As you all know, most races have a points competition, usually but not always dedicated to the sprinters. (I'm looking at you, Vuelta.) The Giro is no different, it was established in 1966, in the 49th edition of the Corsa Rosa, and won by that Italian favourite, Gianni Motta. He also took his only Grand Tour victory in that race. An actual jersey was introduced in 1969 and since then we have all began to know and love the red jersey as much as it's green counterpart except...no. From 1969 until 2009 it was mauve, the maglia ciclamino. Should races change their jerseys? In my opinion, no, surely the history of the thing is the whole point? Since 1966, anyway, the points classification has been won by Merckx, Flanders winner Dino Zandegù, Roger De Vlaeminck, Francesco Moser, Claudio Chiappuchi, Mario Cipollini, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Tony Rominger, Laurent Jalabert, Alessandro Petacchi, Denis Menchov, Cadel Evans, Mark Cavendish and last year's victor Nacer Bouhanni, just to name a few.
How it Works:
Climbers were beginning to have a monopoly on the points jersey, so the organisers dreamed up a plan to stop them, with some unfathomable rules which I've tried to puzzle out. Basically, on stages where sprinters can possibly win, in this case 2, 6, 7, 10, 13, 17 and 21, there is the highest concentration of points, at the finish the winner gets 50 points, and they go all the way down to 20th, 50, 40, 34, 28, 25, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The top 10 at the intermediate sprint also get points, with 20 for the winner. On medium mountain stages, such as 1 (A TTT, yes), 3, 4, 5, 11, 12 and 18, 15 people get points at the finish, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 this time. The winner of the intermediate sprint takes 10. Finally, on the big mountain stages, 8, 9, the ITT on stage 14, 15, 16, 19 and 20, there is a relatively paltry 15 points for the winner, followed by 12, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the top 10. The intermediate winner takes 8. Still with me?
Who Can Win It?
No former winner is actually on the startlist, so a new rider will put a red jersey in his cupboard.
Who had the first week of his dreams last year? That would be Michael Matthews, Mikey Mats, Bling, or any other nickname you might find suitable. Pink jersey from stage 2 until stage 8, a stage win on an actual mountain, a TTT victory, and a handful of other top 10s, before, you guessed it, abandoning with half an eye on the Tour de France, and the general consensus is that he will do it again. However - if he does not he is the nailed on favourite. I can see him getting points where the likes of Greipel, Viviani and Modolo cannot, on the likes of stage 12, for example (the board-flat one apart from the hill at the end), or even stage 5, to Abetone, if they really take it easy. I admit that that's unlikely, of course, but possibly, there's always that mountain stage where they take it easy. From how he got over the climbs in the Basque Country, stage 3 will be a certainty, and also 4. Look, if it comes down to who can get over the hills, this is your guy, if he's not focused on July. (5/1)
(Bryn Lennon - Velo/Getty Images)
Probably the best sprinter in the race is German Gorilla, Andre Greipel. The Red Lotto leader hasn't looked so sharp in the big sprints recently, but has a great kick when it counts and when he's in the right position, as he showed winning the German championships and in stage 6 of last year's Tour de France, he perhaps puts out the biggest power in the peloton. But can he get in the position to use it? With the lack of big mountain stages in this year's Giro, it's hugely probable that as sprinter will win, getting over the hills mightn't be as pivotal as in the Tour for example, but Greipel's leadout has never been the greatest in the peloton and with a team centred around Van den Broeck, he mightn't get too much help. Sander Armee and Greg Henderson will be focused on him, but Maxime Monfort and Louis Vervaeke will not be concerning themselves with the rough and tumble of the sprints. Remember stage three of the Tour last year? Greipel was badly but not irredeemably positioned, but backed off going through the final corner and lost any chance of fighting for the stage win. If there's a stage like that, he mightn't manage a top 5, and if it happens more than once it will seriously damage his chances. Recently, he lost his leadout on stage won on stage 1, but later on won stage 4 of the Tour of Turkey. Another thing, which is a common theme in this Giro, he has more than half an eye on the Tour and maybe could be expected to drop out. He's the bookies' favourite, at 9/2.
(Yorick Jansens AFP/Getty)
Next is an Italian sprinter, in Sacha Modolo, who unlike Viviani and Greipel, has a decent sprint train, Richeze and Ferrari, (wouldn't it be great if he won the stage outside the Ferrari factory?) should keep the speed high going into the final kilometres. As we all know, Modolo specialises in messy sprints, remember stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse last year? That was serious sprinting in a tough environment. At 6/1 (No idea why I've started talking about odds so much) he is the bookies' third favourite, and that is justifiable. There are several tricky looking finishes in the Giro this year, and he won a stage of the Tour of Turkey with a fair few vertical metres and an uphill finish, which bodes well for this Giro. Again, there is no danger of him voluntarily abandoning, and I have seen many people say that he is their favourite for the competition. Either him or Viviani would be the first Italian sprinter to do it since 2008.
(Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Next is another Italian sprinter who has added a few k's an hour since joining Team Sky, Elia Viviani. He was very fast in the Dubai Tour, before ripping off half his skin on the first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Last year he wasn't so great in the Giro for Cannondale, but again, since joining Sky, he's put on a metre of pace, beating Cavendish. Alright, it wasn't when it counted, but it bodes well, and if he gets some support from the tifosi, who knows. Now, he has one problem. Name one guy here who can sprint: Siutsou, Nieve, Henao, Kiryienka, Konig, Puccio, Porte. That leaves only Bernie Eisel to set up the sprint for Viviani, if he hasn't been working for Porte already. Hardly an ideal situation. He'll have to wheelsurf if he wants to win. (8/1)
(Jeff Gross, Getty Images)
Nizzolo and Felline will be Trek's two-pronged Italian attack on the sprints. As we saw in Pais Vasco, Felline is possibly the only person in the peloton who can challenge Matthews on sprints after short climbs, but he is just a little bit slower, and that may prove crucial. He also will not be able to compete on the pan-flat finishes, and that is why he won't manage it. Nizzolo, if they do work for Felline on the hillier ones, will also not be able to get as many points as he may have burned himself on the bottom of a hill. Two top 10s.
Luka Mezgec timed his sprint perfectly to win stage 21 of the Giro in Trieste last year, but what has he done this year? Nothing, at least of any great importance. Okay, he got a stage in the Tour de Haut-Var, but in Romandie last week, he was nowhere, if your idea of nowhere is out the back in the gruppetto, getting dropped on hills. The one time he did get to the finish he was outsprinted by Uran. I just don't see it, especially when he was winning WT races ahead of his good, but not great sprint campaign last year.
Those are the main names. Others include half of Bardiani (Enrico Battaglin, Nicola Ruffoni and Sonny Colbrelli), their best chance is the latter, but he has been disappointed this spring. Matteo Pelucchi can pull out a fast sprint...every year or so, and he can't climb, Grega Bole won't take points on the flat stages, and then of course there's the GC contenders, but even if Alberto Contador won every single mountain stage, it's unlikely he could manage to hold off the sprinters, like the rules make it. 2012 was the way to do this system! Rodríguez beat Cav by almost nothing, and it was an actual competition!
Those are the names, but who'll win?
Well, if 198 riders made it to Milan, Michael Matthews, no question, but 198 riders won't, unfortunately. Matthews and Greipel, the two best equipped for it will likely not be crossing the line on stage 21, which leaves 2 riders: Modolo and Vivani. Sprinter, Sky, points jersey, GC jersey, that didn't go well, did it Mark? That leaves one rider, with a more dedicated team. I think Sacha Modolo.
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