MILAN: Ineos Grenadiers will be looking to make it a hat trick of victories at the Giro d’Italia, with Richard Carapaz the favorite at the Italian grand tour.
The first of the year’s three grand tours will be without the two Slovenians who have dominated cycling in recent years: Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar.
The past two Giro champions, Egan Bernal and Tao Geoghegan Hart, also won’t be competing, with both Ineos riders recovering from injury and illness. But the powerhouse team has another strong contender in 2019 winner Carapaz.
When Carapaz became the first Ecuadorian to win a grand tour he was competing for Movistar and it was the only edition over the past four years that Ineos — or as it was previously known, Team Sky — did not emerge triumphant in Italy.
The 28-year-old Carapaz also won the road race at last year’s rescheduled Olympic Games and finished third in the Tour de France as well as second in the 2020 Spanish Vuelta.
However, Carapaz hasn’t raced since March — opting instead for altitude training in Ecuador — and there are two other riders who have already ended up with the famous maglia rosa (winner’s pink jersey): Vincenzo Nibali (2013 and 2016) and Tom Dumoulin (2017).
“It’s a goal that I’ve given myself this year, it’s to do really well and try to win a second grand tour,” Carapaz said Wednesday. “I think it’s a great goal for me and I’ve thought a lot about it and now we’re almost at the first great chance.
“We’re obviously coming here with a lot of hopes that everything is going to go well and I think my preparation has been quite good … so now we’re facing this first grand tour in a very positive mindset and above all thinking we can do in the best way possible as we have always done.”
Here are some things to know about this year’s Giro, which starts on Friday with the first of three stages in Hungary and ends on May 29 in Verona.
While Carapaz is undoubtedly the favorite, he is not expected to dominate, and there are several rivals expected to challenge him all the way to Verona.
João Almeida was one of the revelations on his grand tour debut in 2020, leading the Giro for 15 days before losing the maglia rosa three days before the end and finishing fourth.
Almeida, who finished sixth last year, has moved to Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates with the hope of triumphing at the Giro on his third try and in the process becoming the first Portuguese to win a grand tour.
“Richard is one of the best riders … He’s the main favorite. We’re going to have to keep an eye on everyone, especially Richard,” Almeida said.
“I’m confident, but normal, not overconfident,” he continued. “I’ve been doing a good season, the training has been good. I don’t feel much pressure. I feel responsibility, I have seven guys with me to work for one goal and I’m going to give everything I have to try to do it.”
Simon Yates will also be looking to overcome Giro disappointment. The British rider led the Giro for 13 days in 2018 before cracking in the mountains and eventually finishing 21st. He redeemed himself somewhat by finishing third last year.
Dumoulin can’t be overlooked, while Mikel Landa, Jai Hindley and Miguel Ángel López will also be eyeing the podium.
Two years later than scheduled, the first three stages of the Giro will take place in Hungary.
The Italian grand tour was due to start in Hungary in 2020 but the pandemic forced organizers to reschedule the race to October and move the start to Sicily.
Under the original plans, the 2020 race was meant to start with a time trial in Budapest but that has now been moved to the second day in a much-revised Grande Partenza (Big Start) schedule. The 2022 Giro will instead get underway with a 195-kilometer (121-mile) road stage from Budapest to Visegrád.
The Giro will have its first rest day on May 9 as the riders transfer to Italy.
The 2022 Giro will include just two time trials that total just over 26 kilometers (16 miles), the lowest amount since 1962.
There are seven stages for the sprinters in the three weeks of racing that also features six mountain finishes, six other hilly stages, and 51,000 meters of climbing.
There are many signature passes and summits, where the general classification is expected to get shaken up, such as Mount Etna on stage four as well as the Blockhaus on stage nine and the Mortirolo and Santa Cristina on one of the race’s toughest days, on stage 16.
All could be decided on the race’s penultimate leg, which has also been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars and features three grueling climbs: the Passo San Pellegrino, the Passo Pordoi — which is the race’s highest point — and the final Passo Fedaia to the foot of the Marmolada glacier.