There are plenty of variables for the upcoming Giro d'Italia which will make it such an exciting race, but here are a few predictions we'll make before the start

Fabian Cancellara won’t wear the pink jersey

Fabian Cancellara in action during the Stage 7 time tirial of the 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico

Fabian Cancellara in action during the Stage 7 time tirial of the 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico

It’s a controversial one, because I think we all want to see him achieve his goals in his final season, but there’s part of me that thinks Fabian Cancellara won’t win the Giro d’Italia‘s opening time trial on Friday.

He’s favourite to win the 9.8km time trial, ahead of Tom Dumoulin, and has been working hard to achieve his dream of wearing the maglia rosa since the end of the cobbled Classics.

Cancellara missed out on the Tour de France’s yellow jersey on the short time trial in Utrecht last July, but won the maillot jaune on the following day’s stage.

On paper, the two sprints in the Netherlands look pretty innocuous, so Cancellara could have difficulty getting the bonus seconds to split him from the pack.

Watch out for Dumoulin, or, like at the Tour, an outsider to take the first pink of the race…maybe LottoNL-Jumbo’s Jos van Emden. Now that’s a bold prediction.

Marcel Kittel will win the two sprint stages in the Netherlands

Marcel Kittel wins stage one of the 2016 Dubai Tour

Marcel Kittel wins stage one of the 2016 Dubai Tour

The sprint classification at this year’s Giro is absolutely stacked, with only three or four of the peloton’s best fastmen not involved.

This time last year we wouldn’t have backed Marcel Kittel to win a Grand Tour stage ever again, but after a strong start to the season the German is very much the man to beat in the flat stages.

Stages two and three between Arnhem and Niejmegen (and back the following day) are pretty much as flat as they come, so Kittel will have his sights set on two quick victories to double his Giro tally.

Andre Greipel, Arnaud Démare, Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani will all be in the hunt, but I just can’t look past Kittel for the wins.

Valverde will wear the pink jersey but not win the GC

Alejandro Valverde wins stage five of the 2016 Ruta del Sol to overhaul overnight leader Tejay van Garderen and secure the overall victory.

Alejandro Valverde wins stage five of the 2016 Ruta del Sol to overhaul overnight leader Tejay van Garderen and secure the overall victory.

Alejandro Valverde may be among the best climbers in this year’s Giro, but I don’t think he’ll come away with the title in his first attempt.

Even if he’s in with a shout of the title, Valverde will probably be eyeing up some stages where he can do well including on the first summit finish on stage six.

If he can limit his losses on the time trial – and few of his main rivals are that good against the clock – there are a few stages in the second week that will also pique the Spaniard’s fancy. Maybe stage 14, with the uphill finish after a series of high mountains.

Cannondale will win the one of the major classifications

Rigoberto Uran attacks on stage four of the 2016 Tour de Romandie

Rigoberto Uran attacks on stage four of the 2016 Tour de Romandie

Cannondale have stacked their lineup with young climbers, some of who could walk away with a stage win or two this year. They have a genuine shot at the overall title with Rigoberto Uran, but it’s a reasonably long shot for him to win given the competition.

The jerseys they are most likely to win, though, are the young rider’s classification or the mountains classification.

Having won a stage at last year’s race, Davide Formolo comes back to the Giro with the knowledge of what it takes to be successful over three weeks.

Formolo came second in the youth ranks last year to Fabio Aru, but was remarkably consistent over the course of the race, finishing inside the top 35 in 11 of the 21 stages, and never outside the top 100.

Elsewhere, Uran could challenge for the mountains classification, especially if his GC chances are dealt an early blow. Getting in a couple of breaks in the final week and a few high finishes in the mountain stages could see the Colombian don the jersey.

Giacomo Nizzolo will retain his sprint title

Giacomo Nizzolo wins stage one of the 2016 Tour of Croatia

Giacomo Nizzolo wins stage one of the 2016 Tour of Croatia

While Kittel and Greipel may be the strongest sprinters in the race, the chance of them making the final stage in Turin are quite slim, with aspirations for the Tour de France still in their minds.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), though, will have designs on reaching the final finish line on May 29 in the red jersey for the leading sprinter.

In the end last year Nizzolo eased to the win in this classification, despite the fact that Viviani wore it for most of the majority of the race.

Some strong performances in the final week when the other fast guys are struggling to recover from the mountains will hold Nizzolo in good stead for a repeat of his 2015 feat.