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Giro Teams Preview: Who, How, Why, and What Are They Tweeting About?

A short rundown to get you in the mood for the Giro d’Italia

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Team Presentation Photo by Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

One More Sleep to the Giro!

I can’t get too used to these Friday starts, because I need one less day to catch up on writing like a hole in the head. But here we are. Let’s quickly run through the teams. As startlists go, there is CyclingFans, where clicking on a rider will give you his Giro history. Or there is PCS, where doing so will give you an endless wealth of statistics. And then there is the Podium Cafe, where you can just scroll through the names while I try to think of something to say that you haven’t read a hundred times already.

Giro graphic small

For every team there is something to do. Even the French teams. In general, teams are out to garner points, gain notoriety, and pay back their sponsors. The competitive side of this could be phrased more like getting athletes to achieve goals, getting teammates to support those goals, and building confidence, cameraderie and satisfaction. Winning is cool. But so are prizes, attention, and money.

Here is a roughly prioritized list of things that might be worth a team’s trouble:

  1. Overall victory. Obviously the top goal for athletes, and tends to come with lots of other goals like attention, stage wins, and prize money.
  2. One of the three other jerseys: now pretty standardized to refer to the Points, Best Young Rider and King of the Mountains competitions. The Giro used to have more jerseys than soccer in the UK has cups, but now it’s just the maglia rosa (pink) for overall, the maglia bianca (white) for youth, the maglia azzurra (blue) for best climber, and the maglia ciclamena (cyclamen/reddish purple) for points.
  3. Stages. Bunch sprint wins in a grand tour can be a year- or career-highlight for a sprinter. Major mountain wins are badges of great honor. And in between are the rolling stages that might be won by riders who don’t get to win much.
  4. Attention. Spending time in the breakaway that almost always goes off from the early part of stages is a great way to show off your jersey, if showing off your jersey is something you are worried about doing. The Giro gets a big audience, but it also has 22 teams, and if you don’t have a top climber or sprinter it can be hard to get noticed. This is especially true of the three Pro-Conti Italian teams, EOLO, Androni and Bardiani. Their sponsors will love some RAI time.
  5. Prize money. The first three items on this list all involve cash prizes, and of course the jerseys are the biggest payouts. But ambitious riders can pick up lots of smaller bags of cash along the way. This is what was on the table in 2021; cash amounts might be different this year:
  • Intermediate sprints: Not just €500 (and lesser amounts for second and third) to each day’s intermediate sprint, but there is an overall classification which awards €8000 (etc) to the cumulative intermediate points winner.
  • Azzurri d’Italia Prize: €5000 at the end of the Giro to the top Italian finisher.
  • Breakaway Prize: Like the intermediate sprints, there’s a daily award (€250) and an end of the race award (€5000) based on cumulative points. To qualify you have to spend the most time with your nose in the wind on the front of a solo break or goup break of up to 10 riders. Must be on the front for at least 5km. Not sure what they do if nobody meets this criterion.
  • Fighting Spirit Prize: This is what used to be the combined competition, totaling the points earned from the intermediate sprints, KOM, and stage finishes. Daily total points champ wins €300 and overall winner gets €4000.
  • Energy Prize: Every day the Giro awards 3, 2 and 1 points to the riders who finished the final 3km in the fastest times. No daily prize but in Verona the winner gets €5000, plus €3k and €1k to the next two.
  • Teams Competition: Each day the Giro takes the times from each team’s top three riders and combines them to result in the day’s prize, worth €500 (plus 2nd and 3rd). At the end of the Giro, the times from each stage are added up and the top five teams get paid, with €5k to the winner. Not sure if they use colored numbers for the classification leader like they do in the Tour.
  • Super Team Competition: This is getting a bit exhausting, but anyway, each stage the Giro gives Super Team points to the top 20 stage finishers and top five intermediate sprint finishers. Basically this is the combined competition minus the climbing part. Sigh. Anyway the daily payout goes to three teams, starting at €500, and the final classification is worth €5000 plus 2-5 prizes too.
  • Fair Play Competition: the Giro awards penalty points for various infractions such as drafting cars, feeding outside the zone, sprinting offline, and running a massive PED fraud scheme (lots of points there). The team with the fewest points at the end gets €5k, plus 2nd and 3rd.
  • Competition Winners Competition: This competition adds up all of the other competitions and combines them into a separate ranking for who has scored the most scores in other scoring possibilities. If this were British soccer, it would totally exist. Alas, the Giro hasn’t thought of this one yet and I just made it up. Sorry!

For our team capsules, I will point to a few priorities, where they are relatively knowable, but teams don’t exactly go tweeting ahead of time about how fired up they are to win the Azzuri d’Italia prize. So just assume that the less I have to say about a team’s GC hopes or sprint prowess, the more you can expect them to hunt stages and paychecks. Without further ado...

AG2R Citroën

Top Riders: Andrea Vendrame, Lilian Calmejane, Felix Gall

Recent Giro History: Won the KOM jersey just last year! Geoffrey Bouchard isn’t returning to defend his title, but that is the sort of thing you can picture AG2R targeting again. Vendrame bagged a stage win last year too.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Eh... I mean, sure, back in France. Here? Is Felix Gall a stretch? He might belong in the next category, and they gave Vendrame the #1 dossard, so they aren’t declaring anything about Gall’s overall chances.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Calmejane is a bunch sprinter, albeit the kind you send to a stage race with very few sprints. Gall, like I said, is a kid on the rise and could be in white. He just finished sixth in the Tour of the Alps on the strength of his performances in the big climbs. This is his grand tour debut, however, so we should keep expectations reasonable.

What Are They Tweeting About? Smiling more?

They’re a French team, they aren’t burning through all their best PR gimmicks in Italy.

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Team Presentation
Van der Poel greeting the Hungarian masses
Photo by Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Alpecin-Fenix

Top Riders: Mathieu van der Poel, Jakub Mareczko, Tobias Bayer, Dries De Bondt

Recent Giro History: I think this is only their second Giro invite of late? Anyway, Tim Merlier won a stage last year. De Bondt did a lot of the intermediate/breakaway stuff.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Not even close, unless you count van der Poel targeting taking pink on day 1 (and then giving it back the next day in the ITT).

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Van der Poel isn’t often seen in big bunch sprints, but he has the kick to win smaller group gallops, and is here to do just that. Bayer is just 22 with half a Vuelta in his legs, but he might try to hang around with the Bigs in the climbs, as long as he can manage.

What Are They Tweeting About? Their kits:

Alpecin-Fenix have embarked on an effort to join most of the major ball sports by seeing if they can exhaust our interest in fun kit designs. Last year, they famously resuscitated the look of the old Mercier jerseys in a tribute to van der Poel’s grandpa Poulidor, and it was fucking cool as shit. This one is... not so much, being more of a tribute to a wall covering known as X-Kin made by sponsor Fenix. Looks great in the kitchen though!

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Team Presentation Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Astana Qazaqstan

Top Riders: Vincenzo Nibali, Miguel Ángel López, Joe Dombrowski, David de la Cruz, Valerio Conti

Recent Giro History: The roster churn makes this hard to answer, but sure, Vlasov was fourth last year before he bounced. Dombro won a stage last year, but for UAE. López finished third for Astana in 2019, then bounced, then bounced back.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Two, although one, Nibali, might be more of a ceremonial decoy while the other, Superman, is a real threat to win. Nibali slid to 18th in last year’s Giro, and doesn’t look any better this season, heading into his 11th Giro start (with two overall wins). So this may be more of a possible-retirement tour, though he’s been mum about that subject. López, on the other hand, has to be taken seriously as a potential winner. I know what you’re thinking: “Lucy needs to be taken seriously as a potential football holder.” OK, fine, he hasn’t always been very consistent in three week races, but in 2018 López was on the podium at both the Vuelta and the Giro and was sixth at the 2020 Tour. The Colombian is much more of a true climber, so the course is well-suited to his strengths. His one lost year at Movistar is over and he’s back in his comfy powder blue pajamas. And I like how he just won the Grossglockner stage of the Tour of the Alps, a few days after turning in a nice ITT performance, but then dropped back out of the GC chase on the final day, in rotten weather. Maybe he just didn’t have it, but I like to think he got the feedback from his legs that he needed and just decided to keep the powder dry. Not just smart, but confident.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Vadim Pronsky. Not sure why I keep wanting to call him Vronsky. But he’s a climber, of mountains if not 19th century Russian political bureaucracies.

What Are They Tweeting About? Dombro’s diary?

When they do get out-of-race attention, it’s often for stuff like “have riders been paid lately?” and “wait, Vino is back in charge again?!” So a low profile isn’t a terrible idea, except when you consider the fact that they have the single biggest star in the race. The Guardian did a big profile of Vincenzo Nibali, and you would think Astana would at least retweet that. But you would be mistaken.

Bahrain-Victorious

Top Riders: Pello Bilbao, Mikel Landa, Wout Poels, Phil Bauhaus

Recent Giro History: Since its creation in 2017 was centered around Nibali, they get credit for a second and third overall from the Shark, plus a second overall last year by Damiano Caruso, who along with Jan Tratnik won stages last year.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Oh sure, Bilbao and Landa have multiple top five finishes. Landa at 32 doesn’t suddenly look like a winner here, but he’s been OK. Bilbao has had a great spring, but did kick away the Tour of the Alps on the final day — again, in bad weather, so maybe he is fine. We will know soon.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Bauhaus is a veteran C-list stage sprinter. Debutante Santiago Buitrago could be a very intriguing climbing sensation.

What Are They Tweeting About? Eh, nothing terribly interesting.

Showing up is half of life, I guess.

8th Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition 2022 Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè

Top Riders: Filippo Zana, Sacha Modolo

Recent Giro History: Sheesh, this team has been around forever, starting as Termolan in 1982. Not sure they are anyone’s favorite team (see their doping history) but I guess there aren’t a lot of small Italian teams, or any Italian teams, for the Giro to choose from. Last stage win was 2016 (Ciccone). In 2021 they did Bardiani things like coming in second in the intermediate sprint final standings.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Huh? no.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Modolo can win a sprint if nobody better shows up. I don’t know whether Zana is a prodigy of sorts, he’s 23 and still on Bardiani, but he’s their #1 dossard so maybe he’ll get up to something.

What Are They Tweeting About? Nothing much.

BORA Hansgrohe

Top Riders: Wilco Kelderman, Jai Hindley, Emanuel Buchmann

Recent Giro History: Shepherded Peter Sagan around last year to a stage win and the overall points title, before he moved on to, shall we say, similarly green pastures. Pascal Ackermann won the points here in 2019 too. Not much of a GC presence in a while.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Talk about a pivot, they have traded in their points prowess for a full-on GC assault. They signed two-thirds of the 2020 podium, which was a weird race that happened at the end of the season, but Kelderman has two top tens at the Giro and Hindley is healthy again. Buchmann is a complete wild card, if he can get back to his pre-covid era form (4th at the Tour).

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Not really. Leonard Kämna might be hunting stages? Though with so much GC firepower I suspect they will only put guys up the road when it’s strategic to do so.

What Are They Tweeting About? Actual original content:

Now that’s how you use social media.

108th Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2022 - Men’s Elite
Martin
Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

Cofidis

Top Riders: Guillaume Martin, Davide Villella, Davide Cimolai

Recent Giro History: Victor Lafay won a stage last year, which is about the only time anyone has noticed Cofidis in the Giro in a while. Even having Elia Viviani around didn’t seem to help much.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Martin, absolutely. He is coming off 8th in the Tour last year, seeing if there’s a greater fortune to be found in Italy, away from the Slovenian mob. He is surrounded by guys who can climb a bit too.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? They may have the oldest team at the Giro. Simone Consonni can sprint some. Cimolai and Villella could go stage hunting if they aren’t needed to protect Martin at some point.

What Are They Tweeting About? Someone paying attention to them.

Welp. I mean, last year Consonni won the points comp at the Tour Poitou-Charentes, so maybe? This is a really, really bad year for sprinters at the Giro. The Giro has done its best to run them the hell out of Italy.

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Team Presentation
Cepeda
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli

Top Riders: Natnael Tesfatsion Ocbit, Jefferson Cepeda

Recent Giro History: The odd stage. Fausto Masnada three years ago was the last I think?

Do They Have a GC Guy? Maybe! Cepeda is a high-level climber who has some nice GC results in shorter events, like fourth in the warm up Tour of the Alps last year and second in the Giro di Sicilia this spring. But he’s a pretty long shot in his second Giro start.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Tesfatsion is either a sprinter or stage hunter, based on his palmares. He and Cepeda are 22 and 23, respectively.

What Are They Tweeting About? Not much in a while.

Tweeting costs money?

EF Education-EasyPost

Top Riders: Hugh Carthy, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Simon Carr

Recent Giro History: They occasionally. show out here. Only one win, back in 2012, but Carthy was 8th last year and they have three stage wins in the last two editions.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Carthy for sure. Not that he’s anyone’s pick to win, but he’s a solid top 10 bet with significant upside. He was third overall at the 2020 Vuelta and has a pretty decent track record of consistency, though he abandoned the Vuelta last fall (for reasons that seem to be a state secret). This should be the top priority, when there isn’t a sprint stage to hunt.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? MCN is a pretty fair pack sprinter, with six Vuelta stage wins and a Tour stage as well. Simon Carr and Diego Camargo are the young kids on the roster, though neither is ticketed as the next big stage race winner.

What Are They Tweeting About? New Kit Day!

Being regularly wrapped in pink means that every May you have a good excuse to roll out a new look, albeit temporarily.

Cycling Tirreno Adriatico Stage 5 - Sefro-Fermo
Lorenzo Fortunato
Photo by Roberto Bartomeoli/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

EOLO-Kometa

Top Riders: Lorenzo Fortunato, Vincenzo Albanese

Recent Giro History: The team dates all the way back to 2021 when Ivan Basso joined forces with Alberto Contador and his brother to start a new team. Fortunato got them off to a good start with a stage win and 16th overall last year.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Fortunato, which is a great name, so I hope we hear it mentioned a time or two back in Italia. Not that he’ll do all that much.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Albanese is the top candidate to make news for the team, though Samuele Rivi, Davide Bais and Hungarian Erik Fetter could be in position to bag a stage.

What Are They Tweeting About? The MCU:

Good to know they plan to have some fun. I don’t really have any opinion about this team yet but they have some significant talent.

Groupama-FDJ

Top Riders: Arnaud Demare, Jacopo Guarnieri, Attila Valter

Recent Giro History: Fourth in 2017 (Pinot), couple stage wins, including one by Demare two years ago, when he took the points competition.

Do They Have a GC Guy? I guess Valter. He will certainly want to make an early impression on home soil in Hungary, if at all possible. There’s not a ton of evidence that he can hang with the top ten, but he made it through to the finish last year, even after all of the energy expended holding the maglia rosa for a few days. This is actually Valter’s third start, so he’s a good bet to hang around and threaten to do something.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Demare, obviously. Valter, just 23, as the young guy. He could have a shot at the maglia bianca.

What Are They Tweeting About? Valter:

It’s a pretty cool story for a guy of some notoriety to ride in a grand tour on his home soil, when that home soil is not one of the big cycling countries... not even close. Valter is one of two riders from Hungary in the World Tour (and a third Hungarian, Fetter, is here with Eolo). He’s going to have a good time.

INEOS

Top Riders: Richard Carapaz, Richie Porte, Pavel Sivakov, Ben Swift

Recent Giro History: Defending winners of three editions in the last four.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Funnily enough, their three former winners (Chris Froome, Tao Hart, Egan Bernal) are not in attendance, while the last rider they lost to is Carapaz, then of Movistar, and now INEOS’ captain as well as the top favorite to win. Porte’s greatest accomplishment in the Giro was a best young rider triumph (!), but obviously he will serve as plan B or an ideal lieutenant.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Ben Tulett and Jhonnatan Narvaez are the kids being brought to the show. Swifty can sprint, but probably won’t be asked to devote much effort to it.

What Are They Tweeting About? Immortality. Humans made into marble.

Never stop being weird.

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux

Top Riders: Biniam Girmay, Domenico Pozzovivo, Barnabás Peák

Recent Giro History: The squad, which has been around since 2008, made its Giro debut last year, and so of course they did not manage to... uh, win a stage for a whole two days. By day three, however, Taco van der Hoorn had his hands in the air, which is insane.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Pozzovivo, natch. He was 11th last year, which is surprising because he was 38 at the time, and is even older now. Like Nibali, there is plenty of speculation about his imminent retirement, but he isn’t saying such things.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Girmay is both. Peák, the third Hungarian to start the Giro, is more of a stage hunter for now.

What Are They Tweeting About? Creating an entire community around how awesome Biniam Girmay is.

Israel-Premier Tech

Top Riders: Giacomo Nizzolo, Alessandro De Marchi, Alex Dowsett

Recent Giro History: Peaked last year when outgoing Dan Martin took a stage and held on to tenth on GC. That’s pretty much it.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Ahhhhhh... nope. De Marchi had the jersey last year for a couple days. It was a good couple days.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Nizzolo is one of those point-getting stage sprinters who rarely puts his arms in the air. His two points comp wins is double his lifetime stage total.

What Are They Tweeting About? Israel’s 74th birthday!

State sponsors can sometimes really put the kitchen panel covering guys in perspective.

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Press Conferences
Doom!
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Jumbo-Visma

Top Riders: Tom Dumoulin, Tobias Foss, Sam Oomen, Jos van Emden

Recent Giro History: Third two years ago with Roglic, ninth with the 23-year-old Foss. The odd stage now and again. And Steven Kruijswijk’s 2016 Giro was pretty great before he bounced off a snowbank.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Ah, sure, Dumoulin is clearly angling for the GC, although how seriously we should take his chances is another question. Oomen is a better bet, probably, and Foss is likely to be their top guy pretty soon. And van Emden could easily be in pink after day 2, albeit not for long.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Gijs Leemreize has potential down the line, so his progress on the major mountain stages could be fun to watch.

What Are They Tweeting About? My favorite stage, for which Jumbo is throwing a watch party:

Also how to be a mechanic.

Lotto Soudal

Top Riders: Caleb Ewan, Thomas De Gendt

Recent Giro History: They did OK in the Fair Play comp last year.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Hell no.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Hell yes, Ewan has five stage wins here, albeit without ever making it to the end of the race, so I wouldn’t get too invested in his points jersey campaign. Harm Vanhoucke and Sylvain Moniquet are the kids, but they will be stage-hunting with De Gendt.

What Are They Tweeting About? A rather creative way to introduce their team... on the pink sheet:

I can’t ever be down on these guys for long.

68th Vuelta A Andalucia - Ruta Del Sol 2022 - Stage 4
Sosa
Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

Movistar

Top Riders: Alejandro Valverde, Ivan Sosa, Antonio Pedrero, JJ Rojas!

Recent Giro History: Lots of high GC places, including wins by Carapaz and Nairo Quintana, plus additional podiums from them and Valverde. Carapaz dominated in 2019, bagging two stages as well. Things have gone a bit dry for the team since.

Do They Have a GC Guy? I am sure they think so, but who exactly? Valverde is the biggest name, but his grand tour chops are fading. Sosa is a bit untested in the three week races, but is coming in off a win at the Asturias.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Didn’t Rojas sprint once upon a time? Of course, Valverde himself can handle that aspect too. And who isn’t excited about that?

What Are They Tweeting About? Take a wild guess.

Do they even want fans?

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl

Top Riders: Mark Cavendish, James Knox, Mauro Schmid

Recent Giro History: Stages, stages, stages. Schmid got one last year. Cav has 15 wins but the last one was in 2013, not that that seems to matter. Oh, and he’s gone now, but João Almeida’s 2020 Giro included a fourth place and 15 days in pink.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Knox, who was 14th in that magical 2020 run with Almeida. Although last year he dropped to 53, and he just went after the KOM in Romandie, so I suspect his ambitions will be on stages and other classifications.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Hardly bears repeating. They have guys like Mørkøv, Serry, Ballerini and other leadout train aces, so while Cav almost surely goes home before Verona, Quick Step are dead serious about taking some stage wins while he’s there. Schmid is their youngster, but he’s just hunting stages. Do you sense a theme here?

What Are They Tweeting About? Packing suitcases:

Which probably a few of them will be doing sometime in week 2.

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Press Conferences Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Team BikeExchange-Jayco

Top Riders: Simon Yates, Lawson Craddock, Lucas Hamilton, Matteo Sobrero

Recent Giro History: TBEJ seem to have a habit of teasing their fans at the Giro with breakthrough wins. It started in 2016, when Chaves got the jersey off Kruijswijk’s snowy back. Then Yates seemed to be taking control of the race in 2018 before ... something happened and he fell apart. He got up to third last year, although Bernal wasn’t going to lose, so that one probably didn’t hurt as much as the others.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Were you listening to the Dude’s story? Yates is the #2 favorite behind Carapaz. He did finish off overall victory at the Vuelta in 2018, so we know he has three good weeks in him, and with a couple stage wins this spring his run of form looks good.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Sprinting is off the table; this is a GC assault squad. Sobrero is their token young guy but he’s probably just there to help on the climbs.

What Are They Tweeting About? Actual content about their Giro prep.

They are as locked in as you would expect them to be. I am getting excited now.

105th Giro d’Italia 2022 - Team Presentation Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Team DSM

Top Riders: Romain Bardet, Thymen Arensman, Alberto Dainese

Recent Giro History: The Sunweb/DSM factory has been great at finding guys, if not keeping them, and the 2020 race saw them put both Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley in a potential winning position, only to get burned by Tao Hart at the close. But they had Dumoulin the year he won, 2017, as well in 2018 when he got second. Bardet came on board last year and took 7th with a stage win.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Bardet. He has two podium finishes at the Tour, so while at 31 he doesn’t strike anyone as the pick to win, he’s no longshot either. Won the Tour of the Alps, so the form is there.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? As usual, sure, talent continues to overflow. Dainese hasn’t won a grand tour stage yet, but he’s knocked on the door, and with a reduced sprinters’ field maybe he gets lucky and gets to a finale without Cavendish to reckon with. Arensman is a hot choice for Young Rider, in his third full season at the top level and with two Vueltas in his legs. He came in third behind Bardet at the Alps Tour too, winning that white jersey by minutes.

What Are They Tweeting About? Fantasy cycling!

Dreamy!

Trek-Segafredo

Top Riders: Giulio Ciccone, Bauke Mollema, Mattias Skjelmose Jensen, Dario Cataldo, Juan Pedro López, Edward Theuns

Recent Giro History: Mollema is usually in or near the top 10. Ciccone had a nice run in 2019 with a stage win and the KOM overall victory. Other than that, they’ve been a bit too quiet for a half-Italian squad.

Do They Have a GC Guy? Ciccone and maybe Mollema or one of the kids? I guess it’ll play out on the road. With no Nibali as the figurehead, Ciccone is completely cleared to race for himself, but he hasn’t made it to the end the last two Giri. The ageless Mollema has probably seen his last top-10, and the kids are probably back end of the top 10 at the very most.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Theuns might poach a sprint, although probably from a breakaway. Skjelmose Jensen is the talented but very green 21 year old starting at the Giro in his grand tour debut. That usually doesn’t end well, but you never know. López is less sexy but has been good of late and comes with a couple Vueltas in his system.

What Are They Tweeting About? Be still, my Abruzzese heart...

Ciccone and Abruzzo will get a ton of play. The stage to the Blockhaus is massive, and the history of Abruzzese cyclists is pretty short, like much of Mezzogiorno, except unlike Basilicata Abruzzo has the terrain of a cycling haven. Case in point next Sunday. Anyway, the two most famous predecessors are Vito Taccone, who I think was last seen making counterfeit clothes? And Danilo Di Luca. [Extreme sigh.] Anyway, Madonna’s distant cousin is a breath of fresh air.

104th Giro d’Italia 2021 - Stage 14
Covi on the Zoncolan
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,

UAE Team Emirates

Top Riders: João Almeida, Rui Costa, Alessandro Covi, Davide Formolo, Fernando Gaviria, Diego Ulissi

Recent Giro History: They haven’t been Lampre for a while, so although there is plenty of history — glorious, glorious history — to cite to, the recent returns have been minimal. They win stages every year though, including Ulissi who has won 8 Giro stages, dating as far back as 2011 (before getting popped for salbutamol), and who could go hunting for the points comp if he chose to (and if Gaviria doesn’t).

Do They Have a GC Guy? Almeida. He has been fourth and sixth here, and is firmly entrenched in the second tier of favorites this time around, coming with the type of real team support he didn’t enjoy with Quick Step. The form seems fine, though he’s mostly been hunkered away doing training rides, which is probably smart but he has to be careful not to start slowly. Costa, Formolo and Rui Oliveira make for a healthy (and unusually Portuguese) support team. Don’t be shocked if he wins.

Do They Have a Sprinter or Young Rider to Watch? Yes to both. Gaviria is the sprinter, with five stages to his name as well as the 2017 points competition. Covi made his Giro and grand tour debut last year and took third on Monte Zoncolan, so don’t expect the Italian public to be at all reasonable over the next three weeks.

What Are They Tweeting About? The sharks are circling...