Under the Radar Riders to Watch at the Giro
Some of the riders that may not immediately spring to mind ahead of the 2021 Giro d'Italia, but could have a big impact...
We all have our eyes on Simon Yates, Egan Bernal and Vincenzo Nibali, but there are 184 riders on the Giro d'Italia 2021 startlist. So here are a few who you may not have heard of but could cause an upset.
From the outset of the 2021 season, Thibaut Pinot had planned to ride and challenge for the Giro d’Italia. However, some worryingly poor results in the build-up mean that Pinot will not start the 104th Giro d’Italia. And with Gaudu focused on the Tour de France, Groupama-FDJ are without a GC leader.
This provides the perfect opportunity for riders such as Attila Valter. Valter signed for FDJ this season and has provided some solid results, particularly when you consider he is just 22. He was 20th on Jebel Jais at the UAE Tour but improved and took numerous top-10 stage finishes at the Volta Catalunya, including third place on the final stage in Barcelona. Valter was only outlasted by Thomas De Gendt and Matej Mohorič on that occasion, a clear sign of his class.
Valter isn’t replacing Pinot as Groupama-FDJ's GC contender, but Pinot’s absence means FDJ are in stage-hunting mode. Valter will be a key piece to that puzzle.
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Bora enter the Giro d’Italia with two clear leaders in their team: Emanuel Buchmann and Peter Sagan. They are set up to work aggressively for Sagan, particularly on the slightly hillier stages which will see the purest sprinters drop, whilst also supporting Buchmann’s GC charge as best they can. We are looking further down their lineup though to Matteo Fabbro.
Now 26-years-old and in his second season with BORA, Matteo Fabbro is developing into a great rider when the road goes uphill. He managed an impressive 5th overall at Tirreno-Adriatico which featured a monster uphill finish in the Prati di Tivo and the already infamous stage 5 to Castelfidardo which took place in apocalyptic conditions. He backed that up with a solid ride at the Tour of the Alps in April, too. Look out for him assisting Buchmann in the high mountains or even taking his opportunities should he be given the chance.
AG2R’s goals have altered since the departure of Romain Bardet and the signing of Greg Van Avermaet. They no longer have a clear-cut GC rider in the Grand Tours. Say hello to Clement Champoussin.
The 22-year-old has demonstrated his abilities particularly on hilly terrain. He was second at the Faun-Ardèche Classic earlier this year where he was beaten in a sprint by David Gaudu, which was followed by 4th-place at Trofeo Laigueglia. Both of these classics are defined by short, steep pitches with sections upwards of 10% in gradient. Champoussin was unable to compete in the GC at the Tour of Romandie and the Volta Catalunya, although he was able to perform well on hilly terrain again.
It’s too early to expect a GC performance from Champoussin, but look out for him in the breakaways or on short, steep ascents — stages 3 and 4 could be his first opportunities...
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Jefferson Alexander Cepeda
Photo credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Jefferson Alexander Cepeda almost never made it to the starline for this year’s Giro, neither did any of the other Androni riders. Androni were initially snubbed, but Vini Zabu’s withdrawal opened up a spot for Androni to fill.
It may be worthwhile, if only for the inclusion of Cepeda. Just 22 years old, the diminutive Cepeda already has one Grand Tour in the legs — last year’s Giro. He didn’t achieve any notable results, but his 2021 form suggests he is developing rapidly. Cepeda finished 4th overall at the Tour of the Alps, including two 5th place finishes on the two queen stages. This meant he finished ahead of the likes of Pavel Sivakov, Hugh Carthy and Nairo Quintana in the GC.
We are not expecting Cepeda to be a genuine threat in the overall standings at the Giro d'Italia this year, he’ll lose minutes in the two time-trials combined. However, expect to see him on the offensive where he could challenge for stage wins and even the maglia azzurra.
Image credit: Nico Vereecken/CorVos/SWpix
Intermarche Wanty-Gobert are still searching for their first victory in 2021. However, they arrive at the Giro without a GC leader and are set to hunt stage wins.
One of their best options could come in the form of Quinten Hermans. The 25-year-old is coming off a respectable Ardennes campaign which was highlighted with a 14th place finish at La Flèche Wallonne. Clearly, Hermans is a very capable puncher. He can also get over longer climbs, too, which he demonstrated at the Itzulia Basque Country Tour. Hermans isn’t going to win the Giro or get close, a fact that he has confirmed pre-race. Instead, Hermans will be a mainstay in the breakaways where his punch will help him put his opponents in difficulty. He can finish quickly, too.