The ‘First’ Grand Tour of the season begins tomorrow in what is a much later slot to its intended 9-31 of May, and while this race may have been delayed, preparation of the big contenders was likely just delayed. In these predictions we will look over the contenders for the General Classification (Maglia Rosa), the Points Classification (Maglia Ciclamino) the Mountains Classification (Maglia Azzurra) and the Young Rider Classification (Maglia Bianca). These are the four most important jerseys that the peloton fights over for 21 stages of the Giro D’Italia, however before I go into them a bit about the Giro itself.
The Giro D’Italia
The Giro D’Italia is the second Grand Tour of the season even though it takes place in the normal cycling calendar. While the Giro may still take a back seat to the Tour de France in terms of worldwide recognition, to some it is seen as much more difficult. The Giro is usually back loaded in the sense of the race takes place all over the beautiful country of Italy, with many flat rolling stages in the first two weeks. The final week is where the racing begins, with incredibly steep and difficult climbs. This edition however, the race is full of hills and mountains, the race will begin from stage 3 up the side of Mount Etna. What the Tour de France has in reputation and majesty, the Giro makes up for in difficulty and relentlessness.
All predictions will be done on a from favourite to outsider in our list, the higher up the list you are the better your chance to win it.
Maglia Bianca – Young Rider Classification
The winner of the White Jersey for the Young Riders classification receives this honour for completing the race in the shortest amount of time. This award is given to riders 25 and under however so can technically be won by the overall winner (as seen in this year’s Tour de France with Tadej Pogacar). This can happen, however since the inception of this award in 1976 only two riders have won both the General Classification and the Young rider jerseys.
Alexander Vlasov – Team Astana
Debuting in his first grand tour this year, Alexander Vlasov is the odds-on favourite to take the Maglia Bianca. A solid climber who recently came 5th overall in the Tirreno-Adriatico, which is seen by the cycling world as the Giro warm up. In finishing 5th in the Tirreno-Adriatico he also managed to win himself the young rider jersey there so there is reason for the hype surrounding his challenge.
Team Astana have a leader in Jakob Fuglsang who has been a never really performed on the grand tour stage. The team loves to change its leader based on the hot hand, if Vlasov is riding well and Fuglsang shows any kind of struggles, aiming for the young jersey might take a back seat to the Maglia Rosa.
Chance – Should be his to lose, he is favourite a reason with a strong showing in the Tirreno-Adriatico.
Sam Oomen – Team Sunweb
This will be the third time that Oomen attempts the Giro and after a hoping to build on his 9th place from 2 years ago. Last year he managed to win the young rider classification at the Tirreno-Adriatico and finished 9th overall and he is a rider ready to break out. His team is led by Wilco Kelderman in the GC and Michael Matthews in the sprints and points. Oomen will likely be one of Kelderman’s support riders which could hamper his Maglia Bianca ambitions if Team Sunweb feel a real challenge coming on.
Chance – His chances at this jersey feel like they rest of Wilco Kelderman’s shoulders, if he is looking good, he may be dragged into a lieutenant role.
Joao Almeida – Deceunick-Quick-Step
Joao Almeida has been excellent since the season restarted with 5 top 10s and a young riders jersey; he really is the form man. Looking at the list of starters from Quick-Step the 22-year-old looks like he could be their main hope in the General Classification. This will be his debut at a Grand Tour and that is not easy, top 10 would be a huge result, but as the pressure mounts, if he cracks, he loses both.
Chance – Leap frogs Oomen if he is not leading the team, but with the pressure on, he first grand tour may not yield all he could hope for.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – Ineos Grenadiers
Ineos Grenadiers have their sights set on the General Classification and the Maglia Rosa as per usual, with this challenge coming from undisputed leader Geraint Thomas. This is where Hart can make ground on his rivals in the Maglia Bianca. The team will hope that they are competing throughout the mountains and with his climbing ability Hart is going to factor as a lieutenant for Thomas. His challenge begins and ends with which lieutenant position he is given.
Chance – If he is Thomas’s last man on the road, expect a serious challenge, however if he starts the move, his chance is over.
Jai Hindley – Team Sunweb
The outsider to the Maglia Bianca, and a teammate of Sam Oomen, Jai Hindley is a bit of an unknown quantity. Never really doing much other than being part of the peloton in previous grand tours, one thing is for sure, he can climb with the best of them. He also enjoys a win and is not afraid to take people on, he is a longshot, but if Kelderman has chance at the GC, between Hindley and Oomen one of them could benefit from a real chance at the Young riders jersey.
Chance – He is second behind his own teammate, not to mention the other young riders, but give him a chance and you know he will take it.
Maglia Azzurra – King of the Mountains Classification
The winner of the Maglia Azzurra is the man who gains the most points climbing the mountains, whether this is at the ends of stages, or mountains throughout the race. Each climb is categorised with Fourth Category giving a maximum of 3 points, a Third category has a maximum of 7 points, Second category climbs can give a maximum of 15 points, First category climbs are maxed out at 35 points and finally the Cima Coppi which is the highest point of the Giro gives a total of 45 points. These points are awarded for place over those climbs, with a potential of up to 9 places following that gaining points too. Unlike the Tour de France, the Giro usually has a winner of the Maglia Azzurra who does not factor in the General Classification.
Giulio Ciccone – Trek-Segafredo
If there is one thing that Giulio Ciccone loves, it is the Giro D’Italia King of the Mountains competition. He won it last year and came second to Chris Froome the year before. His team leader Vincenzo Nibali is a serious contender for the General Classification, however with a team built to challenge for the Maglia Rosa, Ciccone is still likely to be free to chase the King of the Mountains jersey. Ciccone in his home tour will be full of confidence knowing he has done it before and knowing these mountains well.
Chance – It is less a question of if he can win it and more a question of who can stop him, if he rides the way we know he can, this should be the clearest winner of all the jerseys.
Thomas De Gendt – Lotto-Soudal
A true all-rounder in every sense of the word, he can climb, he loves a breakaway and he has a surprising turn of pace if needed to sprint when needed. Thomas De Gendt is a veteran of the peloton and always factors in any edition of the Grand Tours. The undisputed leader of his team, you would think he would be chasing the Maglia Rosa, however he has been on the podium of a Grand Tour once and that was all the way back in 2012. He will not be a factor in the General Classification, however, look for him to get into breaks when possible and he will be gunning for a stage win too.
Chance – He will be dangerous every single day, and he will relish the opportunity, if however, he factors at all in the General Classification look for this challenge to end.
Simon Yates – Mitchelton-Scott
It might come as a surprise to have one of the favourites on this list, however he factors on here for three reasons. Firstly, Yates is an excellent climber, but more so he attacks the climb. He attempts to put his rivals into difficulty whenever he is climbing in the mountains and as such gains points by making it over the mountain passes first. Secondly Yates will want a stage win, it does not matter how much pressure is on in the General Classification he will be desperate to win at least one stage. Third and possibly most important, he has been known to crack on the big stage. He can win big as he did in the 2018 Vuelta, however he spectacularly fell apart last year in this same race. If that happens again, his focus becomes winning the Cima Coppi and with that a potential Maglia Azzurra.
Chance – If he contends for the General Classification, then none, if he does not expect him to chase the blue of the mountains.
Miguel Angel Lopez – Team Astana
He just came 6th overall at the Tour de France, so this is not going to be his race, Jakob Fuglsang is his leader and Alexander Vlasov should be second in command. This gives Miguel Angel Lopez freedom to chase that Maglia Azzurra. He will have tired legs after such a long Tour, however on stage 17 he showed his climbing ability by taking the stage and out climbing the entire race. It will be clear very early if he is up for this challenge, and if Fuglsang or Vlasov develop into serious contention, he may be brought back to work for them rather than for himself.
Chance – If he gets his opportunity, he is the best climber of the 5 in these predictions, however his legs will be the real question after such a strong challenge in the Tour.
Geoffrey Bouchard – AG2R La Mondiale
Bouchard is part of a team who love to attack the Peloton, all of the riders being sent to the Giro enjoy a day in the breakaway and we can expect then to go for the stage win every chance they get. With no real leader, they will look to get their name out there as much as they can, so look for them to go after the climber’s jersey. Geoffrey Bouchard is the best pure climber and can be a factor in the bigger mountains’ stages, with this need to be seen from AG2R, look for Bouchard to chase this jersey.
Chance – If AG2R win a stage early, look for a serious challenge from Bouchard, if however, they do not then Bouchard will not be given that same freedom.
Maglia Ciclamino – Points Classification
The sprinters jersey, the one for the fastest men in the world and the most exciting competition in all of cycling. The Maglia Ciclamino is always a hotly contested and while points are picked up in intermediate sprints throughout the days racing, the main points are always given out in the bunch sprints on the flat stages. This jersey is almost always entirely separate to the climber’s jerseys and therefore is always a far different competition.
Arnaud Demare – Groupama-FDJ
Having never really factored in a point classification at a Grand Tour, it is questionable why he would be top of the predictions and there is a reason for this, form. Arnaud Demare is in form right now winning the French National Championships, two points classifications, Milano-Torino and coming second in the UEC European Championships. There has never been a better time for Demare to finally factor in the Maglia Azzurra. He will have stiff competition, but he has shown since the season restarted, he is the man to beat.
Chance – Never has his chance been higher than now, and he needs to strike while the iron is hot.
Michael Matthews – Team Sunweb
Team Sunweb will have someone in the race for each of the jerseys at this years Giro, however their leader is most definitely Michael Matthews. When resources are split between a sprinter and a climber, the sprinter usually gets the best of this help. He has previously won the Green Jersey at the Tour de France, however significantly that year Mark Cavendish was injured, and Peter Sagan disqualified at the height of his power for causing the injury. Matthews usually focuses on the Tour and has finished top 5 in three of the last four years. Expect him to make a strong showing in this year’s points jersey battle.
Chance – He is the leading candidate for this jersey, however he must get past the form of his rivals, if Demare faulters, Matthews is likely to take the win.
Rudy Barbier – Israel Start-Up Nation
This will seem like the obscurest of picks to any fans of cycling, especially since Barbier is debuting in the Giro as his first Grand Tour. The reason for this pick is predicated on the fact that he is always in and around the top 10 in races, however the main reason for this pick is based on the team that he races for, Israel Start-Up Nation. This team are looking to make waves with the recent signing of Grand Tour great Chris Froome for the 2021 season and with that they are going to want to be a big-name team. The Giro is a great chance to show this, and with their stage racers arriving next season, they will want to have a real go at the points jersey before their focus changes.
Chance – Complete outsider, however if given the proper backing of his team, there is no reason that he cannot shock the peloton.
Peter Sagan – Bora Hansgrohe
No one wins Points Classifications like Peter Sagan, has been top 5 in every points competition at the Grand Tours when he has finished the race, winning 7 out of those 10. So then how could he possibly not be the odds-on favourite. Well if this was his focus of the year, then he probably would be, however after seeing him underwhelm in 2nd place in the points at this years Tour de France, I honestly feel like he just does not have the legs. He was beaten in every facet by Sam Bennett at this years Tour and having those days already in his legs, I cannot see how he can truly contend in the Giro.
Chance – Watching him at the Tour, he looked tired, I cannot imagine that has changed and although he will factor, this is not his year in the Maglia Ciclamino.
Elia Viviani – Confidis
A phenomenal sprinter on his day, however he is extremely hit and miss when he is not firing on all cylinders. He is a rider who can beat anybody in a bunch sprint and can really make a race his own if given the opportunity. He has previously won the Maglia Ciclamino in 2018 when he put on the famous jersey on race day 2 and did not take it off again. This is his home Grand Tour, he wants to impress, but the pressure to do so, without a General Classification rider of any note in his team, may get the better of him.
Chance – Outside chance, but in his home race, he is absolutely a wildcard.
Maglia Rosa – General Classification
The Maglia is the second most highly coveted jersey in the whole of cycling, second only to the Tour de France and the Mallot Jaune. Many cyclists will base their season on building to the Giro and for many of these it is in servitude to their leader. It began in 1909 and excluding the world wars has run every year since. Known as the hardest race in cycling, the Maglia Rosa is coveted and only won by the very best cycling in the world.
Geraint Thomas – Ineos Grenadiers
The ultimate Lieutenant, for years Thomas rode as the main support rider, while watching his colleagues winning the grand tours and he works for them without question. Then finally came his opportunity, with the 2018 Tour de France. He won the General Classification having picked up the jersey on stage 11 when winning the stage. He has always been a support rider, and because that was his job, he did nothing else. Upon taking the Tour de France though he proved he could lead and be the champion. Having just come second in the Tirreno-Adriatico he is clearly in form and ready to challenge for his second Grand Tour victory.
Chance – He is the favourite for a reason, his team is filled with climbers and time trialist. Look for Thomas to go out there swinging from day 1 in the time trial.
Vincenzo Nibali – Trek-Segafredo
He has wins in monument races, he has victories in the stage races, and not to mention he has tasted success atop the podium in all three Grand Tours. Based on this alone it is impossible to write off Nibali, he has been there and done it at all 3 Grand Tours. It is Nibali’s home tour therefore he is going to know every turn on the racetrack. This tour is that bit more special for him being that it emanates from Italy. People will underestimate Nibali as he is advancing in age and has not actually won a Grand Tour since 2016, however underestimate him at your peril.
Chance – This is Vincenzo Nibali he always is there or thereabouts with his challenge, having finished top 5 in 12 different Grand Tours. Look for him to attack early and often.
Simon Yates – Mitchelton-Scott
The current holder of the warmup race for the Giro D’Italia, The Tirreno-Adriatico, Simon Yates comes into to race as one of the favourites. He has previously taken the General Classification in the Vuelta therefore he knows what it takes to get the Grand Tour win. He rides for a team who love a stage victory so while his personal ambitions will be the Maglia Rosa, the team will want to be atop the podium on some individual stages. Depending how his challenge goes will see how long the team can hold off throwing their resources into the stage wins. Yates also has the demons of last year’s incredible collapse to deal with, if he has a bad day on the bike, we may see those cracks appearing.
Chance – In terms of form, he is the favourite, however with what happened last year, I cannot back him to do anything but a stage win.
Jakob Fuglsang – Team Astana
Mister nearly rides his 13th race as a team leader, having made the top 10 of a Grand Tour once. He comes into this race on decent form having come 5th in the recent world championships. He is the leader for Team Astana; however, they are not the most patient of teams, with Miguel Angel Lopez and Alexander Vlasov both in the team too, this leadership could change based on who is the hot hand. Realistically this is Jakob Fuglsang’s last real chance to lead at a Grand Tour, he needs to go all in if he has a chance of taking the Maglia Rosa.
Chance – Honestly not that high, he is a brilliant rider, but Grand Tours just do not seem to land for him, if his luck continues as normal expect him to be part of the Peloton into Milan.
Wilco Kelderman – Team Sunweb
The Dutch hope in the Giro will be headed by Steven Kruijswijk and Wilco Kelderman. I feel that while in some circles Kruijswijk is seen as the favourite, if they want to take home the title to the Netherlands, then Kelderman is the best hope. Neither I think will be in the mix by the time the Giro ends. Kelderman comes to the Grand Tours as a contender, but always seems to struggle when the race gets tougher. The Giro is known to be exceptionally hard, so if Kelderman falls away when the going gets difficult, then expect more of the same in this one.
Chance – Relatively low chance of winning, but he will be the best of the rest, expect him to be somewhere between 5-10 unless he shocks the world.
With all the predictions done the final to predict would surely be stage 1 of the Giro D’Italia which is an individual time trial. Team Ineos have sent excellent time trialists to the race, including current world time trial champion Filippo Ganna. With that in mind, I cannot look past Ineos Grenadiers for this opening stage victory, they have the potential to be the top three which would be unheard of.