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2013 Giro d'Italia Preview

Saturday sees the eagerly anticipated start of 2013’s first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia. After 3,405 gruelling kilometres around Italy, with a brief sojourn into France, who will be crowned as the 96th winner of the race?

The odds would suggest that it is virtually a two-man race. Last year’s Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins, is the strong favourite for the race, even finding himself the odds-on favourite in places. Team Sky have perfected their approach to stage races over the past two years and the initial plan appeared to be for Wiggins to go for the Giro with Froome for the Tour. However, recent comments from Wiggins suggest some discord between the two stars of the team.

Wiggins Nibali
Wiggins and Nibali will go head-to-head in the Giro

He has had a low profile season so far, seemingly favouring training over racing in preparation for this race. Appearances in the Tour of Oman, Volta a Catalunya and the Giro del Trentino have seen a lack of victories, and most notably in the Trentino, a lack of support for Wiggins from his teammates when it has been most needed. Even on some of the smaller climbs, the other teams and favourites have started to relentlessly attack Sky, forcing them to chase hard and burn out their support riders. Although it was the mechanical problem that put him behind on the Queen stage of the Trentino, it was still a psychological blow to lose that stage.

The victor was Vincenzo Nibali, the other strong favourite for this race. Two podium finishes in his last two visits to this race show that he has the class to challenge, and he was the only realistic challenger to Wiggins in the Tour de France last year. While he will undoubtedly lose time to Wiggins on the time trials, he has the ability to attack relentlessly on the climbs and he has been well-supported by his Astana teammates so far this year.

The route for the Giro this year is very back-heavy. The first week should be navigated safely by the leaders and, with a few stages for the sprinters and a few for the puncheurs, it could be an interesting week. While these stages are unlikely to be decisive, they could be a chance for a rider to grab a few days in the leader’s pink jersey.

Stage 8 is the first important stage – a 55km individual time-trial. This is where Wiggins is likely to take the leader’s jersey. He will know that if he can open a large enough gap here, it could be decisive for him, while his challengers will be looking to limit their losses. However, it does mean that Sky will likely be attempting to defend the jersey for two weeks of racing.

The very steep climb up the Altopiano del Montasio in Stage 10, the Sestriere in Stage 14 and the long 35km climb up the Col du Galibier in Stage 15 will all be tough for Sky to control, before a killer final week including the famous climbs of Stelvio, Gavia, Giau and Val Martello. It is a very tough route this year with several very difficult climbs.

Michele Scarponi
Michele Scarponi is one of four former Giro champions in the race this year

There are several former Grand Tour winners and podiums in the race, although in the back-ends of their careers. The likes of Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Samuel Sanchez will all be talked about, but it is difficult to see them seriously challenging this year. In their primes, they may have had a chance, but against the likes of Wiggins and Nibali, I cannot see where they have any advantage.

There are another group that will be looking for a good showing here as well. Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao should find themselves up the rankings in support of Wiggins, although they would likely need the Englishman to fail to finish the race if they are to have a chance of winning. Robert Gesink has long been talked about as a challenger for the big races, but has had a terrible run of luck. Carlos Betancur and Benat Intxausti could potential push for a top ten finish, but are unlikely to serious contend for the title.

The one name that has not been mentioned so far though is the defending champion, Ryder Hesjedal. The Canadian won this race by 16 seconds from Joaquin Rodriguez last year and is looking to become the first rider since the legendary Miguel Indurain to retain the Giro title.

Ryder Hesjedal is the defending champion from 2012

Hesjedal has followed a very similar preparation to last year with a few stage races and an attacking Ardennes week. He was instrumental in Dan Martin’s victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and would appear to be in good form. He always rides well late into Grand Tours and will fancy his chances of taking time on Wiggins on the Galibier and the climbs in the final week.

Bradley Wiggins is rightfully the favourite in the betting, but it certainly won’t be easy for him and Team Sky. There are plenty of difficult climbs and the other favourites will be looking to attack Sky at every opportunity. The last few weeks have shown that the Sky machine can be derailed and the climbs in this race, particularly later in the race, are tough to control and someone could take advantage.


1. Wiggins
2. Hesjedal
3. Nibali
4. Scarponi
5. Uran
6. Henao
7. Gesink
8. Intxausti
9. Pozzovivo
10. Santambrogio

Recommended Bets:

Ryder Hesjedal E/W @ 10/1 (888sport)
Benat Intxausti Top 10 @ 4/5 (Sporting Bet)
Rigoberto Uran Top 10 @ 7/5 (Sporting Bet)
Robert Gesink to beat Samuel Sanchez @ 5/4 (Bet Victor)
Benat Intxausti to beat Robert Kiserlovski @ 10/11 (Bet Victor)

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