Sunday, May 04, 2014

It's Your Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Due: the Maglia Rosa Contenders!

Yep, it's just five days to the fabulous Giro d'Italia, and now that we've covered the course, the jerseys, and the fan basics, it's time to look at the likely candidates for the maglia rosa! Exciting new UCI rule: anyone riding the Giro d'Italia for the sole reason that they think they can't win the Tour de France will be nut-kicked daily immediately upon sign-in each morning. That'll force you to genuflect to the superior Giro, unworthy swine! So, Your General Classification Contenders:

Defending champ Vincenzo Nibali: not here. Of course, *why* one would save oneself for July as opposed to peaking now is an annoying mystery, but then, he's clearly got a little more work to do anyway. It'll still be here for next year, Vincenzo!

Cadel Evans (BMC): sure, he's older than the actual Dolomites, but for a primordial fossil, he's sure got legs. Strengths: rides well in extremely foul conditions, including rain, sleet, snow, mud, dust, and plague of locusts; time trials well, and there's actually quite a bit of that this year. He's also got the strongest team of all the GC contenders, which is absolutely going to matter in the bone-deep grind of the third week, including, of course, Euskaltel team captain/former Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sanchez, who, as we've already seen by his service in the Classics for Philippe Gilbert, is willing and able to tank himself blasting apart the field on a climb. Cadel, you *better* be nice to 'im! Weaknesses: how dare you suggest that anyone with Sanchez on his team has "weaknesses," you faithless heretic weasel!

Purito Rodriguez (Katusha): he's been *so* close to the top of the podium at *so* many (well, several, which is more than most people without the benefits of a Tramadol line permanently implanted in his butt) Grand Tours, and Purito, as long as Samu gets a stage win, I hope this one is yours. Strengths: damn, can he climb, and just when you think he's cracked for good, he claws his way back again every single time. Weaknesses: hates the cold, and usually, you can count on one GC-busting blizzard in this race. Bundle him *up*, Katusha--and keep some extra warm gloves in the team car!

Nairo Quintana (Movistar): you saw him at the Tour last year. 'Nuff said! Strengths: inexhaustible climber, and with so many mountaintop finishes, that gives him plenty of opportunity to jump on a rival's moment o' crisis. Weaknesses: aside from one or two freak efforts, like other pure climbers he can't time trial for !@#$. Plus, he's made it clear he's only riding the Giro because Movistar's making him to get him a little more seasoning (tho' to be fair, Cadel's been clear he'd rather be up for the fight in July). If someone else wants it more--and there are people that do--those two things could knock him back on the podium.

Yer Outsiders: yes, Dan Martin and a few other guys could do well on their own and step up if there's some misfortune. But even so, it's mostly:

Michele Scarponi (Astana). Oh, he'll probably podium, with all the Valverdean intestinal discomfort that'll naturally induce in the rest of us, but he does have a tendency to attack rashly then blow up when someone else counters. Might keep the narcs distracted though if Scarponi has the sense to fly a bit under the radar, which certainly can't hurt!

Ivan Basso (Cannondale): some rehab job, right? Like Cadel, gettin' a little old for this sort of thing, and no, he won't win by the disconcerting margins of the past, but a top-five likelihood nonetheless. Strength and Weakness: Cannondale is bringing blooming youngster Elia Viviani for the sprints, and given his repeated ass-whuppin' of Cavendish this week, the Giro's wholly over-the-top number of sprint stages, and depending on Ivan's legs, they might be tempted to throw just a wee bit too much of their resources behind Elia. But Basso's a two-time champ, and suave as hell, so don't count out the combination of passion and style!

Rigoberto Uran (OPQS): Strengths: stays upbeat under all kinds of pressure, like Samson his flowing locks give immortal powers, and he rhymes with the greatest band of the 80s. Weaknesses: hasn't quite proven himself up to the other GC contenders over the long haul yet, hasn't got as strong a team behind 'im, and again like Samson, if anyone cuts off his hair in the middle of the night, he'll crumble. Forza Rigoberto!

Well, them's mine, and as usual I'm probably wrong so you can all place yer opposing bets with utter confidence. I guess I oughta cover the sprinters next--but geez,this *is* the Giro, after all!

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