Nairo Quintana, MovistarThough it seems an odd choice from Movistar to elect Alejandro Valverde as leader for the Tour de France and send last year’s runner up Quintana to the Giro instead, it does mean that the Spanish team have a fantastic opportunity to claim a first grand tour since Valverde’s 2009 Vuelta win. Quintana will be expected to set the race alight in the final week’s highest peaks, and should win if he climbs as well as he did at the Tour last year.
Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha Rodriguez has unfinished business at the Giro, which he lost by just 16 seconds to Ryder Hesjedal when he last contested it two years ago. ‘Purito’ desperately needs a grand tour to truly fulfill his talent, and, with plenty of uphill finishes and only one flat-ish time trial, this year’s Giro presents another good opportunity.
Cadel Evans, BMC It seems absurd to continue listing the now 37-year-old Evans as a grand tour contender, but his podium last year and impressive opening to the season makes him impossible to ignore. Last month he followed second place at the Tour Down Under and a competitive ride at the Tour of the Basque Country with overall victory at Giro del Trentino, which Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali won en route to Giro victory in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Rigoberto Uran, Omega Pharma-QuickStepColombian Uran established himself as a grand tour contender by finishing second at last year’s Giro, and is therefore aiming to win this year. He hasn’t shown much form this year, but then the same was true of last year prior to the Giro. One major problem could be his new team which, despite being the best in the world in the classics, has notoriously underachieved in grand tours.
Domenico Pozzovivo, Ag2r Pint-size climber Pozzovivo has been quietly improving for years, to the point where he can even be considered an outside contender. He achieved his best grand tour result to date in finishing sixth at the Vuelta last year, and has since achieved fifth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and second in the Giro del Trentino. He’ll relish the mountains in the final week, and could climb to a podium finish.
Michele Scarponi, AstanaSince returning from his doping suspension, Scarponi has actually performed better than he did pre-ban, finishing fourth in three of the five Giros he has ridden, and even managing to win in 2011 (awarded retrospectively after Alberto Contador was stripped of his title). He remains a consistent performer and could make the podium, but perhaps Italian cycling would be better off with his younger teammate Fabio Aru coming to the fore.
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-SharpHesjedal has gone off the boil somewhat since winning the Giro in 2012, but has been nevertheless be assigned the number 91 by his team, indicating that he is team leader. A repeat success is possible if he retains his form of old, but perhaps Dan Martin presents a better prospect for Garmin. He’ll be motivated by the Irish grand depart, and just needs to add consistency to his explosive climbing and performances in time trials to become a grand tour contender. UPDATE: Martin out of race due to collarbone break on opening stage
Nicholas Roche, Tinkoff-Saxo
After four years of riding the Tour/Vuelta double, this year’s Irish opening is enough to lure Nicholas Roche to the Giro. He matured as a grand tour rider in the Vuelta last year (where he finished fifth), but remains short of the level required to win overall. He may also relinquish leadership duties to Rafal Majka, who managed seventh in last year’s Giro aged just 23.
Ones to Watch
Marcel Kittel, Giant-Shimano
With Mark Cavendish (Omega-Pharma Quick-Step) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) both missing, Kittel ought to take a handful of stages in the sprints. For stages too hilly for the German, teammate Luka Mezgec could be successful too.
Michael Matthews, Orica-GreenEdge
Having made a name for himself at the Vuelta last year, where he won two rare flat stages, the Australian looks like one of the best emerging sprinters in the peloton. A stage win in the Basque country and second in the Brabantse Pijl this spring reaffirmed his talent, and the Giro representes an opportunity to go head to head with one of the best sprinters in the world in Kittel.
Despite usually being drilled around a sole team leader, in the absence of Riche Porte, the team’s riders will be let off their leashes. Peter Kennaugh has pulled out with illness, but the likes of Ben Swift and Edvald Boasson Hagen could land a stage.
Diego Ulissi, Lampre-Merida
Although former winner Damiano Cunego and last year’s sixth place Przemyslaw Niemiec could both register top tens for Lampre-Merida, their best chance of a stage probably lies in 24-year-old Diego Ulissi, who has consistently impressed in uphill finishes on home roads over the past twelve months. Other Italian World Tour team Cannondale will be relying on Elia Viviani, Oscar Gatto, Daniele Ratto and veteran Ivan Basso.
Essential information for this year's Tour of Italy: stages, teams, TV guide, recent winners and more
Full official start list for the 2014 Giro d'Italia (May 9 to June 1), including race numbers