The start of the Giro d’Italia is less than two weeks ago and the mountain racing of the Tour of the Alps gave a first real indication of who is on form, who can challenge for the maglia rosa, and how the fight for the overall classification could unfold across the three weeks of racing in May.
Overall Tour of the Alps winner Romain Bardet (Team DSM) is clearly on form and motivated, switching from chasing stage victories to targeting overall victory on the last stage around Lienz in Austria.
Bardet’s tactics and Team DSM’s execution suggest the Frenchman is back to his Grand Tour best and so should be a real threat in this year’s mountainous but time trial-lite Giro d’Italia race route. He could even be a threat at Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège if he has recovered from his efforts.
Team DSM have included sprinters Cees Bol and Alberto Dainese in their eight-rider roster for the Giro d’Italia but Bardet will have support from Chris Hamilton and Thymen Arensman, who could emerge as one of the revelations of the 2022 Giro and even a white jersey winner as he was at the Tour of the Alps.
Bardet celebrated a French double at the Tour of the Alps but sadly Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) will not be at this year’s Corsa Rosa. He will be greatly missed in what should be a finely balanced overall battle.
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Pinot and especially his Italian alter-ego Tibo Pino loves racing in Italy as much as he hates the pressures and expectation of riding the Tour de France but after two years of disappointment and injury, Groupama-FDJ have insisted Pinot rides the Grand Boucle. However after winning the final stage of the Tour of the Alps he promised to return in 2023 and also ride the Giro.
In Pinot’s absence, Hungary’s Attila Valter and Michael Storer will lead Groupama-FDJ at the Giro and both will surely leave their mark on the race.
Simon Yates won the 2021 Tour of the Alps but opted to stay longer at altitude this year and will only race with his BikeExchange-Jayco teammates at next week’s Vuelta Asturias race in Spain.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) has opted for a similar build-up, spending time high at home in Ecuador. However Ineos Grenadiers raced as if he was at the Tour of the Alps, with Pavel Sivakov showing his form with several powerful attacks in the mountains. He will be an excellent alternative and support for Carapaz. Salvatore Puccio confirmed his ability as experienced road captain, while Richie Porte was consistently up front and surely did enough to ride the Giro, where his career began as an amateur and where he wore the maglia rosa in 2010.
Pello Bilbao and Bahrain Victorious were gutted to lose the Tour of the Alps on the very last stage, but can take heart from their solid team performance during the five days of racing.
Bilbao may struggle to stay at his best form for all the Giro and so be an overall contender but his finishing speed and sharp tactical ability could see him win stages and perhaps enjoy an early spell in the maglia rosa.
Mikel Landa will lead Bahrain Victorious overall hopes in Italy. He crashed out of last year’s Giro but has often come close to overall victory, only for team tactics or misfortunate to wreck his chances.
2022 could finally be the year we see his unpredictable and unique Landismo style of race conquer the Corsa Rosa. He believes so and kept a relaxed, low profile at the Tour of the Alps. The Bahrain Victorious team is likely to include Wout Poels and so has the strength to back Landa’s ambitions.
Miguel Angel Lopez has a similar career to his Landa and a similarly complicated past at Movistar but is also a potential winner of the 2022 Corsa Rosa.
He fell out with the Spanish team at last year’s Vuelta a Espana but Astana are far more tolerant with the Colombian after helping him develop during his first six-year spell in the team’s sky blue colours.
Lopez is the designated team leader for Astana at the Giro d’Italia. He will have key support with Vincenzo Nibali and the USA’s Joe Dombrowski, allowing him to fly under the radar and avoid complications early on, in the hope he can emerge in the mountainous final week.
EF Education First have had a quiet season so far but often come good in Italy in May. Alberto Bettiol will again be hoping his home Grand Tour can help him turn around a COVID-19 disrupted spring.
Hugh Carthy and new signing Esteban Chaves lead the US team’s overall hopes. The Colombian wore the maglia rosa back in 2015, only to lose it to eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali and finish second overall. He is now 32 but can still perhaps win stages and support Carthy with a smile on his face.
Carthy impressed in the 2019 and 2021 editions of the Giro but suddenly quit last year’s Vuelta a Espana early in the race.
He used the Tour of the Alps to build his form. He and his team have the experience to know that the decisive big mountain stages are still a month away. Carthy can surely target the final podium in Verona on May 29.