[Underneath article was written before the start of the Giro d’Italia and has not been updated]
Given their performances in the most recent editions Richard Carapaz and Simon Yates would have been the riders to watch. Yates looked imperious in 2018. He rode thirteen days in the maglia rosa and won three stages before he cracked in the Colle delle Finestre stage and lost almost 40 minutes. In retrospect, Yates mentioned that his aggressive racing style may have contributed to his collapse. He learned his lesson though, and he took a commanding overall triumph in La Vuelta that September.
Last year, Yates returned to Italy to show the world he was ready to win Italy’s Grand Tour also. But no. His ambitions turned sour and after a bland race he finished eight overall, almost 8 minutes down on race winner Carapaz. The Ecuadorian was supposed to return to Italy to defend his crown, but at the eleventh hour he replaced Geraint Thomas in the start list of the Tour France. The Welshman moved in the opposite direction.
The first two clashes of Giro GC-contenders of 2020 took place in the Vuelta a Burgos and Tour de Pologne. On both occasions, Evenepoel outperformed his rivals. The Belgian youngster triumphed in Pologne’s Queen Stage with a 50 kilometres solo and finished the race minutes ahead of Fuglsang, Yates and Majka, while Carapaz crashed out of contention. Unluckily, Evenepoel fell into a ravine in the Tour of Lombardy and he won’t start in the Giro.
Obviously the most important test for Giro contenders was the Tirreno-Adriatico, which took place in early September. All major contenders for the Giro’s GC, with the exception of Kruijswijk, were there. Yates took the overall ahead of Thomas and Majka, while Kelderman, Vlasov and Masnada rode strong as well. The performances of Fuglslang and Nibali were disappointing, respectively finishing fourteenth and eighteenth in the GC.
In terms of Grand Tours there is a question mark hovering above Fuglsang’s head anyway. The Dane was at a different level last year – winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Ruta del Sol and Critérium du Dauphiné – and he continued his winning streak in 2020 on the Ruta del Sol and, recently, in the Tour of Lombardy. On paper, Fuglsang should be a top contender for the maglia rosa. Yet, he has only finished in the top ten of a Grand Tour on one previous occasion – 7th in the 2013 Tour de France.
Vincenzo Nibali then… The Sicilian won all three Grand Tours and although he finished in second place last year, his best days are behind him. The Shark of Messina is almost 36 years of age. Not that we should rule someone out by age alone, but a GC win would make him, after Chris Horner, the oldest post-WWII Grand Tour winner.
Geraint Thomas targets the Giro in a bid to double up his Tour de France win with another Grand Tour title. The amount of ITT kilometres in the route must be to his liking. As was his performance in the Tirreno-Adriatico.
Favourites 2020 Giro d’Italia
***** Simon Yates, Geraint Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk
**** Rafal Majka, Wilco Kelderman, Jakob Fuglsang
*** Vincenzo Nibali, Aleksandr Vlasov, Ilnur Zakarin
** Giulio Ciccone, Sam Oomen, Miguel Ángel López
* Jack Haig, James Knox, Fausto Masnada, Carl Fredrik Hagen