Scott’s youngster can certainly handle himself in the high mountains late in the final week of a three-week stage race, but performing in a flat time trial after 20 days of racing is a different challenge altogether.
4. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)
Apart from a win at Tour de San Juan back in January, Bauke Mollema has laid low in the early months of 2017. Mollema can climb and time trial, making him a real threat for this year’s Giro. If he can handle Mount Etna in the Giro’s first week, the Dutchman may ride his way into the GC conversation as the race enters the brutal final week of climbing. He has finished top-10 at four grand tours over the course of his 11-year career, and that experience should pay off in the Giro — as will his consistent abilities as a time trial rider.
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Sacré bleu! One of France’s biggest stars has forsaken the Tour for Italy’s Giro! Is Thibaut Pinot crazy, or is he crazy like a fox? He’ll have a little less pressure on his shoulders racing in a foreign land, but the 26-year-old is sure to be ambitious in his first run at the Giro d’Italia. Way back in 2014, he earned an astonishing third-place result at the Tour de France. Since then he’s won two Tour stages. This year Pinot has landed on the podium in three of the four stage races he started. The last Frenchman to win a Giro was Laurent Fignon in 1989. Pinot has climbing chops and TT acumen, and should be in the mix for a pink jersey.
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
The defending Giro d’Italia champion isn’t our top pick on this list. Vincenzo Nibali, who has won all three grand tours, could prove us wrong at the end of May, but so far, the Italian hasn’t performed in the lead-up to his home race. Apart from a win at Tour de Croatia against a weak field, Nibali has no podium results against WorldTour-level fields. The thing is, he seems to always do this; Nibali likes to start the season slowly, cards to the chest, not proving his form until it is absolutely necessary in a high-priority race, usually a grand tour. We’d be fools to count him out, but calling him the #1 favorite is too much of a stretch.
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
After two years away from the Giro, Nairo Quintana, winner of the 2014 race, returns for another pink jersey. As an added challenge, Quintana will tackle the grueling Giro-Tour double. Of course you didn’t click on this post to talk about the Tour de France, so Quintana’s run at yellow can wait. For now, the Colombian climber is focused on the 100th Giro. Unlike Nibali, Quintana has put up some great results in 2017, winning Volta a la Valenciana, Tirreno-Adriatico, and a stage in last week’s Vuelta a Asturias. His Movistar team is stacked with talented climbers who can shepherd the diminutive 27-year-old over all but the most precipitous climbs. Quintana will have a big target on his back, but with the way he’s been climbing, few of his rivals will see it for long as he dances away in the Giro’s mountains.