The only fair way to go about this would be to start with the best teams and work our way down and since we are all about fairness and objectivity here at the cafe we will of course..... not do that but do it alphabetically instead. Let me just say that we had contracted a certain well known former race mascot to help with the analysis here but for resons unknown he has yet to report for work. We have heard rumors of long grappa-bingedrinking sessions and erratic behavior from the once loved character but we were assured his bitterness with losing his job to the younger, hipper Lupo Wolfie would in no way affect his job performance. We'll see if he turns up later in the race but for now here is our own team rundown. What are they here for and how will they do in the coming three weeks?
Stars: Domenico Pozzovivo, Carlos Betancur
Watercarriers: Rinaldo Nocentini
Objectives: Getting Pozzerwagen on the podium and getting some value out of Betancur. Any value, any at all.
Chances: It’s a combination of "pretty good" and "no way in hell". Pozzovivo is very solid these days. He rarely disappoints in the Giro and even the long 59 km timetrial shouldn’t be a major issue for the new and improved Pozzerwagen-edition. Betancur is another matter. At some point he will probably return to what he once was but Romandie showed no signs it will happen in the Giro. Possibly in the Vuelta, or even more likely once he leaves Ag2r.
Stars: Franco Pellizotti, Francesco Chicchi
Watercarriers: Oscar Gatto
Objectives: Stagewins, stagewins, stagewins. As always Savio will be aiming to make sure his 34578 sponsors get their exposure every day of the Giro. Pellizotti will likely be hovering somewhere near the top 10 too I’m guessing.
Chances: Pretty fair. Their roster is looking thinner than they have but they rarely miss out on at least being visible. I’d bet more money on them getting some random stagewins from breakaways than Pellizotti or Chicchi doing much though.
Stars: Fabio Aru
Watercarriers: Tanel Kangert, Dario Cataldo, Mikel Landa
Objectives: Getting Aru higher on the podium than last year’s third. And if his tummy made that impossible they’ll probably shift aim for some high profile stagewins.
Chances: The reports of Aru’s illness don’t really sound promising for someone aiming to win the Giro. Heavy weightloss and lots of missed training. Presumably his chances lie in surviving week 1, improving in week 2 and hoping he’s close enough to really challenge in week 3. If he were Froome or Contador I’d buy it but now it seems a bit of a pipe dream.
Stars: Sonny Colbrelli
Watercarriers: Edoardo Zardini, Stefano Pirazzi
Objectives: Stagewins and getting themselves in the good breakaways on medium mountain days when there’s a chance of success.
Chances: Colbrelli is looking decidedly tame this year so their best chances may lie in someone else in their merry band of fluorescent attackers. Pirazzi is nuts and will be everywhere of course but it rarely leads to too much. Maybe Zardini who is on an upward trajectory is their best bet for a result this year?
Stars: Damiano Caruso, Philippe Gilbert
Watercarriers: Darwin Atapuma, Stefan Küng
Objectives: Stagewins with Gilbert and letting Caruso sneak around and see if he’s good enough to hang around the GC.
Chances: There really are a good number of days that suit Gilbert and his likes in this Giro and BMC look pretty smartly built for this race. Caruso and Atapuma won’t top any lists of favorites but they could very well factor in the mountains so they look pretty well set for a team who, in the end, is deploying its heaviest guns at the Tour.
Stars: Davide Formolo, Ryder Hesjedal
Watercarriers: Davide Villella, Tom Jelte Slagter
Objectives: Support their young Italians to see what they can do. Chase stages, win something. Anything at all really.
Chances: I honestly don’t know if the main plan still is about Hesjedal and Danielson for the GC but you would hope they have more exciting ideas than that. And better ones? The team is in a precarious situation though and they really need to start putting some numbers on the board and become relevant in races. Laying that on their Italian kids is a bit of a tall order but some noticeable performances from them would be most welcome. Other than that it’s probably up to Slagter to out-gilbert Gilbert on the medium stages if this is going to be a turn-around for the men-in-green.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice
Stars: Maciej Paterski, Sylwester Szmyd
Watercarriers: Grega Bole
Objectives: Earning their wildcard. Bole for the sprints, at least the trickier ones and let Paterski continue his good run to take a stab at the harder stages. Keep Szmyd safe and see if he can szmyd his way into the top ten or grab a mountain stage.
Chances: It’s hard to muster much enthusiasm about the Giro’s new Polish addition. Paterski’s efforts in Catalunya raise some hopes but otherwise it’s hard to see what they contribute in a sporting sense. Watching a Szmyd who hasn’t been his szmydy self in years grind his way to a respectable GC isn’t really getting my pulse up much. He just feels like an ever so slightly more pronounceable version of Przemyslaw Niemec.
Stars: Rigoberto Uran, Tom Boonen
Watercarriers: Gianluca Brambilla, Maxime Bouet
Objectives: Get Uran on the podium. Find something for Boonen to do so he doesn’t look too forlorn on his Italian vacation.
Chances: For a win? Zero. To keep Uran’s string of solid top performances alive: excellent. I’m not entirely sure what the rest of the team is here to do though frankly. You get that sad smell of "Tour-team rejects" from that roster, not that they are bad riders by any means. They do feel a bit like a rabble without a cause though.
Watercarriers: Alexandre Geniez, Francis Mourey
Objectives: Do what French teams do in the Giro. Try and look busy.
Chances: No, I don’t think they will manage to look too busy, except on those shots of the peloton marked "Coda del gruppo" on screen. That said, Geniez could get up to some shenanigans on some of the medium stages but that’s about it.
Stars: Luka Mezgec, Simon Geschke
Watercarriers: Bert De Backer, Nikias Arndt
Objectives: Pretend like Degenkolb or Kittel was here. Win sprints with Mezgec and hope Geschke is recovered enough to be a factor.
Chances: Luka Mezgec should be jubilant about a chance like this but he hasn’t been sparkling so far this year. If he is at is best he could be a major player though even if the sprint support isn’t the absolute best that Giant can produce. Beyond that, this is a team of opportunists
Stars: Matteo Pelucchi
Watercarriers: Heinrich Haussler, Sylvain Chavanel
Objectives: Win sprints with Pelucchi.
Chances: Italy could really use a new big-name sprinter but I’m not entirely sure Pelucchi is it. He will have a dedicated team and every opportunity to step into that role judging by the pre-race talk. This could get interesting.
Stars: Ilnur Zakarin, Luca Paolini
Watercarriers: Sergey Lagutin, Sergei Chernetchkiy
Objectives: Stay lucky, keep winning stuff. Not sure what the grand plan is but they have plenty of strong cards.
Chances: I’m thinking the Katusha triumph wagon stops here, or at least takes a bit of a breather. Not seeing much sharpness here. Lots of quality but not necessarily those one or two stars to finish the job. Zakarin should find this a size or two too much, at least in week two and three.
Stars: Diego Ulissi, Przemyslaw Niemec, Sacha Modolo
Watercarriers: Roberto Ferrari
Objectives: A decent GC for Niemec, some stagewins and signs of improvement from Ulissi. Hoping Modolo is back to sprint-winning form.
Chances: Aww Lampre you loveable fluorescent nincompoops, you really need your sprinters to pull this off. The GC boys aren’t looking too convincing to me. A year ago Ulissi was the hottest thing in Italian cycling since sliced bread in your musette, now he looks pretty pale. For Lampre's sake that better turn around here in the Giro.
Stars: Jurgen Van den Broeck, André Greipel
Watercarriers: Adam Hansen , Lars Bak, Louis Vervaeke
Objectives: Win sprints with Greipel, the only supersprinter in the race. A top 5 on GC for Van den Broeck.
Chances: Greipel will win stages, I just can’t see this going any other way. And JVDB will do what he does best, finish fifth. Or sixth. And they're both well supported in their quest to do so.
Stars: …….. Moreno Hofland?
Watercarriers: Steven Kruijswijk, George Bennett
Objectives: Sprinting from Hofland like he once promised he could. Signs of GC riding from Kruijsvijk like he once promised he could.
Chances: Slim to none. I actually like Bennett’s chances of impressing more than any of the others. He is a solid climber of the type you get the sense that they just need that one eyeopening breakthrough ride to take their game to another level. Not that Rabo/Belkin/LottoNL is the kind of place where that happens for a lot of riders but we can dream.
Stars: Igor Anton, Benat Intxausti, Ion Izagirre, Juan Jose Lobato
Watercarriers: Giovanni Visconti, Ruben Fernandez
Objectives: Let the kids make their GC plays when the big boys aren’t around.
Chances: Meh. Intxausti looked to be on the way to something but has stalled a bit in the last years and the Izagirres seem like the kind of riders that will settle into impressive helper careers, not GC stardom. That leaves Anton as the best looking GC prospect but every time we talk him up he falls flat to the ground so let’s spare him the jinx. That said he just won Asturias and is looking brilliant. Also Lobato could be the one giving them cause to fiesta in the team hotel this time. Movistar rarely walk away from GTs empty handed, they simply have too much quality for that. And maybe the most interesting to follow will be the Grand Tour debut of young Ruben Fernandez? Avenir winners rightfully always carry a certain amount of expectations.
Stars: Damiano Cunego
Objectives: Travel back in time to 2004. Or else, get in some breakaways.
Chances: Eeeeehhhhhhh. Ja.……..No.
Stars: Michael Matthews, Johan Chaves
Watercarriers: Simon Gerrans, Pieter Weening
Objectives: Win lots of sprints. See what Chaves can do in a grand tour.
Chances: Matthews knows how to Giro, we saw that last year so they should be ok. Then whatever Chaves manages will be bonus as will whatever the bad-luck-prone Gerrans does. They actually have a great support team, topped by Weening, one of the best gregarios around at the moment, for everything but the high mountains where Chaves will have to fend for himself.
Stars: Manuel Belletti
Watercarriers: Alessandro Petacchi
Objectives: Be Italian. Not embarrass themselves bad enough not to get invited back next year.
Chances: Terrific. I mean they’ve already changed their kit to the most drab colorscheme available, known as "Turin-concrete", to make us forget their shitty heritage and they managed to wiggle their way into the race one more time. So why wouldn’t they manage to stay anonymous enough not to embarrass themselves or the race? It’s only three weeks.
Stars: Richie Porte, Leopold König, Elia Viviani
Watercarriers: Mikel Nieve, Vasil Kiriyenka
Objectives: Win the whole farging thing. Also win a sprint with Viviani. Kill cycling.
Chances: This is the million dollar question this Giro isn’t it? We know roughly what to expect from the other favorites but Porte is the big unknown. General consensus is that he struggles to hold it together over three weeks because historically he hasn’t. But in reality the sample size of GTs where Porte has actually gone in with good preparation and as leader is pretty small. Or non-existing really. So, in my book he goes in with a clean slate, time will tell if the consensus is correct or not but on paper he couldn’t ask for a much more perfect route or better support.
Stars: Alberto Contador
Watercarriers: Ivan Basso, Roman Kreuziger, Michael Rogers
Objectives: Win. While saving as much energy as possible for a run at the TdF in July.
Chances: Nothing really points to anything other than AC being the overwhelming favorite here but the question will be if his preparation to do both this and the TdF will affect his level. A Conta going at 90% might not easily shake off Porte, Aru and Uran but is that rider we will see? I’m sure his boss will be very forgiving if he fails to win two GTs so there’s no pressure really.
Trek Factory Racing
Stars: Giacomo Nizzolo
Watercarriers: Fabio Felline
Objectives: Support their Italian riders even if they aren’t top shelf. Pray it pays off somehow.Otherwise talk about Fabian a lot so it seems like he is here in the race.
Chances: I’d love to say I’m enthusiastic about this bunch but it’s hard really. Felline is an interesting rider to follow this year of course and Nizzolo is solid, but rarely able to win on the big stage. But beyond that Trek are really a good advertisement for the weakness in the system with teams forced to do all the GTs. Luckily they have a few Italians so the whole thing won’t look too uninspired.