Is it just Remco Evenepoel vs Primož Roglic? Eight GC contenders to watch at the Giro d’Italia

As well as Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič, a host of other strong riders are set to do battle in the next three weeks of racing

Giro d'Italia favourites 2023
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Giro d’Italia gets underway this Saturday in Pescara, a city in the Abruzzo region of Italy, with some of the world's best cyclists itching to get their hands on the race's pink jersey.

While it’s often an unpredictable and dramatic affair, the Italian Grand Tour always guarantees an action packed three weeks of racing with some of the biggest names set to take part.

One of the biggest pulls of this year’s Corsa Rosa is the 70 plus kilometres of time trialling on offer, which is spread over three stages, including a terrifying mountain time trial to Monte Lussari.

Last year’s top three: Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Richard Carapaz of EF Education-EasyPost, formerly of Ineos Grenadiers, and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) won’t be present. However the competition will still be fierce in the fight for the Maglia Rosa, with some other faces.

As well as the two outright favourites, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), here are several other riders worth paying close attention to once the race gets underway and the battle for overall victory gets going.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step)

Remco Evenepoel

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The reigning road world champion comes into the Giro in sensational form.

Two weeks ago, Evenepoel won a second Liège–Bastogne–Liège at a canter, and looked absolutely imperious as he added yet another huge result to his palmares. After the 2021 edition of the Italian Grand Tour, won by Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), which he rode but abandoned, Evenepoel has unfinished business with the Giro and will be looking to right a few wrongs in Italy.

With the experience gained in the last 18 months, which included a Vuelta a España and World Championship victory, the Belgian is rightly one of the outright favourites, and will fight all the way to Rome for the overall title.

Quick-Step come into the race with a squad stacked full of climbers, similar to when Evenepoel won in Spain. With that in mind, the Belgian team will present formidable opposition to Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers in the tough final week in the Dolomites. 

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)  

Primoz Roglic Catalunya

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After spending weeks at altitude in Tenerife with Evenepoel for company, Roglič has certainly gained an eagle eye view of his opponents strengths and weaknesses ahead of the Grande Partenza in Pescara on Saturday.

The duo were staying in the same hotel on Mount Teide, finalising their individual preparations for a shot at Giro glory.

Over the off season, Roglič had surgery to correct a longstanding shoulder issue, but has hit the ground running earlier this season. The Slovenian won both stage races he started, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya, and showed in the latter that he’s learnt from the Vuelta and now has the measure of his young Belgian rival.

With two intensive stage races ticked off, Jumbo-Visma’s star man recently told Cycling Weekly that he’s more than ready to attempt to add a fourth Grand Tour to his palmares in the coming weeks. 

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)

Geraint Thomas

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The 2018 Tour de France winner comes into the Giro sharing leadership at Ineos with Geoghegan Hart, but still in contention.

Thomas explained at the Tour of the Alps that having plenty of cards to play at the Giro will work in their favour when the going gets tough in some of the latter stages. After crashing out on other occasions, including in 2020 when Geoghegan Hart went onto win, the Welshman has said that he has unfinished business with the Italian Grand Tour.

If he can stay in contention in the opening time trial, Thomas will hope to stick to his rivals like glue over the three weeks and is more than capable of finishing on the podium. Perhaps even the top step if all goes to plan, and Roglič and Evenepoel show weakness.

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)

Joao Almeida

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UAE Emirates’ João Almeida knows a thing or two about taking the maglia rosa and then keeping it.

Back in 2020, the Portuguese rider took hold of the pink jersey on stage three, and then led the race for the following 14 days. He would eventually finish fourth overall. The 24-year-old is a formidable talent, and while he didn’t finish the Italian Grand Tour last year, he finished sixth in 2021 and is developing a real love affair with the Giro.

So far in 2023, the UAE Emirates rider has been firmly in the mix each time he’s gone up against the likes of Evenepoel and Roglič. Almeida finished second to the Slovenian at Tirreno, and third behind the two Giro favourites at the Volta a Catalunya.

If either of them crack in the high mountains in Italy, Almeida has all the strengths needed to capitalise and potentially even beat them to the top step of the podium in Rome.   

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers)

Tao Geoghegan Hart

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After a difficult two years blighted by illness and injury, the 2020 Giro winner has bounced back in 2023 with a win at the Volta Valenciana before then winning the general classification at the Tour of the Alps.

The British rider grabbed two stage wins on his way to overall victory in northern Italy and Austria, proving that he’s hit a rich vein of form in perfect timing for the Giro on Saturday.

On paper, Evenepoel, Roglič and arguably Thomas are rightly above Geoghegan Hart due to their time trialling prowess. However, the Londoner is a solid climber and packs a powerful final sprint in any uphill finish.

If Roglič still has Geoghegan Hart on his wheel at the summit of some of the races biggest mountains, then he may find he suddenly has a rider capable of matching him when there are bonus seconds up for grabs in the fight for pink. 

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Aleksandr Vlasov

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While last year’s winner Jai Hindley is skipping the defence of his title, his team Bora-Hansgrohe come into the Italian Grand Tour with multiple riders to deploy in the fight for the overall classification.

In recent years, Aleksandr Vlasov has more than proven himself as a solid Grand Tour rider, with fourth and fifth place finishes at the Giro and Tour de France respectively.

The 27-year-old is a respectable climber, and has won tough mountain stages at both the Tour de Suisse and Tour de Romandie, so certainly won’t fear the tough summit finishes facing the riders at this year's Giro.

As well as Vlasov, Lennard Kämna will be another card to play in the mountain stages. With the German fighting his corner in support of a high GC finish, Vlasov certainly won’t hesitate to get up the road when his rivals are there for the taking.

If the right scenario plays out, the 27-year-old is more than capable of recording his best result in a Grand Tour yet. 

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious)

Damiano Caruso

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35-year-old Damiano Caruso may not seem like the most likely candidate for a podium finish in Rome, but the Italian has previously pulled it off, taking third place behind Bernal in 2021. 

Caruso is a solid climber, and has stage wins to his name in all three Grand Tours. While it’s likely he will be utilised as a support rider for Jack Haig, the Italian is capable deputy if the Australian should falter, and won’t shirk away from a fight.

If he finds himself within reach of the podium in the savage final week in the mountains, the Italian will be immensely difficult to shake off in the fight for overall.

HUGH CARTHY (EF Education-EasyPost)

Hugh Carthy

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Since his third place finish at the Vuelta in 2020, which included a stage win on the Angliru, EF Education’s Hugh Carthy has floated around the top ten in the Giro without matching his success of the 2020 season.

Carthy finished eighth in 2021 and ninth a year later in the Corsa Rosa, but would need to display a significant upturn in form to hit the podium.

However, earlier this year the British climber kept himself in contention during Tirreno-Adriatico on all of the tougher stages, finishing eighth behind Roglič. He then improved on his form at the Tour of the Alps, finishing second overall behind Geoghegan Hart.

If his recent results mean anything, Carthy could be about to hit form at just the right time. If he can grab a stage win or two in the high mountains, the Lancashire born rider could be a solid outside bet for the podium in Rome. 

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