The race for the maglia rosa at the 2022 Giro d'Italia is wide open. Defending champion Egan Bernal continues his recovery from a horror crash in the winter while the best two Grand Tour riders in the world, Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič, have focussed their seasons around the Tour de France.
Will that make for a worse race? Certainly not. If anything, the line-up for the 2022 Giro makes for a mouth-watering three weeks fought between closely matched rivals and a number of very strong teams.
It's a race that will be all about the climbing, with just two short time-trials bookending the opening Grand Tour of the season. We consider the top riders aiming to take home the pink jersey after three weeks in Italy.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)
The winner of the 2019 Giro d’Italia is the bookies’ favourite for 2022, and with good reason. Since claiming his debut Grand Tour in the colours of Movistar in 2019, the Ecuadorian has finished second at the Vuelta a España, third at the Tour de France, and won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. The last time he raced, 28-year-old Carapaz finished a narrow second at the Tour of Catalonia.
Richard Carapaz at the Tour of Catalonia (Credit: Getty Images)
The shortage of high-altitude mountain passes in this year’s Giro route doesn’t offer Carapaz, a native of over 3,000m elevation, much of an advantage over his rivals. But the leader of Ineos Grenadiers is a dogged and versatile rider who is able to exploit medium mountains and a punchy percorso. The fact that he will have the collective might of Ineos – the team that has won three of the last four Giri and this year features Richie Porte, Pavel Sivakov and Jonathan Castroviejo – counts massively in his favour.
Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco)
The Giro love affair continues for the 29-year-old from Bury. This will be the fifth consecutive lap around Italy for Yates, who is dead set on finally adding the corsa rosa to his palmares. He came within a whisker of winning in 2018 but memorably capitulated over the Colle delle Finestre under that anachronistic tactical assault from Chris Froome that saw the Sky man win the Giro with an 80km solo attack.
Last year Yates came third overall behind Egan Bernal and Damiano Caruso; his win on stage 19 eased some of those doubts about his potential to perform in the final week of the race. Recent stage victories at the Vuelta Asturias and Paris-Nice shows Yates is in the right kind of form this year. He and BikeExchange are a well-oiled Grand Tour machine; he won the Vuelta with them in 2018 and counts experience of domestiques Michael Hepburn and Chris Juul-Jensen, not to mention that of sports director Matt White in the car behind.
Almeida and Yates fight for the podium at the 2021 Giro (Credit: Getty Images)
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)
The Portuguese rider was one of the break-out stars of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, leading the race for 15 days and finishing fourth overall. Last year he again found himself one of the main protagonists for the overall title, zooming up the GC with a strong final week after losing time in the opening fortnight while working for teammate Remco Evenepoel.
Now Almeida is out and out leader at a new team, UAE Team Emirates. The route isn’t quite as kind to him as past editions due to the limited time-trialling kilometres but top tens in the UAE Tour, Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya this spring show that the form is right where it needs to be.
Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)
Another Giro d’Italia, another three weeks of landismo as we follow the fortunes of the ever-mercurial Mikel Landa. Although strictly speaking last year’s Giro only featured five days of the popular Spaniard after he crashed on stage five and abandoned the race. Will the stars align this time around for Landa, now 32 and riding what must surely be one of a limited number of Grand Tours as leader of Bahrain Victorious?
Mikel Landa abandoned in 2021 after crashing on stage five (Credit: Getty Images)
On paper the route is tailor made for him: low on time-trialling and big on climbing. When Landa finished third behind Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this season, he shed over half of his total losses in the opening time-trial alone. A strong Bahrain Victorious team could be a double-edged sword, since the in-form Pello Bilbao also heads to Italy having finished ninth at last year’s Tour and fifth at the Giro in 2020.
Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)
The Giro d’Italia was where Tom Dumoulin blossomed from time-trial specialist into Grand Tour winner; victory in Italy in 2017 was followed by second at both the Giro and the Tour in 2018 and it looked like the Dutchman would be winning the sport’s biggest GC races for years to come.
Things haven’t quite panned out like that, with Dumoulin struggling with illness and injury and taking a break from the sport last year. He returned to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games time-trial but this Giro will be the first time he has raced a Grand Tour since abandoning the 2020 Vuelta.
The members of the Grand Tour B-team that Jumbo-Visma have sent to Italy would walk straight into many teams’ Tour de France rosters, with the likes of Sam Oomen, Edoardo Affini and Tobias Foss (ninth overall at last year’s Giro) all lining up. The ambitions and form of the team’s 32-year-old protagonist are uncertain. Yet without the weight of expectation suppressing that undeniable talent, Dumoulin cannot be ignored.
Romain Bardet made his Giro debut in 2021 (Credit: Getty Images)
Romain Bardet (Team DSM)
Bardet is back in business. The Frenchman did something he hasn’t done since 2013 at last month’s Tour of the Alps: won a stage race. It’s a remarkable statistic for someone as ever-present as Bardet, a rider who counts two podiums and three further top-tens in the Tour de France in his palmares, but the 31-year-old is so often the contender and so seldom the victor.
In 2021 Bardet threw off the shackles of his home Grand Tour and a home team by joining DSM and racing the Giro. It worked a treat; he finished seventh on debut, part of a group of contenders just behind the front-runners. Back for more in 2022 with a further season of experience in his legs, not to mention the intangible pizazz that comes from a fresh victory after so long without it, Bardet will be one to watch.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan)
Is Vincenzo Nibali going to win the 2022 Giro d’Italia? No, he probably won’t. A sky blue victory is more likely to come from his teammate Miguel Ángel López, the out-and-out climbing specialist on Astana who will be licking his lips at all that delicious elevation gain and the fact that his Italian teammate, now 37, has most likely waved goodbye to his days of competing for victory in a Grand Tour. Six years have passed since the Italian won the most recent of his two Giri, and final results of third, second, seventh and 18th illustrate the inevitable slide.
But this is Nibali and this is the Giro d’Italia. It’s his race, his country, and his people. The race even goes to Sicily, the home of lo squalo – the shark – of Messina. It may be no country for old men, but Nibali has enough left in the tank to put on one last show.Vincenzo Nibali Credit: ASO
Looking beyond the major favourites for the race, the Giro is stacked with talent. A fascinating tactical proposition comes in the form of Bora-Hansgrohe, who will send Wilco Kelderman (third in the 2020 Giro), Jai Hindley (second in 2020) and Emanuel Buchmann to Italy. Although the latter two both failed to finish the Giro last time out, rivals will have to keep a close eye on the German team.
Along with Romain Bardet, French hopes rest on the shoulders of Guillaume Martin, the climbing specialist on Cofidis with top tens at last year’s Tour and Vuelta who will be racing his first ever Giro. Talking of climbing specialists, EF Education-EasyPost send Hugh Carthy while Trek-Segafredo will look for opportunities with Giulio Ciccone and Bauke Mollema.
Then there’s Alejandro Valverde, riding what will only be his second Giro d’Italia in the final season of a 21-year career. Flip the 42-year-old’s age around and you get Iván Sosa, the 24-year-old Colombian who struggled over three years Ineos Grenadiers but has marked his transfer to Movistar with recent victory at the Vuelta Asturias and a shot at the Giro.
Cover image: SWPix.com