As you, our knowledgable readers are well aware, GTs don't offer a hell of a lot in terms of surprises so don't be mad at me because the ranking is a little predictable. Don't blame me, I can only offer up the facts as they are, I can't just make up crazy stuff to keep you people happy. This is the cross that very very serious reporters of the facts have to bear. So here goes:
1. Nairo Quintana
Everyone's favorite fifty-three-year-old looking little dude holds all the aces going into his third GT. The Giro suits him perfectly, it has the type of climbing where he can make a difference, the TTing isn't bad enough to intimidate him. His Movistar support is silly strong as well and basically all he lacks is the experience. Winning. That's an experience. So, in about four weeks he will have experience too. Because........
2. Joaquim Rodriguez
always finds some way to cluck it up. Basically he has all the same signs in his favors as Quintana with two differences perhaps. He already has all the GT experience you would want but perhaps a little less firepower for the really big mountaindays , the Stelvio and the Dolomite stages. On the other hand he has a knack for picking up all kinds of timebonuses along the way so he's basically even matched with Nairo. Except for the whole screwing up thing. It will be be interesting to see where he lets this race slip through his fingers. Maybe a surprisingly weak mountain TT on Monte Grappa?, Ja, that would be a good bet. Let's say that.
3. Rigoberto Uran
Good old trusty Rigo. Always good for a slightly anonymous top placing, just behind the best. Having built his form slowly to come in perfect condition for the Giro in order to live up to Patrick Lefevere's lofty expectations for his latest GC ace, Rigo will now shock the world by riding a fantastically solid Giro........ending in a slightly anonymous third place, just behind the best. Pity he doesn't win because it would be fun to see Brailsford's face get as long as Enrico Gasparotto's at the thought of the GT winner he let slip away.
4. Domenico Pozzovivo
In a meager year for the Italian tifosi, Pozzovivo's 4th place and big stage win will be a bit of a consolation. This is really a golden opportunity for Pozzovivo but there are probably just a bit too many chances to lose some crucial time early in the race. Ag2r always manage to underwhelm in the TTT and then there's probably some nasty crosswinds or mess early on that makes Pozzo's impressive last week climbing slightly moot.
5. Cadel Evans
What Cadel lacks in youth he makes up for with being really really old. If he can just manage to keep his kneecaps from exploding like old WW2 mortar rounds as he grinds his way up the Zoncolan at a cadence of 7 revolutions per minute then he has a lock on firth place. Not bad for a cranky old coot who'd rather be riding the Tour de France really. Bet he wins a stage somewhere too.
6. Rafal Majka
Do nothing. Turn up at the Giro in great form as promised. Finish top 10. Not a bad way to make a living really. Oleg will still be pissed of course, who wants to pay all these losers for riding around not winning all the time? Is this the thanks you get for being such a sweetheart? But Nicolas Roche then you ask? Well, if you're actually aiming for the Tour you're allowed to stop pretending to pay attention once the race leaves your home-island.
7. Dan Martin
Martin doesn't have any kind of dependability and recovery ability to finish top 10 in a GT which means he will almost certainly finish top 10 in this GT. Being an annoying prick that never does what you expect him to do is really the only quality he has that gives you any indication that he is actually Irish. He's been building up to a solid GC result for years now and it is probably finally time to confirm his qualities. We've seen the massive top level he has for the last year or so, this is the next step.
8. Fabio Aru
Kiddie number one, the great Hope of the men in pajamas from the great nation of Kazakhstan. They put a lot of faith in him and for all their flaws, Astana do know a thing or two about shepherding riders to semi-respectable placings in GTs. Big talent, big opportunity, small field of really serious competitors. Smells like a coming minor breakthrough.
9. Wilco Kelderman
Speaking of minor. Belkin riders never do anything bombastically. A nice comfortable and impressive top 10 without creating too much of a stir seems in the cards for this talented kid number two in the top 10 (remember Nairo doesn't count as a kid because he looks 67 years old). Betting money on him being the one guy in the top 10 that we barely ever see in TV images probably only pays even money too. A four second shot of him finishing the TT on Monte Grappa in an impressive time is probably the TV time he will get.
10. Przemyslaw Niemec
Good old Pete Niemec, salvager of what can be salvaged of the Lampre trainwreck. Trying his darndest to keep the rest of us from thinking too much about the fact that it was 10 years ago that the Little Prince won the hearts of fans and Gilberto Simoni by winning the Giro. Pete is also probably the best candidate to win the Marzio Bruseghin Dullness Award aka. The Golden Donkey.
11. Michele Scarponi
After three long weeks of not doing much to support young Aru, Triki Miki will end with a mediocre uphill TT and a lackluster Zoncolan . Anonymous but in great shape for the upcoming disappointing three weeks of not doing much to support Nibali in the TdF. Are there no drugs to keep you from aging?
12. Robert Kiserlovski
I'm sorry, Kiserlovski has to be the top candidate for the Golden Donkey, not Prze...... Pete Niemec? Or rather a candidate to be the one doing the failed early and ill-advised attacks before fading into obscurity. Either way. 12th place. He'll go back to being a great domestique at some point.
13. Ivan Santaromita
Not a huge amount of team help but that Italian champs jersey should make him a candidate to do fairly well shouldn't it. He's just a bit of a pale character is Santaromita but he clearly has the quality to do well in a Giro field of this calibre.
14. Riccardo Zoidl
Rider number two of the always cooperating Trek team. Scary good for a first year World Tour rider. Probably one or two weak days that put him out of the top 10 though.
15. Ryder Hesjedal
Remember that time when he won the Giro? That was awesome!
16. Pierre Rolland
I don't know what the French for "What on earth are you doing here? " is but if I did I'd ask Rolland "What on earth are you doing here?" . Come to think of it, what on earth is he doing here? Is he in the Europcar doghouse or are they actually taking this whole World Tour lark seriously? Surely not? Of course if he really did take it seriously he should be able to do really well on this course but you know........ he's French, it's May and not July. You do the math.
17. Maxime Monfort
Start strong, fade into his customary anonymity, quietly settle for a lowly placing. Seems the likely scenario right? Also, Lotto.
18. Dario Cataldo
The curious remnants of the once proud Sky juggernaut. Stranded on the shores of the Lago di Cantbebothered.
19. Ivan Basso
Maybe I should have had him higher up in the ranking? Hahahahahahahaha
20. Julian Arredondo
A little too much, a little too soon. Expect a strong start and a fade in the final week even if those stages are the ones that really suit him best. 20th is still better than DNF though. Come to think of it, he'll probably DNF:
So there you have it. The top 20 of the first GT of the year. Hopefully knowing the outcome already should not in any way detract from your enjoyment of the race. After all, the beauty of Italy, the excitement of the sprints, the polemica of the first week stages and much more should all help make it a fantastic race anyway.
Photos by: Fotoreporter Sirotti. Except Rolland by Michael Steele, Getty