Giro points jersey: who's in?

The fight for the Giro's maglia ciclamina is generally less a spriters' showcase than a brutal war of attrition.  This year, without even the lure of a final sprint stage into Milan, will any actual sprinters stick it out to claim the maglia ciclamina?  Precedent says no.  The last time the Giro finished with a time trial, in 2003, the points jersey was won by Gilberto Simoni.

It may well be that a GC man like Di Luca or Kloden will take the points jersey, but just for fun, here are some thoughts about the chances of some of the non-GC types for the maglia ciclamina.

Paolo Bettini -- The winner in 2005 and 2006 and third last year, Bettini is the runaway favorite for the points jersey if he's anywhere near top form.  But, is he?  I haven't seen any word on why he changed his plans and decided to ride the Giro.  Feeling good and eager to put on a show for the tifosi in the rainbow jersey?  Or, feeling not-so-good and needing to whip himself into shape before the Olympics?  One more caveat: there was speculation last year that Bettini was ditching points so he wouldn't have to cover up the rainbow jersey with the maglia ciclamina.

Daniele Bennati -- A pure sprinter in the mold of a young Zabel, Bennati can get through the mountains better than most fast men, as demonstrated by his Vuelta points jersey win last year.  He may also be the only sprinter who cares enough about the jersey to hang in there.  He's made no secret of his disappointment at being left off the Giro teams at Lampre, and he's had to sit out most of the season so far, so he should be hungry for victories.

Erik Zabel -- Maybe not quite as fast as he used to be, but Zabel is a known hardman when it comes to finishing grand tours.  If Ete wins the maglia ciclamina, he'll join Eddy Merckx, Laurent Jalabert, and Djamolidine Abdoujaparov as the only riders ever to have won the points jerseys in all three grand tours.

Maximiliano Richeze -- Fourth in the points competition in 2007 and ninth in 2006, Richeze seems to have no trouble finishing the Giro in good shape.  He's been the second-place finisher in the final stage for the past two years.

Robbie McEwen -- Ha!  If you want to see McEwen in Italy after the stage to Cittadella, your best viewing spot will probably be the Venice airport.

Mark Cavendish -- Double ha!  A pure sprinter in the mold of a young Ivan Quaranta, Cavendish will likely be sharing a cab to the airport with McEwen after the Cittadella stage, if he makes it that far.

Robert Forster -- He won the final stage in Milan in 2006, but only finished 13th in the points competition.  DNF last year.

Mirco Lorenzetto -- He finished the Giro last year, working for Petacchi, but was nowhere in the points competition.  He appears to be the top sprinter on Lampre's Giro team, though (where's Napolitano?), and he's been having a smokin' year so far.

My prediction: Di Luca will win the maglia ciclamina, if only because I took him off my VDS team at the last minute.