1. Nairo Quintana: Movistar
The 23-year-old had an incredible 2013 season, achieving an impressive second place overall in his Tour de France debut. Quintana is a formidable climber who will embrace the mountainous terrain which awaits in Italy, especially in the final week. Movistar have given Quintana a strong, balanced team that should mean he doesn’t lose time in the Belfast trial.
2. Cadel Evans: BMC racing
The Giro d’Italia has never had an Australian victor, with Evans’ third-place finish in 2013 the country’s best ever result. The former Tour de France winner is focusing his season on this year’s Giro, and with a formidable team around him Evans is confident of success. Tomorrow’s team time trial could give the Aussie an early lead over his rivals, while two individual time |trials will also play to his advantage. At 37, this may be the former mountain biker’s last chance at a major win, but his victory at last month’s Giro del Trentino shows Evans is in top condition.
3. Fabio Aru: Astana
The young Italian played a significant part in team-mate Vincenzo Nibali’s victory at the Giro a year ago, but with his team leader now focusing on the Tour de France, this could be Aru’s chance to shine. At just 23, he is the future of Italian cycling and showed great stamina in the final week of the 2013 Giro, his grand tour debut. Having only taken up road racing five years ago, Aru is still learning his trade.
4. Daniel Martin: GarminSharp
The excitement surrounding Martin is not solely because of the Giro’s start on Irish soil. His pedigree is unquestionable, and general classification victories at the Tour de Pologne in 2010 and last year’s Volta a Catalunya suggest that he is primed for a breakout on this grand stage. A lack of consistency is the only thing holding Martin back from being in contention for the maglia rosa. The Irishman has previously earned stage victories at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
5. Joaquin Rodriguez: Team Katusha
With several podium finishes to his name, Rodriguez is looking to cement his legacy with a signature victory in a major tour. After finishing third at last year’s Tour de France, the 34-year-old Spaniard has turned his attentions to the Giro this year and he will be a force to be reckoned with in the mountains.
Known as ‘El Purito’ — the ‘little cigar’ — for a gesture made while passing team-mates on a training climb in his first professional season, the man from Barcelona wore the maglia rosa in 2012, only to see it slip from his grasp on the very final day. He’s got a point to prove this year.
6. Fabio Duarte: Team Colombia
Leading a team of fellow Colombians, Duarte enters the 2014 Giro d’Italia with confidence. Having performed well a year ago, finishing second in the penultimate stage — a brutal uphill climb in the Dolomites — to eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali, the 27-year-old is looking to seal an overdue stage victory for Team Colombia. Fourth place at this year’s Giro del Trentino suggests that Duarte is in good condition for the rigours of the Italian mountains.
7. Rigoberto Uran: Omega Pharma Quick-Step
When Bradley Wiggins fell ill at last year’s Giro, the 27-year-old Uran took over as Team Sky’s leader and finished an impressive second overall in the general classification. The Colombian now leads his own squad and is desperate to win the first grand tour of his career. His season has been a mixed bag to date, with second place at the Tour of Oman followed by dis
appointments in Italy and Catalunya. He offered hope at the weekend by finishing fourth in the individual time trial at the Tour de Romandie, suggesting he has timed his preparation to perfection.
8. Domenico Pozzovivo : AG2R
Widely considered to be Italy’s best hope in this year’s race, Pozzovivo has had an outstanding season, finishing in the top 10 of every event he has competed in, including second place at the four-day Giro del Trentino. He won a stage at the 2012 Giro, but now wants a spot on the final podium. The 31-year-old will start at somewhat of a disadvantage, given AG2R’s expected struggles in the team time trial.
The diminutive Pozzovivo has improved his own time trialling, however, and will make up time in the mountains, especially with team-mate Alexis Vuillermoz at his side.
9. Elia Viviani: Cannondale
The young Italian may not be the fastest sprinter in the race, but unlike German star Marcel Kittel, Viviani is a decent bet to make it to the finish. That said, the 25-year-old is no slouch, as proven recently when he beat Mark Cavendish twice en route to stage wins in Turkey. Viviani finished eighth in the sprinters’ red |jersey competition at the 2013 Giro, and two second-place finishes will have left him hungry to reach the top step of the podium.
10. Stefano Pirazzi: Bardiani
The Giro is famous for gruelling climbs that are prone to decimating a peloton, yet the Bardiani team leader sees steep uphill sections as opportunities for glory. Pirazzi attacks early and often, a trait admired by the cheering tifosi, and while stage victories are his immediate goal, the King of the Mountains jersey is never far from the 27-year-old’s mind.
His efforts were rewarded a year ago with that very prize, and with young compatriots, Manuel Bongiorno and Edoardo Zardini, alongside him, few would bet against Pirazzi having another great race.
Learn the racing lingo to keep you in driving seat:
peloton: the main group of riders in a race or large event.
attack: an aggressive, high-speed jump away from other riders.
blocking: legally impeding the progress of opposing riders to allow teammates a better chance of success.
blow up: to suddenly be unable to continue at the required pace due to overexertion.
break, breakaway: a rider or group of |riders that has escaped the pack.
bridge, bridge a gap: to catch a rider or group that has opened a lead.
cadence: the number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed.
chasers: those who are |trying to catch a group or a lead rider.
cleat: a metal or plastic fitting on the sole of a cycling shoe that engages the pedal.
downshift: to shift to a lower gear, ie, a larger cog or smaller chainring.
drafting: riding closely behind another rider to take advantage of the windbreak (slipstream) and use about 20% less energy.
echelon: a form of paceline in which the riders angle off behind each other to get maximum draft in a crosswind.
full tuck: an extremely crouched position used for maximum speed on descents.
general classification: the overall standings in a stage race. Often referred to as GC.
leadout: a race tactic in which a rider accelerates to his maximum speed for the benefit of a team-mate in tow. The second rider then leaves the draft and sprints past at even greater speed near the finish line.
off the back: describes one or more riders who have failed to keep pace with the main group.
paceline: a group formation in which each rider takes a turn breaking the wind at the front before pulling off, dropping to the rear position, and riding the others' draft until at the front once again.
pull, pull through: take a turn at the front.
road rash: any skin abrasion resulting from a fall. Also called crash rash.
saddle sores: skin problems in the crotch that develop from chafing caused by pedaling action. Sores can range from tender raw spots to |boil-like lesions if infection occurs.
sag wagon: a motor vehicle that follows a group of riders, carrying equipment and lending assistance in the event of difficulty. Also called the broom wagon.
sit on a wheel: to ride in someone's draft.
slingshot: to ride up behind another rider with help from his draft, then use the |momentum to sprint past.
slipstream: the pocket of calmer air behind a moving rider. Also called the draft.
snap: the ability to accelerate quickly.
soft-pedal: to rotate the pedals without actually applying power.
spin: to pedal at high |cadence.
squirrel: a nervous or unstable rider who can't be trusted to maintain a steady line.
take a flyer: to suddenly sprint away from a group.
throw the bike: a racing technique in which a rider thrusts the bike ahead of the body at the finish line, gaining several inches in hopes of winning a close sprint.
upshift: to shift to a higher gear
wheelsucker: someone who drafts behind others but doesn't take a pull.
endo: when a cyclist flips over the handlebars, end over end.
jam: a period of hard, high-speed cycling. Crank away!
Jump: an attack right off the bat, a jump marks the start of a sprint.
kick: the final attack in a sprint, a kick is the last-ditch effort to pass racers ahead.