Giro d’Italia 2017 preview: the form guide

How are the leading GC contenders shaping up for the 100th Giro d'Italia?

The 100th Giro d’Italia rolls out on Sardinia tomorrow (Friday May 5), with a fittingly strong cast of riders looking to write their names into the history books in the milestone edition of the Corsa Rosa.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) heads a balanced list of established GC contenders and rising stars looking to make their mark in one of pro cycling’s biggest races for the first time.

Vincenzo NIbali celebrates the fourth Grand Tour win of his career at last year’s Giro d’Italia (pic: Sirotti)

For the first time in three years there are Brits set for the Sardinia startlist too, and in Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) there’s a realistic chance of a decent GC challenge too.

– Giro d’Italia 2017: seven key stages which could decide the race –

Nibali, meanwhile, is one of two former winners on the startlist – alongside 2014 champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – with both men likely to be among the chief protagonists up the likes of Mount Etna, the Mortirolo and the Stelvio.

– Giro d’Italia 2017: TV schedule –

So who will be crowned Giro d’Italia 2017 champion? We’ve taken a closer look at the form of the contenders…

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Colombian superstar Nairo Quintana returns to the Giro d’Italia for the first time since blowing his rivals away to win the race in 2014.

Having closed out 2016 by winning the Vuelta a Espana, Quintana kickstarts the first part of his Giro-Tour double with five wins to his name already this year.

Nairo Quintana won the Giro d’Italia the only other time he rode it, in 2014 (pic – Sirotti)

Stage wins led to overall successes at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Tirreno-Adriatico, while he also won on the summit finish of the Alto del Acebo in his last race, the Vuelta Asturias.

On the Terminillo, at  Tirreno-Adriatico, he was simply untouchable, riding away from an elite front group to beat British duo Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates to the stage win.

One of the finest Grand Tour riders of this generation, he has improved his all-round qualities too and as such, the long time trial should not hold as much concern for him as perhaps it would have in the past.

On the climbs, meanwhile, on his day he is unparalleled – a Giro-Tour double is a huge ask, but completing the first part of it at least is well within his capabilities.

Giro d’Italia history: winner in 2014, two stage wins
2017 season highlights: Tirreno-Adriatico (one stage win, overall winner), Volta a la Communitat Valenciana (one stage win, overall winner), Vuelta Asturias (one stage win, second overall)

RCUK rating

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali warmed up for the 100th Giro d’Italia by winning an emotional Tour of Croatia, just days after his close friend and former team-mate Michele Scarponi had died in a training accident.

Tributes are being planned to 2011 champion Scarponi throughout this year’s Giro d’Italia, including a new Cima Scarponi prize for the first rider across the Mortirolo, and Astana opting to leave his position and number vacant on the startlist.

Vincenzo Nibali goes into this year’s milestone Giro as defending champion (pic – Sirotti)

It would perhaps be fitting, therefore, if it were Nibali who went on to win – and he certainly represents Italy’s best chance of a home win with Fabio Aru out injured.

After an unspectacular start to the season, Nibali ramped things up in Croatia to clock his first overall victory since last year’s Giro.

– Pro bike: Vincenzo Nibali’s gold Merida Scultura for the 2017 Giro d’Italia –

On that occasion, he left it very late – only taking over the race lead on the penultimate stage – and given the contenders this year he will need to be on it from the start this time out.

With a new team built around him, Bahrain-Merida have packed in plenty of experience for the Giro, including Nibali’s long-standing domestique Valerio Agnoli, and if he can pick up where he left off in Zagreb he could well become the first man since Miguel Indurain to win the Giro in consecutive years.

Giro d’Italia history: winner in 2013 and 2016, six stage wins
2017 season highlights: Tour of Croatia (overall winner), Tour de San Juan (eighth)

RCUK rating

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

Welsh superstar Geraint Thomas leads Team Sky at a Grand Tour for the first time, having become an integral part of Chris Froome’s supporting team in recent years.

And he does so in fine form, having geared up for the Giro by winning the Tour of the Alps, courtesy of a stage win and three further top-five placings throughout the five-stage race.

No Brit has ever won the Giro d’Italia – could Geraint Thomas be the man to change that? (pic – La Presse/RCS Sport)

Prior to that, he had proved his strength at Tirreno-Adriatico, bouncing back from a disastrous opening stage team time trial to win the following day and then finish second on the Terminillo, behind Quintana, as he climbed to fifth overall – a remarkable result, considering he ended day one in 109th place, more than a minute down on his chief rivals.

Thomas will share the team leadership with Spaniard Mikel Landa, a former podium finisher at the Giro, with Team Sky building their team entirely around a GC bid – so no place for Italian sprinter Elia Viviani.

But with a two-pronged attack more-than capable of getting at least a podium place – and maybe even the first ever British Giro d’Italia win – it’s easy to see why they have committed exclusively to the bid for the maglia rosa.

Giro d’Italia history: not raced since finishing 80th in 2012
2017 season highlights: Tour of the Alps (stage win, overall winner), Tirreno-Adriatico (stage win, fifth overall)

RCUK rating

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot has been tempted by the balanced parcours to tackle the Giro d’Italia for the first time, and the former Tour de France white jersey winner starts the race in fine form.

A stage win on the final day of the Tour of the Alps – Pinot’s last day of racing prior to the Giro – lifted him to second overall in that race, having finished in the top three on four of the five stages in all.

Thibaut Pinot will ride the Giro for the first time and arrives at a race well-suited to his characteristics in fine form (pic – Sirotti)

It followed third place overall at both Tirreno-Adriatico and the Ruta del Sol – where he also won a stage – interspersed with top-ten finishes at Strade Bianche and the GP la Marseillaise.

The French time trial champion will be among the GC men most likely to make big inroads in the long time trial, while he has already proved himself in the mountains – most notably winning on Alpe d’Huez at the 2015 Tour de France.

Clearly the route is well-suited to Pinot – he would not have changed focus to the Giro for the first time ever if not – and he’ll definitely feature at the sharp end.

Giro d’Italia history: debut
2017 season highlights: Ruta del Sol (stage win, third overall), Tirreno-Adriatico (third overall), Tour of the Alps (stage win, second overall)

RCUK rating

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

If you believe in parallel worlds, in another dimension Steven Kruijswijk is going into this year’s Giro d’Italia as defending champion.

In fact, such was his dominant overall position and strong grip on the pink jersey when he crashed into a snowy ditch on a descent on stage 19 last year, this is probably the only dimension in which he failed to win the Giro.

Close, but no cigar: Kruijswijk was just days away from celebrating victory in 2016 before he crashed (pic: Sirotti)

As such, LottoNL-Jumbo’s 29-year-old Dutchman has a point to prove this time out – one of three Dutchmen on the startlist keen to prove they can be serious GC contenders.

Fourth overall last year should not be passed over – it’s just how close he came to winning that makes it seem like a defeat.

But he has proved himself on the Mortirolo in the past; the only man who Alberto Contador could not shake off as the Spaniard delivered a climbing masterclass back in 2015.

A repeat of that, and his impressive form from last year will stand Kruijswijk in good stead. A bit more fortune, and the podium at the very least beckons.

Giro d’Italia history: finished fourth overall last year, having worn the pink jersey for five days
2017 season highlights: Volta a Catalunya (seventh overall), Volta a la Communitat Valenciana (eighth overall)

RCUK rating

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)

With five stage wins across all three Grand Tours, Tom Dumoulin has emerged as a serious Grand Tour rider in recent years, and spent six days in the maglia rosa at last year’s Giro d’Italia.

His win on the queen stage of last year’s Tour de France, after a day in the breakaway in Andorra, was a further reminder of how he has changed as a rider, and followed his two stage wins and charge for the red jersey at the previous year’s Vuelta, which only ended on the penultimate day.

Tom Dumoulin has emerged as a GC contender, and the balanced Giro parcours should suit him (pic – Sirotti)

The Dutchman will now lead Sunweb at this year’s Giro, with Dutch team-mates Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam offering strong back-up.

The balanced course, and not least the 40km time trial between Foligno and Montefalco plays right into Dumoulin’s hands – provided he can stay with the big contenders over the biggest climbs.

By winning on the queen stage of the Tour de France, however, he has proved he is capable of that and if he is still in contention overall ahead of the final stage – a 29.3km time trial into Milan – it could make for a very, very interesting final day indeed.

Giro d’Italia history: stage winner last year and wore the leader’s jersey for six days
2017 season highlights: Abu Dhabi Tour (third overall), Strade Bianche (fifth), Tirreno-Adriatico (sixth overall)

RCUK rating

Adam Yates (Orica-Scott)

Another Giro debutant looking to prove himself on the biggest stage is last year’s Tour de France best young rider Adam Yates.

The 24-year-old Brit is the leading contender for the white jersey of best young rider, which would see him join Nairo Quintana and Andy Schleck as only the third rider to win the white jersey at both the Giro and Tour.

Adam Yates could become only the third rider to ever win both the Tour and Giro white jersey (pic – Sirotti)

His form is good too, bouncing back from illness at Tirreno-Adriatico – having been sat second overall at the time, following his third place on Terminillo – with strong showings at the Volta a Catalunya and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Originally Yates was supposed to be riding the Giro with twin brother Adam, but must now contend with Orica-Scott splitting their squad between his GC bid and sprinter Caleb Ewan’s hunt for stage wins.

Nevertheless, after his brilliant showing at last year’s Tour de France, Adam Yates has shown he can mix it with the best and the white jersey should be a minimum target. A place in the top three overall is also well within his grasp.

Giro d’Italia history: debut
2017 season highlights: GP Industria & Artigianato (winner), Volta a Catalunya (fourth overall), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (eighth)

RCUK rating

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)

Another Dutchman to suffer ill-timed misfortune at a Grand Tour last year, just as he looked to be sealing a podium place, was Bauke Mollema – who dropped from second to tenth on a crash-laden stage 19 at last year’s Tour de France.

Could he mount another GC challenge this time out? He certainly started 2017 in the sort of form that suggested he would: winning the Tour de San Jaun to kickstart the season in perfect style.

Bauke Mollema started the season in fine form, but has been quiet of late (pic – Sirotti)

It’s all gone gradually quieter and quieter since then, however, and he hasn’t raced at all since a stomach bug curtailed his Volta a Catalunya.

Fourth place overall at the Abu Dhabi Tour was followed by ninth at Tirreno-Adriatico before Catalunya – decent, but not spectacular.

Nevertheless, for 18 days at last year’s Tour de France, Mollema proved he could be a serious Grand Tour contender – and did so on the back of a similarly low-key build-up. All he needs now is to keep it going for just three more days this time out.

Giro d’Italia history: finished 12th overall in 2010 – his only previous Giro d’Italia
2017 season highlights: Tour de San Juan (overall winner), Abu Dhabi Tour (fourth overall), Tirreno-Adriatico (ninth overall)

RCUK rating

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