Joaquin Rodriguez holds the pink jersey and eyes the overall Giro d'Italia win in Milan next Sunday. However, the Spaniard of team Katusha has never won a Grand Tour before and faces more experienced rivals.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the race two times and placed twice on the podium, second and third place, in the Tour de France. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) inherited last year's Giro title after Alberto Contador was stripped of his win.
Frank Schleck (RadioShack), Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) are also in the mix; all three have placed in the top ten in the Tour de France.
Rodriguez's is best known for his explosive punch, one that he's used to win on the Montelupone in Tirreno-Adriatico, the Mur de Huy in Flèche Wallonne and two days ago to take the pink jersey, into Assisi. The Tour of Catalonia stands as his biggest stage win. However, he has placed fourth in the Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia, and ninth in the Tour de France. Is this the makings of our next Giro winner?
"He's a solid rider, he goes strongly on the climbs, and there are climbs in this Giro. It's clear, we don't need to allow him his space, in fact, we need to try to put him in trouble when there's a chance," Liquigas' team manager, Roberto Amadio told Cycling Weekly.
Amadio said that it'd depend on the last week and what type of support Katusha is able to offer.
"What I've seen at the Vuelta and other races is that he has off days. We will try to profit from those days. The giro has a few difficult days that might shake him."
Liquigas controlled the stage for much of today for Ivan Basso even if they don't have the race lead. It along with Lampre-ISD and Astana appear the strongest and most capable of supporting an overall winner.
"Everyone talks about Basso and Kreuziger, but I'm keeping Rodriguez in my eye as one of the big rivals," Lampre's team manager, Roberto Damiani told Cycling Weekly.
Basso sits 57 seconds back in the overall and Scarponi trails by 1-11 minutes.
"We have to go better than him, that's it! Remember, he has over a minute on Scarponi - it's not insignificant. We need to find a situation on the road to take advantage of it. Also we'll have to take some risks. If we want to win this Giro we have to have courage."
Both managers talked about time trialling being Rodriguez's weak point. However, they agreed that they can't rely on the final 30-kilometre time trial in Milan to win.
"We know well that the last time trial in Grand Tours is unusual. Those who've recovered well and have condition ride well," added Damiani. "Plus, you have that little something extra when you are battling for the overall win. Look at what Scarponi did last year to hold off [Vincenzo] Nibali."
"In the time trial, he'll be at a disadvantage, but it depends on the time gaps that day. If he gets more time, we can't pull that back in the time trial."
Giro d'Italia 2012: Latest news
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Hesjedal happy with Giro performance despite losing lead
Pinotti alters Giro plans after losing time in mountains
Pozzato apologises for role in causing crash
Hesjedal has tough day as Giro leader
Schleck building form in Giro for final week in Alps
English speakers on top
Giro favourites to make move in first mountain finish
Malori will relish time in Giro lead
Giro d'Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 live text coverage schedule
Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage reports
Stage 12: Bak attacks to win
Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption
Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take leadStage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall
Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win
Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead
Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win
Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win
Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead
Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash
Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning
Stage one: Phinney wins time trial
Giro d'Italia 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Giro d'Italia 2012: Teams and riders
Giro d'Italia 2012 start list
Giro d'Italia 2012: TV guide
Giro d'Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule
Giro d'Italia 2012: The Big Preview
Cycling Weekly's Giro d'Italia section
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