Monday, May 01, 2017

It's Yer 100th Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Due: the Contenders!

Okay, you got the language down. You know the course. So who--with the obvious and tragic exception of Michele Scarponi, to whom we did an earlier Giro tribute--are we looking at, and what are their chances? Let's preview!

The Real Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida): He's the defending champ, tho now on a different team than the last one (Astana) he won with. And *any* Italian, much less someone as cutthroat as two-time Giro winner the Shark of Messina, is gonna want to go down in history as the campeone of the 100th edition. But his team is new, so they haven't done a grand tour together before. The good news: thanks to their big-bucks sponsors, they're bringing a walloping--and Giro-experienced--squadra, including Valerio Agnoli, Giovanni Visconti, Manuele Boaro, and oldie-but-goodie Franco Pellizotti, with the added firepower of Konstantin Svitsov. Wherever you end up, we're pretty sure it'll be at least on the podium, Nibs!

Mikel Landa (Team Sky): Shut up, he can too! Go to hell! Well, the eternal !@#$wits over at Team Sky have disastrously declared that dear Mikel and Geraint Thomas will have "co-captaincy" at the Giro, which means (1) they're going to blow all their !@#damn energy figuring out who deserves sole leadership; (2) tactically, they're going to be !@#$, and (3) no matter what Mikel Landa says--and he's said a lot of contradictory things of late--with non-Tour Grand Tour heir apparent/fawned-over management darling Geraint Thomas on hand, Mikel is absolutely unequivocally !@#$ed. On the plus side, the chance that Mikel will wake up from a troubled sleep with a gigantic revelation about his crap situation leaves open a significant possibility than he's going to go for blood like Froome on Wiggins. But by then, it may well be too late. You *suck*, Sky!

Geraint Thomas (Sky): !@#$ you, you shoulda been backing defending champ Mikel last week at the Giro del Trentino, you little !@#$! On the grounds of extreme annoyance, I decline to analyze this horrible scenario any further.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar): Look, I *get* it. He maintains strict radio silence for the 8 months of the year he's at home training in Colombia "at altitude," where he is totally coincidentally completely unreachable by land,sea, air, tunnel, riverboat, or internet. No-one is *ever* gonna give a !@#$ about it, so let's just move *on*, shall we? Aside from Nibali, and of course Mikel to whom all should bow (shut up, he can too, go to hell!), the only other real competition for the top spot, barring ill-fortune, is wee Nairo. Weakness: the time trial, at least theoretically. Strength: this being the 100th Giro, the two of 'em oughtn't to decide it. And while this prior winner is a smashing pure climber and has fine tactical sense despite his relative youth, he *is* idiotically going for the fabled Giro-Tour double, which means he (1) risks holding back too much for July, endangering his Giro or (2) risks blasting too away much energy at the Giro, screwing his chances at the Tour. As for his squad, Movistar, to its credit, isn't !@#$ing around: Amador, Anacona, Izagirre, thankfully *not* Valverde, Rojas, even Bennati--who, despite his sprinter's prowess, wrenched his guts out as an indispensable mountain domestique for Alberto Contador and will no doubt transfer his allegiance here. Now let our little Izagirre go for a stage win after you've locked in the GC, Nairo!

The Outsiders 'n' Top Ten-ners:

Bauke Mollema: 1st of all, how can you *not* love Bauke Mollema? That said, if Trek has *any* brains, they're not gonna burn all their Grand Tour matches for a Top Ten (or even Five) at the Giro if they really want to have a chance of beating that freak Froome and his android army at the Tour de France, particularly since, as the Tour will happily brag to you, there's been no do--uh, positive tests for *anything* at the most prestigious race on Earth (and don't even *get* me started there) since approximately when Landis was popped. But I'd love to see Mollema get a nice high placing all the same!

Tom Dumoulin: let's be honest, by peloton standards, Dumoulin's the approximate size of an overfed wooly mammoth, so his recent-years' spate of climbing success makes about as much sense as Estaban Chaves pounding on Andre Greipel in a sprint (or being able to pound on the Gorilla hard enough to make him think it's anything but a gnat he's swatting, for that matter). But climb he can, except for maybe the nastiest gradients in the Dolomites, so if he doesn't, say, have a 14-minutes-in-one-day spectacular crack, I suppose he can do pretty well. Not as well as Nairo though!

Yates, Kruijswijk: I understand. And I like them. But c'mon--all this top of the podium %^&* I'm reading, really? Though Tejay, with your usual class, I positively expect a good show!

The Climbers: yeah, if you can climb, you're aiming for GC here. Except our darling ex-Euskaltel riders, who seem to have a "Stomp On Me" clause in each of their contracts. Screw you, ProTour!

The Sprinters: Andre Greipel. And, y'know, some other guys, except Elia Viviani, which must've been a kick in the nuts so I'm sorry about that. Forza Gorillaaaaaaaaaa!

The Breakaway Artists: !@#dammit why didn't someone hire Amets so he could light those up? Anyhoo, every single Italian at the Giro is honor-bound to absolutely crush themselves trying to win a 100th Giro stage in their hometown. You wanna do all that research or got it all right off the top of your head, well fill me in! High on my Official List of Things That Ain't Happenin'--the dashing Pippo Pozzato taking one last win, but at least we can count on him flexing his latest tats for the expectant press. Vai Pippoooooooooooo!

Welp, there's your quick guide to who's gonna be who at this year's Giro. Now on to the most beautiful race on Earth--and thank you Astana for riding on in memory of your friend and compatriot!


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