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GIRO’23 PEZ Rider Preview: Evenepoel, Roglič… Or Does Anyone Else Have a Chance?

Who will be in pink in Rome?

Giro Rider Preview: Remco Evenepoel or Primoz Roglič for the Giro d’Italia win. The Belgian and the Slovenian are in a class of their own, as we saw in their battle in the recent Tour of Catalonia. But there are other riders to consider for the first Grand Tour of the season. This is our ‘Pick of the Giro Peloton’.

*** You can see the ‘PEZ 2023 Giro d’Italia Route Preview’ HERE. ***

The 2023 Giro route

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The battle continues

Yes, we have Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglič as the big favourites for the 2023 Giro d’Italia, but as many beaten riders will tell you: “Anything can happen in a three-week stage race.” And there are many other riders who will make life hard for the ‘Big Two’. Almeida and Tao Geoghegan Hart are not going to Italy for ‘a bit of a holiday’. Geoghegan Hart has already won the Giro and his teammate, Geraint Thomas, is a Tour de France winner. Then apart from the other GC hopefuls, there are the guys who are going for stage victories from breaks and the climbers, who can cause an upset. Anyway, a battle between Evenepoel and Roglič will be great viewing for the ‘Tifosi’, but if there are other protagonists in the fight, then there will more spectacle and excitement. Bring it on!

The World champion would suit pink

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step): Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglič fought it out in the Tour of Catalonia for only seven days, and at the end of the race the difference between them was small: 6 seconds. Roglič was the overall winner in Barcelona, the young World champion, Evenepoel, couldn’t shake the Slovenian. But in the Giro there are 73.2 time trial kilometres, which is to the Belgian’s advantage. When it comes to climbing they are well matched.

Roglič is of course the Olympic time trial champion and a hilly race against the clock is his forte. The flat, 35 kilometre chrono to Cesena is much more in favour of Evenepoel. He could make his move here, as he did in last year’s Vuelta in the time trial to Alicante. On that day he put 48 seconds into Roglič. Although the Slovenian was probably not on his top form.

Remco Evenepoel has shown his present form in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The 23 year-old World champion came down from altitude on El Teide, Tenerife to effortlessly win the Belgian Monument. Before the race he had announced where and when he would win, and basically, that’s what he did. It looked as if Evenepoel didn’t have to breathe hard during his victory Liège. His Soudal Quick-Step teammates worked perfectly, bringing him to La Redoute for his launching. The whole team are ready for the Giro.

Tirreno and Catalunya have both fallen to Roglić

Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma): While Evenepoel won his second Liège, Roglič stayed on El Teide for some more thin-air training. His form has been very good this spring, the Slovenian won the two races he started in 2023: Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya. Roglič had surgery on his shoulder in October and was unable to train for eight weeks and didn’t start training until December. That said, he took the overall victory and several stages in both Tirreno-Adriatico and Catalunya, without too much trouble, but didn’t have luck on his side. In the Queen stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, the attackers were held back by a strong wind and in the Tour of Catalunya he ‘only’ had to concentrate on Evenepoel.

On the fifth stage in Catalonia, he cracked Evenepoel on the last, steep metres of Lo Port. This must have given him confidence that he could better his Giro rival, so soon after his return to the peloton. What may also be an advantage for Roglič is that the Giro has climbs above 2,000 metres and the Slovenian, perhaps, has the upper hand over Evenepoel. The Belgian made his moves on the lower slopes, but in the Vuelta a San Juan on the Alto de Colorado, which is 2,623 metres high, Evenepoel was not at his best. It was early in the season and Evenepoel was still in his preparation phase, but it could be his Achilles heel, if he has one.

Geoghegan Hart has been here before

Tao Geoghegan Hart (INEOS Grenadiers): There is only one former winner at the start of the Tour of Italy. Tao Geoghegan Hart won the Giro in 2020, ahead of the Sunweb riders: Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman. In the last two seasons, the British rider has had flashes of his Giro form. This year the INEOS Grenadiers has shown himself again. He took a stage wins in the Tour of Valencia and in the Tour of the Alps, plus the overall victory.

Hart is also not scared of Evenepoel and Roglič: “INEOS Grenadiers go into every race to win. You expect that from any great team. There are not only two teams that go for that,” he recently told WielerFlits, of course referring to Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step. With Pavel Sivakov, Geraint Thomas and Thymen Arensman, Hart has a team that can control and place their rider where he needs to be.

Hart also has a strong final acceleration, which means he can collect bonus seconds, time that he could lose in the time trials. Although Hart is not so bad in the time trials, he finished in the top 10 in both the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Vuelta a España in the longer individual time trials.

João Almeida knows the feeling of pink

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates): João Almeida finished fourth in the Giro d’Italia that was won by Hart. The Portuguese rider was then 21 years-old and it looked like he would be on a Grand Tour podium sooner, rather than later. So far the 2022 Giro has been his hight point. In the 2021 Giro, Almeida lost a lot of early time, despite a strong final week he finished in 6th place. Last year he was 4th overall, but he had to abandon after stage 17 due to a covid infection. In that year’s Vuelta he was 5th. All great performances, but he will have to try harder.

His spring was decent: Sixth in the Volta ao Algarve, 2nd in Tirreno-Adriatico, 3rd in Catalunya. This makes him one of the podium candidates. Beating the ‘Big Two’, is another story. In Catalunya the difference between Almeida and Evenepoel/Roglič duo was big. Almeida is incredibly tough. Climbing he may be in trouble, but he almost never cracks completely. He loses the wheels in-front of him, but will fight his way back to the front. If he can fair well in the first part of the Giro, he could become a danger for Evenepoel and Roglič in the second, very tough part and have a very strong last week.

Geraint Thomas will be keeping an eye on the rainbow jersey

Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers): So far in 2023 Thomas has not been very noticeable. 88th in the Santos Tour Down Under, 45th in Catalunya and 15th in the Tour of the Alps. But at least his results are going in the right direction and you can never discount a Tour de France winner. The 36 year-old Thomas is of the old school and is maybe a ‘slow burner’. Last year the INEOS Grenadiers rider was invisible in the spring, but then won the Tour de Switzerland and finished third in the Tour de France. In the Tour he limited any damage, as attacking Vingegaard and Pogačar was not really possible and the same could be said of Roglič and Evenepoel. But with a solid performance, he could have a good Giro d’Italia.

There is a lot of racing against the clock in this year’s Giro and Thomas can be one of the best time trialists in the World, when on form. Thomas rode the Giro twice, but abandoned in 2017 and 2021. Winning may be difficult, but he can certainly compete for the podium, or is he there only to help Tao Geoghegan Hart?

Vlasov – Not the level of Evenepoel and Roglič

Alexandr Vlasov (BORA-hansgrohe): Vlasov had a 5th place in the Tour of Valencia and a 9th place in Tirreno-Adriatico, but his spring has not been as good as last year, where the Russian took the overall victory in the Tour of Valencia, beating Remco Evenepoel. In the Tour of the Alps, Vlasov’s disappointing start to the season continued, but on the third day he took 2nd place behind teammate, Lennard Kämna, on the Brentonico San Valentino (15.4km at 7.5%). Vlasov has a punch, but he is not as good on the long climbs, of which there are many in the Giro.

Vlasov’s time trialing is reasonable, but not at the level of Evenepoel and Roglič. Although the only chrono stage he has ever won, apart from the 2021 Russian TT championship, was the hilly time trial in last year’s Tour de Romandie. So maybe he can pull off a surprise on Monte Lussari, on the penultimate stage of the Giro?

Carthy has always performed well in the Giro

Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost): Eighth in 2021, ninth in 2022, Hugh Carthy has been regularly in the top 10 of the Giro in recent years, but he has the ability to move higher, even onto the podium. His early season went well. Sixth in the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, Mallorca and 15th in the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. Then in Tirreno-Adriatico he finished 8th overall. Next a 2nd place in the Tour of the Alps, finishing 22 seconds behind Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Caruso at the head of a very strong Bahrain Victorious team

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious): Bahrain Victorious has a very strong line-up for Italy: Santiago Buitrago, Gino Mäder, Jack Haig and Damiano Caruso. The 35 year-old Italian has already finished in the top ten of the Giro twice. He was 8th in 2015 and then 2nd in 2021. Can he do it again? Doubtful. After his success in the Giro’21, the Sicilian has never been at that level. Last year he aimed at a good performance at the Tour de France, only to be disappointed. Caruso did very little and abandoned after 17 stages with covid. Before the Tour he had some good results, including a win in the Tour of Sicily and a 4th place in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Caruso has had a podium place this year, in the Tour de Romandie he finished 3rd behind Matteo Jorgenson and overall winner Adam Yates. That was only a week ago, so maybe he is ready for the Giro.

Jack Haig
Is Haig back?

Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious): The 29 year-old Australian, Jack Haig, was 3rd in the Tour of the Alps behind Tao Geoghegan Hart and Hugh Carthy. Haig was side-lined by a nasty crash in last year’s Tour, but has been working his way back to his old form. With 11th place in the Ruta del Sol, 10th in Paris-Nice and then on the podium of the Tour of the Alps. This was Haig’s first podium finish since September 2021, when he finished 3rd in the Vuelta a España, behind Roglič and Enric Mas. On the 7th stage, Haig had gained 3 minutes when he joined the early break, but he had already lost time in the early part of the race. Haig doesn’t have a speciality that he can make a gap on the other GC men, but is a tough rider.

Groupama-FDJ Pinot
Pinot in his final year might be out to show something

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ): Thibaut Pinot is in his last season as a professional cyclist, but does want to show myself in the race. He finishing 2nd in the Tour de Jura a few weeks ago, a few days later he was 2nd in the Tour du Doubs. The Giro d’Italia is his last big aim and he will be the leader of Groupama-FDJ. The Frenchman knows he won’t win the Giro, but he does want to show well and have a good last GC. Pinot was 5th in the Tour de Romandie and was only beaten by Adam Yates on the road to Thyon 2000.

Pinot has ridden the Giro twice before. In 2017, he finished fourth. A year later, Pinot was poised for a podium place with two stages to go. But things went wrong on the penultimate stage and he lost almost 45 minutes on the tough mountain stage and was taken to hospital with exhaustion and couldn’t start the final stage. Let’s hope his Giro goes well in his farewell season.

If Santiago Buitrago is allowed, he could be a danger

The Outside Bets
There are others who might surprise us: Bahrain Victorious also has Gino Mäder and Santiago Buitrago, who can help Damiano Caruso and Jack Haig, but also can shake up the action themselves. Mäder was good in Paris-Nice and Buitrago has been climbing well all season. INEOS Grenadiers could play a different card with Pavel Sivakov or Thymen Arensman. Sivakov has been solid in 2023, in the four stage races he has ridden this year, he finished in the top ten. Last year the Arensman showed well in both the Giro and the Vuelta, although he has been quiet since joining INEOS during the winter. Lennard Kämna is an attacker and could go for a GC place in the Giro and shares the leadership of BORA-hansgrohe with Vlasov.

It would be good to see Jay Vine do something in Italy, but his form is unknown

Others to keep an eye on are: Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost), Einer Augusto Rubio (Movistar), Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën), Domenico Pozzovivo (Israel-Premier Tech), Brandon McNulty and Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), who was impressive in last year’s Vuelta a España and early in 2023, but then didn’t race again due to a knee injury. So there is a question mark on his race form.

liege 23
A Giro to go with his Vuelta? Remco Evenepoel

So who is our favourite? Remco Evenepoel.
With Primoz Roglič and Tao Geoghegan Hart on the second line.
Next possibles are João Almeida, Geraint Thomas and Aleksandr Vlasov, with Hugh Carthy, Damiano Caruso, Jack Haig, Thibaut Pinot as waiting in the shadows. Then Jay Vine as the surprise package.

All of Italy is pink

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