By Jonny Long
The first Grand Tour of the 2019 season is upon us, with the Giro d'Italia starting in Bologna on May 11 presenting the first opportunity for GC riders to take home a major stage race victory.
Whilst Team Ineos' young Colombian talent Egan Bernal will no longer be lining up after crashing during a training ride, the field is packed with climbing talent who will be fighting it out for the maglia rosa, hoping it's on their shoulders by the time they get to Verona for the closing time trial on Sunday June 2.
With defending champion Chris Froome saving himself for a tilt at a fifth Tour de France win in the summer, here are the riders tipped to take the victory in 2019.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is favourite to win the race, with odds of 7/4, and it's easy to see why with the Slovenian's imperious form over the past year, winning countless races.
In 2018, Roglič won the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour de Romandie before his impressive fourth place finish at the Tour de France. His 2019 has also seen him pick up victories in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie, as he built his form towards the Giro.
Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) is second favourite, which is fitting for a rider who finished second in both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France last year. He has odds of 5/2 to go one better and pick up a second Giro title after his victory in 2017.
The Dutchman has ridden a lighter schedule in his early season this year, saying it's "better to be mentally fresh" ahead of a Grand Tour.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) will be looking to win a second Grand Tour in a row, after claiming the 2018 Vuelta a Espana and making it a trio of British wins after Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome (Team Ineos) claimed the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.
Yates will be Britain's best hope in this year's Italian tour, with odds of 11/4 to improve on last year's 21st place finish.
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is Italy's most likely contender to win his nation's race, with the 34-year-old looking to pick up his third Giro title after victories in 2013 and 2016. Despite not winning so far in 2019, the Italian says his form is "right where it needs to be" before the start in Bologna, after racing the Tour of the Alps where he attacked often to test the Team Ineos duo of Eddie Dunbar and Pavel Sivakov.
Astana's last Giro winner was Vincenzo Nibali in 2016, but will now rely on Miguel Ángel López to bring home a victory for the Kazakhstani outfit.
The Colombian won the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, beating a talented field containing Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Egan Bernal and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who all finished within 25 seconds. Lopez is valued at 10/1 for the win.
Mikel Landa's only Grand Tour podium came at the Giro in 2015, his next best performances being in the Tour de France, with a fourth place finish in 2017 followed by seventh in 2018. Admittedly, the Spaniard has sometimes found himself riding for others during his career, but will take full leadership responsibilities at the 2019 Giro, with odds of 18/1 for the 29-year-old to win his first ever Grand Tour.
Until Rick Zabel picked up a win on stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire, 2019 had so far been a year to forget for Katusha-Alpecin, their early season culminating in the parting of ways with sprinter Marcel Kittel who has decided to take a break from racing.
The Swiss team will therefore be hoping their Russian climber Ilnur Zakarin can bring a change of fortune to the outfit with a strong performance at the Giro. He's an outside bet with odds of 40/1.
Closing out the top ten of Giro favourites, according to the bookies, is a trio of Team Ineos riders. The British team lost their planned leadership duo for the Giro after Egan Bernal crashed on a training ride and Gianni Moscon deemed to not be on good enough form for the three-week stage race.
Instead, Tour of the Alps 2019 stars Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov will feature in a young team that is expected to go for stage wins. Their odds for victory in the overall classification, however, are 50/1 and 66/1 respectively. Their team-mate, the young Colombian Ivan Sosa, is also valued at 66/1 in what will be Team Ineos' first Grand Tour.
Giro d'Italia 2019 odds (Winner – Oddschecker)
Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma - 7/4
Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb - 5/2
Simon Yates (Gbr) Mitchelton-Scott - 11/4
Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida - 8/1
Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana - 10/1
Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar - 18/1
Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin - 40/1
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Team Ineos - 50/1
Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Ineos - 66/1
Ivan Sosa (Col) Team Ineos - 66/1
All odds correct at time of publication
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