Friday, May 4, 2012

Giro d’Italia 2012 - The Favorites

Giro d’Italia 2012 - The Favorites The way I see it this is one of the most open Giro d’Italias in many years. Last year Alberto Contador was the mega favorite and the year before him Ivan Basso. This time Contador won’t be there and it’s still unclear if Ivan Basso has fully recovered from his crashes earlier in the season.

Looking at all the GC-contenders I have managed to narrow it down to about riders with an actual chance of winning the Giro. Let’s take a look at them.

Roman Kreuziger
Last year Roman Kreuziger made the Giro d’Italia his big goal of the season. He wanted to end on the podium but in the last week the tough mountains turned out to be too hard for the young Czech. He ended 5th overall and this year it’s time to step up. All the way up I think! Ever since he helped Maxime Iglinsky to a podium place in Strade Bianche, Kreuziger has been among the best riders in all the races he has taken part in. He ended 3rd overall in Tirreno-Adriatico after strong performances in the mountains, 6th in Giro del Trentino (despite a hunger-knock on the last hard mountain stage to Passo Pordoi) and recently he ended 6th overall in Tour de Romandie with a strong time trial. There is absolutely no doubt that Roman Kreuziger is ready to take on the Giro. Another important fact is that Astana is one of the strongest teams in the race with riders like Petrov, Seeldrayers, Dyachenko and especially Tiralongo to help Kreuziger in the mountains. Also Astana should be one of the best teams in TTT compared to the other favorites’ teams. I expect Roman Kreuziger to be on the final podium and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up winning the whole thing.

Michele Scarponi
Two days before the Giro d’italia starts out in Denmark, Michele Scarponi officially got rewarded with the Giro win from last year. Many expect him to win it ‘for real’ (on the roads) this time and together with Roman Kreuziger he is also my big favorite for the title. Scarponi stood out in Trentino for not standing out, but I think he is ready anyway. Last year his results were better before the Giro than now, but don’t be fooled by the stats. Michele Scarponi will get excellent help in the mountains from team mate and former Giro-winner Damiano Cunego as well as from Przemyslaw Niemiec and on the time trials he should lose much time to the other GC-contenders. Scarponi is experienced enough to know how to ride a good race and without Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali this year, Scarponi really is the guy to beat if you want to win Giro d’Italia.

José Rujano
You may have to wait two weeks to see him, but then he will be there. The final week of this Giro is extremely hard and for little José Rujano it couldn’t be better. Recently he showed in Trentino that the condition is good and with a couple of weeks to get to a 100% you can be sure that Rujano will do damage in the mountains this year too. Some might say that the biggest problem for Rujano will be the time trials, but actually it’s himself. José Rujano is very much driven by his heart and how he feels and if he doesn’t has his head in the game all the time, he could easily end up losing the race on a day with no real danger. He also needs to pay attention on the first stages in Denmark where the wind can split up the peloton at any given time. I don’t think José Rujano can win the Giro, but if he hasn’t lost too much time before the peloton reaches the high mountains (stage 14) I think he will make the podium. Anything but a spot among the five best riders in the overall classification would surprise me.

Fränk Schleck
I already wrote about Fränk Schleck’s chances in his Giro right here, so I won’t do much more now. Fränk Schleck got called up and asked to ride the Giro just a week prior to the race and that extra rest could come in handy. The first weeks aren’t so demanding as we have seen in the past and that means that Schleck has the chance to enter the last week a little bit more fresh than his opponents. He may not win the Giro, but I think he will be a very strong contender for the podium.

Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez
Of course Purito has to be on my list of favorites. Last year he started out the Giro a little bit sick but ended in a very strong way and took 4th overall. Like José Rujano, Purito needs to be careful on the first windy stages in Denmark and hope his Katusha team won’t lose too much time in the team time trial. Dani Moreno will be there to support Purito in the mountains and if start the last week within 1½ min of the other favorites you would be a fool not to count him in as a player for the podium – at least. This year Purito finally won a big classic (Fleche Wallone) and with that extra morale boost I think he will do a great Giro d’Italia.

Some may wonder why I haven’t mentioned Ivan Basso among my five top favorites. It’s simple. I really don’t know if he is ready or not. His two crashes earlier in the season seemed to set him back a lot and even though he looked better and better in first Trentino and the Romandie, the Giro is still something different. You have to on the top of your game to win and I honestly don’t know if Basso is there yet. Like Fränk Schleck he may be able to benefit from an easy start and then be ready for the final week, but I have my doubts. I hope Basso will be there, that would be good for the race, so let’s hope he proves me wrong this time.

Normally I would pick a few jokers for the GC but this time I don’t really see any in the very top. Riders like John Gadret, Ryder Hesjedal and Rigoberto Uran all have the potential of doing top10 and maybe even more, but not to win the Giro.

I will take the chance and give you my pre-top10 of the Giro d’Italia 2012
1. Roman Kreuziger
2. Michele Scarponi
3. José Rujano
4. Fränk Schleck
5. Purito Rodriguez
6. Ivan Basso
7. John Gadret
8. Ryder Hesjedal
9. Marco Pinotti
10. Rigoberto Uran

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