So who will take home the Giro's biggest prize?
[editor's note, by chris] Updated and Reposted, so we don't bury the lead topic here. I think we're just about done previewing, though we'll have much to say before each individual stage.
- Paolo Savoldelli
(chris) Twice winner, both times on pure guile and descending, plus fine time trialing and the ability to limit climbing losses. But this course is too climby for him, IMHO.
(Brian) If he's on, he'll be able to limit his losses on the mountains, and crush everyone else (except maybe Popovych, who he'll still beat) on the time trials. If he can't limit his losses in the mountains, I can't say I expect much from him. Lack of a strong team might also hurt him. Mazzoleni and Joachim are the only ones I recognize, and I don't think that's any superb team support.
(Socal) Savoldelli is definitely vulnerable on the steep climbs... but who exactly is he going to consistently lose time to? Simoni, ok, though he is getting old enough to be vulnerable himself. Cunego, yes, though he is capable of a bad day himself.
(John) Another rider I think has a great deal of class. He is a two time winer and a great time trialist. I think there is too much climbing for him to win, but I think it would be difficult for him to finish outside the top five.
- Gilberto Simoni
(chris) De facto defending champ, with two real trophies... someone whom you can't underestimate in the mountains even now. But he'll always be vulnerable in the time trials.
(Brian) Saunier Duval's bringing all the cards to the table with this one. He is by far my favorite to win. Mayo, Piepoli, Canada, Ricco, and quite a few other great climbers to support him. Only thing I can see affecting him is time trials, but if he's climbing as well as he has in the past, he's got it covered. I'm pretty sure he'll get a podium place, but he's the favorite to win.
(John) I didn't like what I saw from him at the Tour of Georgia. I know that the Giro is much different, but I thought he should have been on better form. He says he wants to quit road racing to go into mountain bike racing. I'm not sure his motivation is there to win. I think Cunego will take time out of him in the mountains and Simoni's age will catch up with him.
- Damiano Cunego
(chris) The Kid, the popular choice, and the hope for Italian Cycling's grand tour future. His achilles heel has been the time trials, but he's worked on it, and the decisive ITT will be uphill, his forte. My pick to win.
(Drew) My heart is with the Killer but my head is with Cunego. I think Savoldelli will lose more time on the extremely steep climbs than he'll be able to recoup in the one long TT, and Gibo is 35. Not ancient, but pretty damn old to be consistently winning or placing on stage 13, 15 and 17. I could see two out of three but not all of them.
(Brian) Lampre's also bringing everything to the table. Caruso, Smyzd, and Vila are good climbers, plus the other members of his team aren't half bad. I think that Saunier's got Lampre beat, but I can see Cunego giving Simoni a run for his money. Podium place, for sure, and maybe a win if he's lucky.
(Socal) Cunego is the clear favorite, with Simoni and Savoldelli about equal as second choices and DiLuca the most likely of the rest.
(John) Like many of the others, I think he has the best chance at victory. He has improved his time trialing as evidenced by his ride at the tour last year. He is light and can climb. He should also be continuing to improve as a rider as he is only 25 years old. It seems like endurance is often the difficult part for young riders, but as this is at least his fourth grand tour, I don't think that will be an issue. My pick for victory.
- Yaroslav Popovych
(chris) The only way Bruyneel could do a worse job of supporting Yaro-pop is by sending Sean Yates to be the DS. Whoops.
(Bethie) Hard to discount him because of his support team of Chechu, Pavel and George. They were a winning combo in the mountains for Lance. I'll be darned surprised if he doesn't podium. He's a serious contender in my book.
(Jens) Also he has made the podium before with little or no support. I personally think he is a little to heavy in the gluteus maximus for some of the climbs this year.
(Brian) If not for the fact that he probably wasn't peaking for the Giro (could be wrong, nobody's sure), I'd give him a podium spot. If he wasn't intending to be in top form for the Giro, he'll maybe get top 5 or top 10. Hincapie, Padrnos, and Chechu are certainly strong support riders, but there isn't the depth that Lampre or Saunier have, which could hurt Popo's chances if he takes the maglia rosa too early. My thought? Podium place if he's lucky, maybe top 5. If he's off, top 10.
(John) I don't know why he hasn't developed more, but he has a big chance here. Lance's top two lieutenant's, Hincapie and Ruberia, are at the Giro to help him. He has a previous third and a previous fifth at the Giro. He is a big question mark. Two years ago he had Visa problems and could not get to Europe to race. He shows up in Europe with no racing under his belt and wins the Tour of Catalunya (2005). He didn't get the results last year that were expected of him, but he did look decent in Paris-Nice earlier this year. He could challenge Cunego or he could be a bust. My guess is that he will be in the top 5.
- Danilo DiLuca
(chris) I wish he could... but there's a slight difference between the Cote de Saint Nicolas and Monte Zoncolan, isn't there? Barring the time trial of his life, il Killer will struggle for the last podium place.
(Humboldt) The Killer!!!! I'm with Chris in rooting for da killa. I'll never forget watching him rather effortlessly chew up the Colle delle Finestre with his little gears with his hands full of water bottles...
(Brian) Liquigas, like Lampre and Saunier Duval, took quite a strong team. Noe, Pellizotti, Nibali, Gasparotto? Nothing to laugh at. His weakness? The steep mountains (like Zoncolan). If he can keep close on those (or be up front), he can probably eke out some time on the time trials against Simoni and Cunego, but maybe not enough for the win, if he's not close enough. And if he's with Savoldelli on the mountains, and he can pass Simoni/Cunego on time trials, he's in 2nd place. Maybe a podium, and I think the last of the top 5.
(John) This will sound odd, but I don't know much about the Killer. He has some great classic results, but I don't see him as a grand tour rider. I don't think he will do well in the long mountain stages, nor do I see him riding well in the time trials. I would guess that a top ten would be the best result for him, but I think I may underestimate him because I know less about him than the others.
- Andy Schleck/
(chris) Explain to me again why either an inexperienced kid or a plus-sized Classics stud has a chance in the Dolomites?
(Jens) Tony M has clearly stated that he has no intention of riding the third week of the Giro. Unless there have been some major rulechanges that almost certainly rules him out as a favourite for the GC.
- Pietro Caucchioli
(Socal) Was wondering when someone would mention Caucchioli. A dark horse who always seems to be on the verge of a breakout victory.
(John) I agree that I thought more people would consider him among the favorites. He was 8th in 2005 and 16th in the Tour last year. I would think he is an easy top 10 and a possible top 5.
(Elivisgoat) Hey, I'm tipping him in my Team Hanicap above... I call him a sure top 10, likely top 7-8, chance at top 5 and way outside chance for top 3.
- Dario Cioni
(John) I am biased because I like his diaries. He was the Italian time trial champion in 2004. He was 13th at the Giro in 2005 and 4th in 2004. I was impressed by his 2004 ride where he rode for himself on the climbing stages, but had to support Petacchi on the sprint stages.
- Ricardo Ricco
(John) I think he will ride well. He may not have the endurance needed to finish well in the later stages, but he has the potential to ride better than Simoni similar to the Cunego-Simoni dispute.
- Emmanuele Sella
(John) He has done well at the Giro the last few years. I'm not sure he can time trial. I don't know why a pro-tour team has not picked him up, but this is the big race for him of the season. He should win a stage and maybe be top 15. He was 26th last year.
- Stefano Garzelli
(John) I don't know much about his preparation this year. He is a previous winner in 2000, but that was a long time ago. Savoldelli and Simoni have won the race twice since then. This is a huge race for his team, but I don't think they have the talent to support him compared to the pro-tour teams. I would be impressed with a top ten from Garzelli, but I think a top 15 is more realistic.
- The Chicken ~:>
(John) He is riding to help prepare for the tour. I don't expect much out of him - not even a stage win. He is capable, just not ready.
- Ivan Parra
(John) With all the climbs in the race it should play into his strengths. I think he will be aiming for the mountains jersey and should have a good shot at it.