Two years ago, when Dave Brailsford?s vision of leading a British-backed team into the world of professional cycling was first aired, there was a common reaction.

Britain hasn?t got the riders.

On Saturday, nine British riders are set to start the Giro d?Italia (May 9-31) ? enough for a whole team. It could have been 11 if Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas had been selected for Barloworld.

In any event, it?s a record number of British starters in the Giro d?Italia.

Between them the Brit Pack will represent seven teams. Columbia-Highroad?s Mark Cavendish is the highest-profile, and he goes into the race hoping to win at least one stage.

It is possible he could contend for as many as five before his likely withdrawal after a fortnight.

If Columbia-Highroad win the team time trial in Lido di Venezia on Saturday, Cavendish could even find himself challenging for the pink jersey if Sunday?s stage to Trieste comes down to a sprint. There are time bonuses on the line and the combination of a good time on Saturday, and a victory on Sunday could see him become the first British rider ever to pull on the pink jersey.

He?ll be challenged by the American sprinter Tyler Farrar, who rides for Garmin-Slipstream, who are the other favourites for the team time trial.

Cavendish?s coach Rod Ellingworth said the Isle of Man sprinter is not at his best as the Giro approaches.

?After the spring, with all the hype around Milan-San Remo and the track worlds, he rode Ghent-Wevelgem, which was a high-pressure day, even if it didn?t work out for him, he took a break, which went as planned. Just before he returned to racing at the Tour of Romandie, he was a little bit ill, and that set him back a bit,? said Ellingworth.

?There?s no panic, it?s just I know he?s not quite where he?d like to be. If he?d been in the front group on Sunday [the final stage of the Tour of Romandie, won by Oscar Freire] I think he?d have been happy with his form.

?He?s not far off, but he?s not flying, so we?ll see how it goes. It?ll be good to see him go head-to-head with [Alessandro] Petacchi.?

Ellingworth confirmed the tentative plan that Cavendish will ride two weeks of the Giro before withdrawing. Last year Cavendish completed the Giro, then did two weeks of the Tour de France. This year it?s likely to be the other way round.

?First and foremost, he doesn?t want to disrespect the race of the organisers, so if he?s in the running for the points jersey, he?ll continue. But in the Giro the points for the mountain stages are the same as the flat stages, so it?s unlikely he?d be in contention in the second half of the race,? said Ellingworth.

?He has to be realistic. If he?s going to complete the Tour, two weeks of the Giro is probably enough, particularly when you look at the profile of the final week.

?If he can get through two weeks and win a stage, he?ll be happy. Of course, he?ll want to be competitive every time there?s a chance to win, but he takes it one race at a time. The goal is to win one stage. If he gets one, he?ll want two, that?s how he is.?

Cavendish is likely to continue until stage 13, which finishes in Florence and offers a chance to win.

With Ellingworth playing down his rider?s hopes, it?s worth bearing in mind Team Cavendish did much the same before Milan-San Remo.

Possible stages for Cavendish

Saturday, May 9

Stage 1 Lido di Venezia team time trial 20.5km

Sunday, May 10

Stage 2 Jesolo ? Trieste 156km

Monday, May 11

Stage 3 Grado ? Valdobbiadene 198km

Sunday, May 17

Stage 9 Milan 163km

Wednesday, May 20

Stage 11 Torino ? Arenzano 206km

Friday, May 22

Stage 13 Lido di Camaiore ? Florence 176km

BRITS IN THE GIRO

Mark Cavendish

Columbia-Highroad

Age 23 (turns 24 on May 21)

Third season as a pro

Fourth grand tour

Won two stages of the 2008 Giro

CW verdict Cavendish had a superb spring, winning Milan-San Remo, but followed his Classics campaign with a short break before returning to action at the Tour of Romandie. A minor illness just prior to his return set him back a little and his coach Rod Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly he?s not quite where he?d like to be. However, he will want to win at least one stage as he kicks off his summer stage racing programme. If Columbia do well in the team time trial on Saturday, time bonuses on the subsequent road stages could put the pink jersey within his grasp.

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile>>

Chris Froome

Barloworld

Age 23 (turns 24 on May 20)

Second season as a pro

Second grand Tour

CW verdict Barloworld elected to leave out Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas. The Welshman fractured his pelvis and broke his nose in a crash during the time trial Tirreno-Adriatico and only returned to racing at the Giro del Trentino at the end of April. Cummings has struggled for form, but it is surprising he?s been left out. So Kenyan-born Froome is the only British rider in the Barloworld team. It?ll be interesting to see how he goes in the mountains but his chief goal will be to work for the team?s climber, Juan Mauricio Soler.

Chris Froome: Rider Profile>>

Jeremy Hunt

Cervélo

Age 35

14th season as a pro

Third grand tour

CW verdict At the age of 35, Hunt gets his first taste of the Giro. In fact, this will be only the third time he has started a grand tour. He finished the Vuelta a Espana last year and looking at the Cervélo line-up there?s no reason to suggest he won?t get a chance to contest the sprints or go on the attack.

Jeremy Hunt: Rider Profile>>

Dan Lloyd

Cervélo

Fifth season as a pro

First grand tour

CW verdict A late call-up to the Cervélo team, Lloyd impressed with not only his form in the spring Classics, but also his powers of recovery. As a team player, he will be extremely valuable.

Daniel Lloyd: Rider Profile>>

David Millar

Garmin-Slipstream

Age 32

13th season as a pro (absent from July 2004-2006, serving a doping suspension)

13th grand tour

Part of the team time trial-winning Slipstream squad in the 2008 Giro

CW verdict Initially Millar had not planned to ride the Giro. Last year he did the Giro and the Tour and by the time he reached France he was cooked, having started his season in Qatar in January. But a crash in Paris-Nice, which resulted in a broken collarbone, forced a rethink. May not be at his best in Italy, but he?ll still be a key man in the opening team time trial, and can ride himself into form ready for the Tour.

David Millar: Rider Profile>>

Ian Stannard

ISD

Age 21 (turns 22 on May 25)

Second season as a pro

First grand tour

CW verdict Stannard gets his first taste of a grand tour where he will ride in support of Dario David Cioni, the Italian rider who was born in Reading, and Giovanni Visconti, who wore the pink jersey for a week in last year?s Giro.

Ian Stannard: Rider Profile>>

Ben Swift

Katusha

Age 21

First season as a pro

First grand tour

CW verdict In his first year as a professional, Swift is going to the Giro as part of the Katusha team. So far the 21-year-old has handled everything that?s been thrown at him, so the Giro represents a significant reward for a superb opening to the season. So far he?s finished second at Nokere Koerse, taken top five finishes in a stage of Criterium International and three stages of the Tour of the Basque Country, as well as completely Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne. Given a chance, Swift could be the surprise package at the Giro.

Ben Swift: Rider Profile>>

Charly Wegelius

Silence-Lotto

Age 31

10th season as a pro

11th grand tour

CW verdict Wegelius knows the Giro inside-out. He?s started six times and finished five, proving himself to be a fine domestique in the mountains. With Cadel Evans opting out of the Giro, Silence-Lotto have very little to aim for overall, which should mean a free role for Wegelius.

Charly Wegelius: Rider Profile>>

Bradley Wiggins

Garmin-Slipstream

Age 29

Eighth season as a pro

Sixth grand tour

CW verdict One of the lynchpins of the team time trial squad, Wiggins has the opportunity to make his mark on a grand tour. If Garmin are in a position to win the team time trial, could he be the first across the line to take the pink jersey?

Bradley Wiggins: Rider Profile>>


Giro d’Italia 2009 links

News

Dan Lloyd gets late Giro call-up

Armstrong’s special Giro bikes unveiled

Daniel Lloyd overlooked for Giro ride

Cummings and Thomas not selected for Giro d’Italia

Cavendish tests Giro form at Tour of Romandie

David Millar confirms he’s riding in 2009 Giro

Bennati to take on Cavendish in Giro 2009 sprints

2009 Giro d’Italia to start in Venice

Evans and Silence-Lotto disagree on Giro 2009 ride

Armstrong to ride 2009 Giro

Tuttosport reveals 2009 Giro d’Italia route

Dolce & Gabbana design new Giro jersey

Features

Giro d’Italia 2009: The Big Preview

Brits in the Giro 2009

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

CW Classic: the 1987 Giro d’Italia


2008 Giro d’Italia archive

Giro d’Italia 2008 coverage index – race reports, photos, results

From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia

Giro 2008: The final word on this year’s race

Brits at the 2008 Giro: photo special

Five days to go, what’s in store?

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)

Giro d’Italia 2008 preview

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