The year's first grand tour, the Giro d'Italia, marks the biggest cache of points on the calendar... potentially at least. All three grand tours give 600 points to the winner, 80 points for stages, and either 120 or 60 points for lesser jerseys, plus the longest list of non-winning points of any race. Of the three grand tours, the Tour de France is the worst opportunity to get ahead of your FSA DS competition, since the contenders are very well known and the spoils get pretty broadly distributed. By contrast, the more provincial Giro and Vuelta are sometimes seized by a smaller pool of contenders, or maybe even a single dominant rider, who can win multiple stages and jerseys. If you've got one of those guys, this is your big moment.
But is this anything like a winning strategy? Can chasing pink put you in the black for the rest of the season? Let's take a look at the contenders for the big pile of points. Douglas's top eight are Basso, Scarponi, J-Rod, Gadret, Kreuziger, Frank Schleck, Pozzovivo and Rujano. I suppose we could go to ten with the CyclingNews list, adding Damiano Cunego and Ryder Hesjedal.
Ivan Basso, Liquigas
Giro or Bust? Definitely. This category speaks to whether the Giro is the only place for a guy on this list to pay back your investment in him. Basso could theoretically do something at the Tour, but there is no precedent for him scoring significantly outside Italy after a big Giro run. 2010 was his best year and the Giro was his last point.
Likelihood of win: In general, I am accepting Douglas's predictions, so these riders are in his order of likelihood, with a few extra notes. In Basso's case, he has royally sucked all year, but not in a way that should eliminate him, particularly with his history of wins... at least one of which has been rated as terrestrial.
Extra Credit: In Basso's wins he was pretty dominant, with stage wins and minor jersey points: second in mountains in 2010 and 5th in points. If he is on his top form, he could go very big.
Alla flippa for the rest...
Michele Scarponi, Lampre
Cost: 18 points
Giro or Bust? Not entirely. He shows up throughout spring and has some interest in the hillier classics. But his approach to the Giro was a bit quieter this year, so he might be close to done after the Giro.
Likelihood of win: My favorite to win, in part because he's on my team. But it matters that he is the reigning Giro champion, on a course that was brutal.
Extra Credit: Consistent finishes means he might fare well in the points competition, which he "won" last year too. No stage wins since 2010 but he'll be a threat for one.
Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha
Giro or Bust? Not even close.
Likelihood of win: He usually blows up somewhere along the way in a three-week race, but there's a first time for everything. His achilles is the time trial, and I guess he could throw away a few minutes in the final stage.
Extra Credit: Big-time stage winner. That could put him high up in the points. He loves those stages, appearing early in the race, with a late, small climb, as well as the true mountain stages.
John Gadret, AG2R
Giro or Bust? Er, hard to say. Can he really turn around and place high up in the Tour? I'll guess that he scores points at home too. But he didn't last year after his cracking Giro.
Likelihood of win: Not great. Anything he can do, Scarponi can do better. But you never know.
Extra Credit: He bagged a middle mountain stage last year, so there's that. Minor placings in the other jerseys. Hey, for eight points, you get what you pay for.
Roman Kreuziger, Astana
Giro or Bust? Nope. He's already paid off 60% of his 2011 haul before the first grand tour.
Likelihood of win: With a breakout performance... maybe. The course isn't tilted as heavily toward the climbs as before. If the time trial were 50k, then I might like him more.
Extra Credit: Eh... is he done with the maglia bianca? If so, there goes half his value, as far as past performances are concerned. But again, an improved Kreuziger could show up in the other jersey spots.
Giro or Bust? Not at all. Frank is a consistent 1300+ scorer, largely on the strength of his showing up periodically throughout the year. July will be big for him too.
Likelihood of win: Plausible, if he were on peak form. Which isn't that plausible.
Extra Credit: Stage wins. If he's unfit early on, he could go stage hunting at the end. Nobody in this race has his Tour resume.
Domenico Pozzovivo, Colnago
Giro or Bust? No, he scored big at Lombardia last year. Fall Italian season is good to him. And he's had a productive spring too. Kind of a bargain if he does anything at the Giro.
Likelihood of win: Uh, he hasn't finished the thing since 2008. But he can climb at least.
Extra Credit: Maybe a stage win? You can't get secondary jersey points, or not many of them, if you can't make it to Milan.
Jose Rujano, Androni Etc.
Giro or Bust? Definitely. Androni don't get big invites outside Italy, and Rujano likes to go back to Venezuela in summer to put on a show for the home crowd.
Likelihood of win: Puhleese
Extra Credit: Stage wins. Multiple stage wins. Then a massive flameout in the first tactical race or time trial.
Damiano Cunego, Lampre
Giro or Bust? No, the way he's going this year I'd expect a decent fall campaign too. He is a longshot Worlds candidate, since he's done well in Limburg before.
Likelihood of win: Greater than Rujano's. Of course, he's only plan B for his team, but if he's going well, a rider of his stature could become plan A pretty quickly. Hey, the guy is still in his prime, and was sixth in the Tour last year. As far as I'm concerned he's getting better with age.
Extra Credit: Possible early stage winner. He has a nose for the line in those short-climb finishes. That would in turn make him a big player in the points comp.
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin
Giro or Bust? No, although does this mean he's not doing the Tour? If not, then he'll be a possible winner at the summer and fall classics.
Likelihood of win: Sure, why not? But nothing stands out as to why him and not Scarponi.
Extra Credit: Just points, or maybe a KOM effort if his GC hopes slip?
What this says about the Giro's importance is that there are a few guys who, if they're on your team, you'd better hope for something big. That's Scarponi and Basso, for sure. If they don't finish on the podium, you've been soaked. I'd add Kreuziger and Frank Schleck, because if they're doing the Giro, a big effort, then you'd hope they get rewarded for it at those prices. Purito Rodriguez could sew up the season MVP by Milan, considering his near-certain Vuelta scoring. And the lower cost guys, if they're going to do anything, the time is now.
Cunego could be one of the more influential guys. He is on 21 teams, and a win in the Giro out of the blue, along with his other value, could make those 21 teams big players (if they have Boonen and not Gilbert). Anyway, the point is that you can get super-lucky and set yourself up for the season by scoring unexpectedly big in the Giro, but there are only a few guys who can deliver that kind of assistance. Good luck!