Six British riders will take to the start line of the 2008 Giro d’Italia in Palermo, Sicily this Saturday (May 10).
The British riders competing are: Mark Cavendish (Team High Road), Stephen Cummings (Barloworld), David Millar (Slipstream), Geraint Thomas (Barloworld), Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) and Bradley Wiggins (Team High Road).
The six represent the biggest British contingent in the race in living memory, and there is also a real chance of a British stage win. Cavendish has already taken four wins this season – two stages at the Three Days of De Panne, the Scheldeprijs, Tour of Romandy prologue.
Millar will also be looking for a win in one of three time trial stages. The Scotsman has been coming back in to form through the spring after picking up a bug in Paris-Nice, and he often improves throughout a three-week tour. If he were to win a stage of the Giro he would become the first British rider since his namesake Robert to win stages in all three grand tours.
Below is our guide to the British contingent, and we predict who will do what.
Steve Cummings (Barloworld)
CW says: Finished the Giro d?Italia at the first attempt last year. Will aim to do so again as he prepares for a possible Olympic Games call-up later in the summer.
Geraint Thomas (Barloworld)
CW says: Celebrates his 22nd birthday on the day the race goes to the Marmolada. Nice birthday present! Finished the Tour de France last year, wants to do the same at the Giro as preparation for the Olympic Games where he?s a key part of the team pursuit squad.
Mark Cavendish (High Road)
CW says: Will be High Road?s protected sprinter. Has been working on his climbing in order to cope with the hills the Giro organisers have chucked in to liven up the flat stages. There are three or four genuine chances for the Isle of Man sprinter, though, the best of which come on stage 12 and 13. Also celebrates a birthday during this Giro, on stage 11.
Bradley Wiggins (High Road)
CW says: Will take charge on the road for the High Road squad in the opening team time trial, then work for the team as he gets the racing in his legs ready for the Olympics. This is his third Giro ? he was outside the time limit on stage 18 in 2003 but finished in 2005. None of the time trials look to his liking, although if he finishes strongly, he could fancy the final run in to Milan.
Charly Wegelius (Liquigas)
Role: Climbing domestique
CW says: Never happier than when he?s got some work to do for a team-mate in contention. This year he?ll hope that?s Nibali and Pellizotti. A dab hand at the Giro, finishing every year from 2003 to 2006. He pulled out in the final week last year but went on to finish 45th in the Tour de France.
David Millar (Slipstream-Chipotle)
Role: Captain on the road
CW says: Could become the first British rider since his namesake Robert Millar to win stages in all three grand tours. Millar?s best chance probably comes in the team time trial, where Slipstream boast a very strong chance. But as that?s a team race it?s hardly fair to count towards that particular record so he?ll have to chance his arm somewhere else by getting in the breaks.
BRITS AT THE GIRO
Best overall finish
Robert Millar, 2nd behind Stephen Roche in 1987
British Giro stage winners
Vin Denson 1966
Robert Millar 1987