PEZ Preview: Giro d’Italia 2017
2017 Giro d’Italia Preview: The first Grand Tour of 2017 starts on Friday in Sardinia – Arguably the best stage race of the year. Ed Hood, our most experience stage race ‘follower’, takes a close look at the Corsa Rosa past champions, route and who will be the man in pink in Milan on the 28th of May.
It’s that time already – the Grand Tours are upon us, the 2017 Giro d’Italia starts on Friday. This will be the glorious 100th edition of the world’s pinkest race with 21 nine man teams and one eight man team – Astana leave the late Michele Scarponi’s number unclaimed – battling for glory over 21 stages, three rest days and 3572 kilometers – or is it 3612 kilometers or 3615 kilometers? We’ve seen all these numbers quoted – but it’s a long way, whichever way you look at it.
First, let’s look at those all important STATS:
First held in 1909 when Luigi Ganna won; the ‘recordmen’ each on five wins are Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi (both Italy) and Eddy Merckx (Belgium). Binda is second to Mario Cipollini (Italy) on stage wins, 41 to Super Mario’s 42; of current riders, Mark Cavendish (GB) is most successful on 17 stage wins.
SuperMario with Petacchi
Binda won 12 stages in the 1927 race; with Ale Jet Petacchi’s nine wins in the 2004 Giro is the most in recent history. Coppi is also the youngest winner at 20 years and eight months whilst Merckx has the record for days in pink with 77 (although some sources say 78). Merckx, Binda, Constante Girardengo and Gianni Bugno (both Italy) have all lead the race from start to finish.
The oldest winner was Fiorenzo Magni (Italy) in 1955 at 35 years and five months; this year Svein Tuft competes at 39 and 361 days. Whilst at the other end of the scale Vincenzo Albanese (Bardiani) rides at just 20 years-of-age. Italy is the most successful nation with 68 wins by 41 different riders, their last success coming just last year from Vincenzo Nibali with a Lazarus-like return from the tomb on the second last day.
Nibali in 2016
Belgium is second on seven wins by three riders with the most recent way back in 1978 when Johan de Muynck won. In all 12 nationalities including Sweden, Ireland, USA, Canada and Colombia have won the Giro whilst 23 have worn pink.
Canada had its Giro winner with Ryder Hesjedal in 2012
The longest Giro was in 1954 when Carlo Clerici (Italy) won over 4337 kilometers. The longest stage was in 1914 when Constante Girardengo won over 430 kilometers; Lauro Bordin (Italy) was away solo for 350 of those kilometers – that year there were eight finishers. The record number of starts is by Wladmiro Panizza on 18, finishing in 16 of those occasions which is also the record.
Eddy Merckx with Johan de Muynck
When we do a detailed look at the PERCORSO of a Grand Tour we try to pick out the five or six stages which will influence the shape of the race most – in this race we can’t select any less than nine stages which could play their part in the final GC. To summarize first: six for the sprinters (maybe), eight for the baroudeurs, two for the chronomen and five for the pure mountain goats.
No home start in Sardinia for Aru
Stages one to three are on rugged, beautiful Sardinia – very little flat road and remember you’re on an island sitting in the middle of a temperamental sea so there’s going to be wind aplenty.
Etna in 2011
Stage Four is the first mountain top finish atop the still active volcano, Mount Etna – if you have any doubts about it being active then check out the hotel sliced in two by the lava flow a year or two back. Etna isn’t too savage but is long and exposed – the Blockhaus finish on Stage Nine most certainly is savage especially coming as it does after a long flat run to its base; 135K of big gears then down onto the inner ring to the top simply kills legs.
Stage 10 ITT
The percorso for the 39K Stage 10 chrono will be beautiful – through the Sagrantino vineyards but the climbers hate these lonely days.
The last six days of racing are brutal; it’ll be down to a small elite group of the best climbers clubbing each other until only the strongest is left standing. But there’s still a chance for the apple cart to end up on its side in that final test into Milano – and the organizers will be hoping for that very circumstance.
The full Giro profile
But let’s talk montagne first:
Stage 16 sees the Mortirolo and two ascents of the Stelvio.
The Stelvio on stage 16
Stage 17 includes the Tonale and climbs for virtually all of the last two hours and more.
Stage 18 includes five killer climbs including the Pordoi and a summit finish.
Stage 19 takes in Monte Grappa and has a summit finish.
The summit finish of stage 19 on Piancavallo
Stage 20 has – yes, another summit finish to Foza. I could wax more lyrical on these five days but those bare facts say it all.
The final stage 21 ITT
Stage 21 and to conclude there’s that 28K on the rack of a lo pro time trial bike into the Duomo in Milano.
And the winner is?
The prime PROTAGANISTI in alphabetical order in our book are:
Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb & The Netherlands) hasn’t really sparkled this year with second in a Tirreno stage his best result to go with fifth in the Strade Bianche. But like the rest he’s walking that tight rope between racing enough to come to form but not enough to be tired – albeit there’s nothing better for the head than a win. He’s one of the best time testers in the world so those two chronos are right up his street – but that last week in the mountains will be tough for a man of his stature.
Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNL-Jumbo & The Netherlands) Dave and I watched him pedal past in the mist, just before the ‘Montagne’ prime line with the other ‘Bigs,’ he was looking very comfortable – to us it looked like the 2016 Giro was won with Torino almost in sight. But just off that summit disaster struck, he hit a snow bank, crashed and the pink dream in Torino evaporated. He likes this race, he’s been eighth, seventh and fourth last year; if he’s human then he’ll want revenge against Lady Luck. We think the podium, maybe – but there’s this little Colombian guy. . .
Mikel Landa (Team Sky & Spain) two years ago Martin and I witnessed him win back to back Giro stages and finish on the podium. We agreed that we were looking at a future Giro winner – and he took a Vuelta stage that year too, just to underscore his class. Since then, his progress has stalled; he won last year’s Trentino but his Giro (DNF), Dauphine (12th) and Tour (35th) were all less than notable albeit he’d be ‘in service’ with Sky. However, we don’t imagine he’s on domestique’s dough and Sky will have expected much more from him. Decent rides in this year’s Ruta del Sol and Tour of the Alps look more like the man – but we can’t see him filling the breach if team leader Thomas stumbles.
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo & The Netherlands) the third of the Flatland challengers for this hilliest of races is big, strong and honest – never a man to miss a spell. He’s never been higher than fourth in a Grand Tour – fourth in the Vuelta in 2011 but he’s in decent shape, winning San Juan, top four in Abu Dhabi and top ten in Tirreno. But he’s a big man – and those final cols are even bigger.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana & Italy) only six riders in history have won all of the three Grand Tours: Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador and – ‘The Shark of the Straights of Messina,’ Vincenzo Nibali. Like in that old song, he’s a ‘Mixed-up Siciliano’ – on his day he’s cavalier, daring, imperious, descending like the Devil himself. ‘Off’ his day – he’s invisible. His need to find Giro form away from the spotlight in the Tour of Croatia sums him up, that fragile psyche has to be protected. We suspect that given he’s going to be close to home waters in Sicily he’ll be ‘on’ – let’s hope so.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ & France) with GC podiums in the Ruta del Sol, Tirreno and Tour of the Alps his form is excellent. Like Nibali he’s either brilliant or a nonentity – his decision to avoid the pressure cooker that is Le Tour for a French contender is perhaps a good one – whilst it’s hard to imagine him beating Quintana he can be on the podium.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Colombia) has won the Vuelta and this race before and been displaying great form all season with wins in Valencia and Tirreno; don’t be fooled by his recent ‘defeat’ in the Tour of Asturias by Raul Alarcon – that was just a last tune up. We can’t see anyone beating him, and neither do the bookies, who make him odds on favorite. The Giro/Tour ‘double’? We’re not so sure. . .
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky & Wales) it’s hard to believe that it’s a decade since Martin and I interviewed a young Geraint on the Tour in his low budget, battling to beat the time cut Barloworld days – and here he is now, a ‘contender.’ He was on top of his game in winning the recent Tour of the Alps and would have been on the podium in Tirreno had the Sky team’s bicycles not began to decompose in the opening team time trial. He rides a good time trial, he has grinta, a strong team, can get over the hills; but that last week is beyond ‘hilly’ – a podium? Perhaps?
Tejay van Garderen (BMC & USA) he was fifth in Catalunya and would have been better than sixth in Romandie had he not landed on his backside in the prologue. He rides a good time trial and is nice and skinny for those big climbs but there always seem to be that bad day in his Grand Tours. . .
Adam Yates (Orica-Scott and GB) has finished fourth in le Tour, was strong in Catalonia and La Doyenne. The Australian team have nurtured the man well and we think he can be right there on that crazy last week – he’ll need a decent time trial at the end but by then it’s down to who has the grinta.
Quintana from Pinot and Yates.
# As always, there will be race reports and catch-up news with video in EUROTRASH in PEZ all through the Giro and for live TV action tune in to steephill.tv HERE. And don’t forget: ‘All the world is PINK!’ #
• See what we love most about the 2017 Giro here.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.