by Gerald Churchill
2015 Giro d'Italia Preview and Predictions
The 2015 Giro d’Italia will be 3,481 km long. It will include six mountaintop finishes, three other mountain stages, six flat stages, and two time trials, one of which will be 59 km long. The race will be longer than the Tour de France, and, arguably, more challenging.
The Giro will begin in northwest Italy at San Lorenzo al Mare with a 17.6-km team time trial to San Remo. Stages 2 through 4 will be lumpy but should end in bunch sprints. For the contenders, avoiding the crashes that accompany bunch gallops will be key. The race’s first mountaintop finish, a Category 2 climb to Abetone, will occur in Stage 5. The first serious challenge for the heads of state will be the Category 1 ascent to the finish in Stage 8. After this, the riders will enjoy their first rest day.
The Giro’s second week will be a combination of flat and lumpy stages that will provide opportunities for escapees and sprinters. This week will climax with Stage 14, a rolling, 59.4-km time trial, the longest in any 2015 grand tour. Stage 15 will end with a Category 1 ascent to the finish that will should produce fireworks among the contenders. The second rest day will follow the stage.
Week three is when the Giro will be decided. Stage 16 will feature five climbs, with the Category 1 Mortirolo being the toughest of them, and the Category 3 ascent to Aprica being the last. Stage 19 will have three Category 1 climbs in the last 75 km, including the ascent to the finish in Cervinia. The race’s penultimate stage will take the riders over the hors categorie Colle delle Finestre before they tackle the Category 3 climb to the finish in Sestriere. This will set the stage for Stage 21, which will be a procession for the winner.
Who will win this year’s Giro? Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) is this observer’s favorite to win the race. Contador will attempt the Giro-Tour double and has had a slow buildup. However, the flashes of form that the Spaniard has shown indicate that he is on target to take the first leg of his challenge. Contador has won two stages of the Vuelta a Andalucia and finished fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico and fourth at the Volta a Catalunya. The Tinkoff-Saxo Bank man suffered crash injuries at the Volta a Catalunya, but he has said that they did not interfere with his training and that he has recovered from them. Contador’s combination of form, experience, and team support should catapult him to the Giro podium’s top step.
Richie Porte (Sky Pro Cycling) has had a fine spring. The Australian has won Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino. He has outstanding form, and he is a very good time trialist who should do well in Stage 14. However, Porte has been inconsistent in grand tours. He might not be a grand tour rider, but with Sky providing a strong contingent to support him, Porte will have a chance to show what he can do in a grand tour.
Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) finished second in last year’s Giro. He has the climbing ability to stay with the best, and he has the time trialing chops to take time out of his rivals in Stage 14. In fact, he won last year’s long time trial in the Giro and became the first Colombian to don the maglia rosa. Uran has an excellent chance to return to the podium in 2015.
Fabio Aru (Astana) hopes to improve on his third place in 2014. In 2015, the Italian has finished sixth in the Volta a Catalunya, although he missed the Giro del Trentino because of illness. He will have to limit his losses in the Stage 14 time trial, but the Astana man’s climbing should put him near the podium.
Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has always ridden solid Giri. The Italian veteran has four top 10 finishes in the Giro, and he is a threat to win mountain stages. However, Pozzovivo is an unimpressive time trialist, and Stage 14 should knock him out of the running. The Ag2r-La Mondiale man should ride well enough to finish in the top 10 again.
Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin protected by POC) won the Giro in 2012, but he failed to finish the following year and could do no better than ninth in 2014. Hesjedal has good climbing chops, and he can hold his own racing against the clock. Expect the Canadian to ride a solid if not brilliant Giro and finish in the top 10.
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