For different reasons the major contenders for the overall victory in the Giro d’Italia haven’t shown their best self in 2018. Title defender Dumoulin was plagued by mechanical issues in the Abu Dhabi Tour and crashed out of contention in the Tirreno-Adriatico. His first proper performance was in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he rode the finale to finish fifteenth.
It was hard to notice Froome in his first two races of 2018. Possibly because the salbutamol case was hanging over his head and everybody wanted to talk about it, he under-performed in both the Ruta del Sol and Tirreno. Home-rider Fabio Aru finished twelfth in the Tirreno and a leg injury caused him to abandon the Volta a Catalunya.
Mid April the first clash of Giro-contenders took place in the Tour of the Alps. Thibaut Pinot, Domenico Pozzovivo, Miguel Ángel López, Chris Froome, George Bennett and Fabio Aru went head-to-head during five days of aggressive racing with a lot of vertical metres. Pinot won the GC and his rivals finished in above-mentioned order, while López took the Queen Stage. It became clear that Fabio Aru was not ready for the Giro at all – the Sardinia lost ground when it mattered most.
To be frank, Wout Poels, Marc Soler and Simon Yates have the best early season credentials in 2018. The Dutchman won a stage in the Ruta del Sol and finished second on GC, while he took the time trial in Paris-Nice before he crashed out of the race in a perfect position to win the overall. Then Soler went on to pocket the GC of the Race to the Sun, albeit only 4 seconds ahead of Yates. Winning stages in both races, the 25-year old Briton not only finished second in Paris-Nice, he also ended up fourth on the Volta a Catalunya in the same time as third place Pierre Latour – so basically that’s a podium spot. Last year, Simon Yates won the Tour de France’s white jersey. Is he ready to rumble with the big boys?
Another dark horse is Michael Woods. The 29-year old Canadian started cycling five years ago and he rode his first Grand Tour in last year’s Giro d’Italia. He finished 38th only to went on and race to seventh place in La Vuelta later that year. Recently he continued on that upward curve and finished in second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, his first podium in a Monument.
Last year, Dumoulin won the Giro d’Italia 31 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana and 40 seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali. Being a specialist, the Dutchman made the big differences in the time trials. He put 3 minutes into Nibali, who proved to be the best time trialist of his competitors.
The 2018 Giro features 44.2 kilometres of time trialing, while the 2017 edition had 69.1 kilometres against the clock. Furthermore, with Froome lined-up the title defender faces strong competition on his preferred discipline. On the other hand, if nature had not struck in last year’s Queen Stage, which forced Dumoulin to throw off his pink accessories and dive into the roadside ditch, he would not have lost 2 minutes on his way to Bormio.
Dumoulin’s bowel problems seem to be caused by high altitude. The 2017 Queen Stage traveled over the Stelvio Pass and peaked at 2,858 metres, while this edition’s Cima Coppi is reached at the Colle delle Finestre at an elevation of 2,135 metres. Let’s see if this works for Tom…
Favourites 2018 Giro d’Italia
***** Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, Simon Yates, Thibaut Pinot
**** Fabio Aru, Michael Woods, Miguel Ángel López, Esteban Chaves
*** George Bennett, Sergio Henao, Domenico Pozzovivo, Marc Soler
** David de la Cruz, Davide Formolo, Sam Oomen
* Louis Meintjes, Rohan Dennis, Wout Poels
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Giro d’Italia 2018: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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Stage 14: Monte Zoncolan
Stage 19: Colle delle Finestre
Stage 19: Colle di Sestriere
Stage 19: Monte Jafferau