2015 Giro d’Italia – Teams Analysis
AG2R – travelling to the Corsa Rosa with an in-form Domenico Pozzovivo (who recorded top 10 finishes in all five races he took part so far this year), the French squad will hope to see the pocket climber get a stage win and a top 5 in the overall classification. The roster also includes Carlos Betancur, former winner of the white jersey at the Giro, and it will be interesting to see if he can regain top form and go for a stage. If the Colombian fails again, then it’s difficult to believe he can come back to the top.
Androni Giocattoli – three years have passed since the boys of Gianni Savio took a victory in their home race, so the pressure is on to finally get that stage win that has eluded them for so long. Franco Pellizotti doesn’t seem capable of returning to the form that has helped him finish on the podium in the past, but he can still fight for a stage, especially considering he will get the support of such riders like Simone Stortoni and Serghei Tvetcov. Gianfranco Zilioli is a good shot at a win from a break, while Davide Appollonio and Oscar Gatto will try to mix in the sprints and notch some top 10 placings.
Astana – after his fantastic 2014, Fabio Aru is considered one of the main contenders and his fellow countrymen have big expectations from him. But it will not be easy for the talented Sardinian, who missed important race and training days after falling ill in the past weeks. Besides this, there’s also the long individual time trial from Treviso to Valdobbiadene, which will not work in his favor, and that means Aru has small chances of even being on the podium in Milan. Some stage wins are more likely, besides Aru, other strong Astana candidates being Mikel Landa, Diego Rosa and Paolo Tiralongo.
Bardiani – a team which was the attacking spirit in its blood, Bardiani should score a win and also fight for the mountains classification, thanks to Stefano Pirazzi. Nicola Ruffoni and Sonny Colbrelli will try to be there in the sprints, depending on the course, while Enrico Battaglin and Francesco Manuel Bongiorno are going to join the breakaways in the mountain stages, which will provide them a nice opportunity to get a victory.
BMC – Philippe Gilbert returns to the Giro for the first time in six years and he’ll be keen on making up for a lackluster Ardennes campaign. Even though Damiano Caruso heads the team’s GC bid, when the terrain becomes difficult, look to Colombia’s Darwin Atapuma, who has an important chance of raising his arms in joy on one of the arduous climbs of the Corsa Rosa. Of course, many will also have high hopes from Stefan Küng, already one of the best neo-pros of the season.
Cannondale-Garmin – Ryder Hesjedal has a special relationship with the Giro d’Italia, so the Canadian hopes he can go once again for a top result, although he’s aware that it will be very difficult even to end up in the top 5. Making his debut in a Grand Tour, Davide Formolo – runner-up at the 2014 National Championships – is a promising rider and he should have some opportunities to make himself noticed in the first two weeks.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice – Sylvester Szmyd said he rediscovered his best legs, but also his passion for cycling, which makes him an important man for the Polish squad once the road starts to rise, especially in the last week. Winner of the Tour of Croatia last month and of a Tour of Catalunya stage in March, Maciej Paterski is a good bet from an escape, while the 29-year-old Grega Bole looks poised not to miss a sprint that comes at the end of a selective course.
Etixx-Quick Step – after achieving back-to-back podiums at the past two editions, Rigoberto Uran will once again be a top contender. It’s true that the Colombian lacks some of his rivals’ explosiveness on the mountains (and some real helpers), but he has what it takes to turn the tables around in the 59 km-long individual time trial, where he can put minutes between him and other GC men. Keep an eye also on Tom Boonen, who is making his debut in the Giro.
FDJ – by the looks of it, Marc Madiot’s squad should be the Cinderella of this edition, a team that will have a hard time to feature even in escapes. Still, 27-year-old Alexandre Geniez seems to be having some shape coming into the race – as he has won the Tro-Bro Leon in April – so he’ll surely try something on the mountains, where Kenny Elissonde is also expected to resurrect his career after a disappointing 2014 season.
Giant-Alpecin – first ever Slovenian to take a victory in the Corsa Rosa, Luka Mezgec returns to Italy with a solid team around him, whose mission is to get him in the best position for the sprint. Mezgec isn’t the fastest, but he’s a smart rider and can add a win to his CV this May. But the 26-year-old is also a consistent cyclist and thanks to this he could end up fighting for the points classification. At some moment during the race, expect to see Tobias Ludvigsson and Simon Geschke going into the break.
IAM Cycling – Sylvain Chavanel will race the Giro d’Italia for the first time and will have the opportunity to target some stages and thus save what was a disappointing Spring. Matteo Pelucchi is a rider to be watched in the sprints, where he has what it takes to surprise the big favorites, while Sebastien Reichanbach is going to lead the team for the first time in a Grand Tour and will get support from one of the most interesting neo-pros out there, Clement Chevrier.
Katusha – Luca Paolini will be the captain of the team during the three weeks and his huge experience will surely make the difference as the Russian outfit will be going in many breakaways, in order to nab a stage win. On the other hand, in the roster there’s also Ilnur Zakarin, who is an even more interesting prospect now that he has conquered the Tour de Romandie. The 25-year-old can be one of the race’s revelations and finish in the top 10, but it will all depend on what he’ll do in a very tough last week.
Lampre-Merida – last season, Diego Ulissi had a great run in the Giro, winning two stages (Viggiani and Montecopiolo), but afterwards he was tested positive and missed for almost a year from the peloton. Now he’s back, but it will be a hard task for him to have the same success as in 2014, so Lampre will look up to Sacha Modolo for a win from a bunch sprint and to Przemyslaw Niemiec in the mountains, where the Pole can hope for a nice placing in the GC.
LottoNL-Jumbo – less than a week ago, in the Tour de Yorkshire, the Dutch team notched its first victory of the season, thanks to Moreno Hofland, who will be its main bet for the Corsa Rosa in the flat days. The line-up also includes Steven Kruijswijk – 8th at the 2011 edition – whose main goal this year is the first Grand Tour of the season. Kruijswijk didn’t shine so far in 2015, but the Giro can be the much desired wake-up call.
Lotto-Soudal – the team has decided to send Jurgen Van Den Broeck in the Giro, as a last chance for the Belgian rider to prove he’s GC material, but their main hope lies in André Greipel, who should clock at least a stage win in the first two weeks, after which he can retire in order to focus on the Tour de France. Another rider to follow from Lotto-Soudal will be Louis Vervaeke, one of the most promising neo-pros of the peloton, who had a very impressive run in 2014, as an amateur.
Movistar – this is one of the most powerful teams in the race, capable of putting up a great show and notching at least two stage wins, as well as a strong GC result. Juan Jose Lobato is going to try his luck in the sprints that pose a more difficult terrain, Giovanni Visconti will go in the breaks, while Igor Anton looks to have found his mojo again, just ahead of a race with climbs that really suit him. As for the overall, Beñat Intxausti will be Movistar’s man, but watch out for Ruben Fernandez, the 2013 Tour de l’Avenir winner, who has made some significant improvements.
Nippo-Vini Fantini – Damiano Cunego showed some good form in the events leading up to the Giro d’Italia (Giro del Trentino and Giro dell’Appennino) and this made people think he can have a go at the overall classification. Thing is that it’s very difficult for Cunego to be a protagonist in the GC, a thing even he knows, and this means “Il Piccolo Principe” will be in the hunt for stage wins, with the best climber jersey providing another opportunity for the former winner of the event to shine. Besides him, Eduard Grosu and Daniele Colli will try to be up there in the sprints.
Orica-GreenEdge – is a team of stage hunters, capable of winning on any terrain. Michael Matthews will try to add at least a win to his growing palmares, Simon Gerrans will look for his first victory since last Fall in the hilly stages, while the small Colombian Esteban Chaves can light-up the fireworks on the mountains. In Orica’s roster there’s also another big talent, Luke Durbridge, who should have a go in the long individual time trial that comes at the end of the second week.
Southeast – the Pro Continental outfit gets to ride the Giro d’Italia only thanks to winning the Coppa Italia last season, so will try to put the doping scandals in the past and show it deserves to be here. Alessandro Petacchi is the team’s leader, but in the sprints he’ll guide Manuel Belletti, who is Southeast’s best shot in this kind of stages. Otherwise, Mauro Finetto and Francesco Gavazzi can go in an escape or wait for the hilly stages of the race to make amends and bring their team a much needed victory.
Sky – Richie Porte is the absolute leader of a team which includes Mikel Nieve, Leopold König, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Sebastian Henao, the Aussie coming hear after his best ever Spring campaign, with GC wins in Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya (where he outshone Alberto Contador) and the Giro del Trentino. Still, there’s a question mark when it comes to Porte and Grand Tours, as he usually has a bad day during these races and ends up bleeding minutes. On the other hand, if he can keep the form displayed during the past months, Richie Porte will give everyone else a run for their money. When Sky’s riders won’t be busy protecting him, they will try to help Elia Viviani get that stage win he dreams of for so long.
Tinkoff-Saxo – every member of the team is here for Alberto Contador, who wants to win the Giro d’Italia for the second time (and this time for good, after he was stripped of his 2011 triumph). Unlike many of his opponents, the Spaniard took a long break from races and went for altitude training, hoping it will pay off now. Backed by a fiercely-strong team, that includes Ivan Basso, Roman Kreuziger and Michael Rogers, Contador starts as the main contender for the win, and if he will have the same form as in last year’s Vuelta, then the Trofeo Senza Fine should be his.
Trek Factory Racing – this isn’t the “A” team of Trek, but don’t underestimate the cyclists of the American squad, as they are capable of getting more than a stage victory. Italy’s Giacomo Nizzolo has a strong train for the flat and can contend not only for a win, but also for the points jersey, while Fabio Felline – who’s had a superb Spring so far – will wait for the lumpy days, where his fast kick can be of big help if a reduced peloton gets to the finish.