Three time trials – totalling 70 kilometres – have changed the complexion of this year’s Giro d’Italia, reshaping the contours that mapped out the previous nine editions of the race as one more weighted to the mountains and the climbers.This volume of time trialling has changed the GC race too, attracting Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglič whose truncated rivalry at last year’s Vuelta a España will continue on Italian roads. Before he was forced to abandon the race due to a crash on stage 16, Roglič had been the only rider capable of challenging Evenepoel for the red jersey, and he defeated the young Belgian by six seconds to take overall victory at last month’s Volta a Catalunya.
But, although it would seem that Evenepoel and Roglič are the two runaway favourites, the Giro is nothing if not unpredictable and almost 3,500 kilometres of road filled with potential attacks by other contenders lie between the Grande Partenza on the Abruzzo coast and the finishing circuit on Rome’s ancient streets three weeks later.
REMCO EVENEPOEL (SOUDAL - QUICK-STEP)
As a 21-year-old, Remco Evenepoel made his Grand Tour debut at the 2021 Giro d’Italia and, just eight months after breaking his pelvis in that horrific crash at Il Lombardia, for once did not live up to the astronomical expectations set for him.
But two years later, the Belgian will begin the race as a Grand Tour winner, world champion and a two-time Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner.
The very nature of Evenepoel’s victory at the 2022 Vuelta highlighted his potential in the Grand Tours as he ultimately dominated the race, with a 16 day stint in the red jersey despite cracking briefly in the mountains, while his array of career achievements displays his abilities across all terrain.
His streak of impressive results has only continued this season with victories at the UAE Tour and Liège-Bastogne-Liège as well that second place at Catalunya. Unlike at Catalunya, however, Evenepoel will have three time trials on which to potentially stamp his authority on the race, as he did at the Vuelta last year.
Primož Roglič (JUMBO-VISMA)
The Giro d’Italia remains one of the few outstanding gaps on Primož Roglič’s palmarès. He came closest to overall victory in 2019 when he dominated for two weeks before letting Richard Carapaz slip away for what became a race-winning move while he was focused on Vincenzo Nibali.
If his record this season is anything to go by, this might be the year that Roglič fills in that gap – he has started just two races so far this year and won both. The Slovenian’s win at Tirreno-Adriatico displayed his trademark finishing sprint with three stage victories while his win at Catalunya displayed his level-headed nature – both qualities he will need to take the maglia rosa.
As always, Roglič will be ably supported by a Jumbo-Visma team stacked with talented climbers including Robert Gesink, his long-time lieutenant Sepp Kuss and the world time-trial champion Tobias Foss.
TAO GEOGHEGAN HART (INEOS GRENADIERS)
The only Giro winner on the start line, Tao Geoghegan Hart enjoyed the best possible preparation at the Tour of the Alps for his tilt at the maglia rosa, claiming overall victory well as two stage wins. It is now two-and-a-half years since Geoghegan Hart took overall victory at the 2020 Giro d’Italia in the most dramatic of circumstances, snatching the maglia rosa on the final day’s time trial.
Since that day in Milan, the 28-year-old has not quite hit the same heights, following a series of illnesses and disappointments, but flickers of that Giro winning form began showing themselves again at the Tour of the Alps.
His team is strong too, containing Pavel Sivakov, Geraint Thomas and Thymen Arensmen, whose performance at last year’s Vuelta a España showcased his potential as a GC contender in the future.
JOÃO ALMEIDA (UAE TEAM EMIRATES)
The Giro d’Italia has defined João Almeida’s career so far, following his breakout performance at the 2020 race when he wore the pink jersey for 15 days and eventually finished fourth overall, before he finished sixth overall in 2021 after working for his then teammate Evenepoel.
And since becoming a fully-fledged team leader at UAE Team Emirates last year, the 24-year-old has strung together a series of promising GC results including a fifth place at the 2022 Vuelta, as well as a second place at Tirreno-Adriatico and third place at the Volta a Catalunya this season.
It is a route that suits Almeida for he is a competent time triallist, without quite matching the likes of Evenepoel, and prefers a difficult third week like the one that features this year, containing three summit finishes and a mountainous time trial.
Almeida’s teammate Jay Vine provides a different option for UAE Team Emirates as well, either operating as a co-leader or as the Portuguese rider’s right-hand man. Vine’s form, however, is somewhat of an unknown after a knee injury curtailed his UAE Tour following his impressive start to the season with victory at the Tour Down Under backing up his revelatory Vuelta last year.
ALEKSANDR VLASOV (BORA-HANSGROHE)
Long earmarked as a GC contender, Aleksandr Vlasov began delivering on his promise last year with a fifth place at the Tour de France and overall victory at the Tour de Romandie during his first season at Bora-Hansgrohe.
But he has flown under the radar this season – a ninth place overall at Tirreno-Adriatico proving his best result of the year so far, as well as a likely seventh place finish at the Tour of the Alps where he withdrew a day early to complete his team’s roster at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Like all the teams seeking to challenge Roglic and Evenepoel, Bora-Hansgrohe will contain multiple GC contenders and the dynamics within the team will provide another dimension to Vlasov’s overall hopes. Lennard Kämna will be targeting the overall classification for the first time in his career, and although he is less proven than his teammate, he has arguably displayed better form this season with a fourth place at Tirreno-Adriatico.
GERAINT THOMAS (INEOS GRENADIERS)
One part of an Ineos team containing several GC contenders, Geraint Thomas enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance last year with a third place at the Tour de France and overall victory at the Tour de Suisse. Turning 37 during the race, Thomas has proved himself time and time again as a GC racer, finishing on all three steps of the podium at the Tour de France and winning a clutch of week-long stage races too.
But at the Giro d’Italia, his record is less prestigious, blighted by first-week crashes in 2017 and 2020 which forced him to abandon the race.
The Welshman’s potential role in this year’s race is somewhat of an unknown following a difficult start to the season disrupted by illness. He hasn’t recorded any notable results but seemed to find some form at the Tour of the Alps and, with such a difficult third week ahead, still has time to fine tune it further.
There are several other contenders dotted throughout the rest of the field, most likely targeting the upper echelons of the GC or stages as well as the pink jersey itself. Thibaut Pinot will be on the start line, racing his self-proclaimed favourite Grand Tour in the last season of his career, bringing all his climbing prowess, romance, tragedy and Pinot-isms with him. Meanwhile, at EF Education-Easy Post, Rigoberto Uran and Hugh Carthy will form a two-pronged attack, heading up a team containing 22-year-old Ben Healy whose impressive Ardennes campaign marks him as one to watch.Giulio Ciccone was expected to carry Italian hopes but won't take his place on the start line following a positive Covid-19 test after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It will fall completely to Damiano Caruso, who finished second overall in 2021, to fly the Italian flag. His Bahrain-Victorious teammates, Jack Haig and Gino Mäder, will also be hunting for a high finish on the general classification.