A low rumbling from Italy - The Giro is coming

Michael Steele - Velo/Getty Images

As the one-day stars are wrapping up the last week of spring classics there is a faint rustle of activity in the south of Europe as the mighty Giro monster is slowly waking up. No wonder everyone loves spring first the classics and then right after the best Grand Tour of them all.

In only fifteen days the peloton will take the start in Belfast (Bellefastio?) Northern Ireland. Between now and then we'll see them honing their form in the Giro di Trentino and Tour of Romandie. It's by now we are getting a clearer picture of how the Giro will look with most of the expected stars having shown glimpses of their progress at the tours of Catalunya and País Vasco. RCS also released a preliminary startlist the other day so we can start to speculate (to the extent that we haven't already since sometime last October or so) on what kind of race we are going to get.

At this point the startlist doesn't offer too many surprises. Lampre have had their task made a little easier as Horner got taken out by a car. Their hornets nest of a team now "only" has Ulissi, Niemec and Cunego crowded at the top so that should be a fun team table at evening dinner. Katusha and Movistar both look to have ridiculously strong teams to support Joaquim Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana respectively. Somewhat surprisingly the same can be said for Rigoberto Uran and his Omega Pharma team. I don't know if it was Cavendish's decision to go to California that opened up some spots but backup in the form of De Gendt, Poels, Serry, Pauwels and Vermote looks mighty solid to me coming from a team that rarely impresses in GTs.  Orica seem to have done their by now classic trick of stacking the roster to win the Team Timetrial (which comes on Stage 1 in Belfast). After that Ivan Santaromita will probably not have a ton of support in the mountains unless guys like Cam Meyer and Peter Weening can hit super form but on the other hand they could do great things with Michael Matthews if he can keep the impressive level he has found so far this year.

While not all teams manage to bring superstar GC riders there are some of them that have quite exciting young talents. Astana are bringing one of the few bonafide young Italian hopes Fabio Aru. This will be his first real opportunity to ride his own chances in a GT unless 97 yo Michele Scarponi suddenly finds a bag of old form in the back of his closet. Most likely though Scarponi will be keeping some powder dry to be able to work as support for Nibali in July which is probably too important a goal for Astana to ignore. Julian Arredondo on Trek and Wilco Kelderman on Belkin are others who look interesting as would Moser on Cannondale if he hadn't been so anonymous this year.

On the list of total enigmas we have Sky who after Porte's illness look captain-less and sort of without a plan. Cataldo or Kennaugh could be their GC guys but heaven knows what they could actually do? Lotto are looking as uninterested as ever in the Giro not fielding any actual GC threats nor much of a sprint-squad. Hoping for Lars Bak to save them with a fluke stage win somewhere again? Biggest mystery of all is possibly Europcar's Pierre Rolland. Former "next French TdF hope" is suddenly doing the Giro for some reason. Is it for real? Is he actually going with the intent to try something? If so it could be an interesting prospect but do we really buy it? A French GC rider taking the Giro seriously?

With Cav gone the sprint battles seem to be set up for Marcel Kittel, Nacer Bouhanni, Bling Matthews and Tyler Farrar with some Colbrellis, Ferraris and van Poppels thrown into the mix. If we get unlucky then Kittel will dominate to an extent that we maybe haven't seen since Petacchi ruled the Giro sprints but you have to wonder if Kittel can bring superfocus with the Tour coming up later. My guess is we see a more touchable Kittel and some very even sprints.

Meanwhile in the Giro di Trentino two of the main favorites for the Giro are looking pretty good. Cadel Evans grabbed the lead after the first mountain stage won by Bardiani's Edoardo Zardini who was one of the early aggressors in the finale and managed to hold on. The second mountainstage Evans grabbed the initiative winning the stage and extending his lead to Domenico Pozzovivo who looks like the main opponent. Both two look to go into the Giro strong in spite of the signals from Evans after Tirreno that he was way off in his preparations. Astana are looking strong as well in Trentino with both Aru and Scarponi active but BMC look to have this sewn up and Evans will once again put a win in a one week tour on his palmares before going into GT season. Not bad for a 37 year old.

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