The Giro d’Italia kicks off this weekend, with Caleb Ewan leading Australia in the first Grand Tour of the season.
He is one of nine Australians who will start with the rest of the pack in the grueling 21-stage, 3,445.6km test that begins in Budapest on Friday.
The peloton will spend three days in Hungary, before heading off to Sicily for two days and finally reaching mainland Italy, the route winding north towards the Alps before culminating in an individual time trial in Verona on Sunday 29 May.
Lotto Soudal’s Ewan will be joined at the start line in Budapest by an INEOS Grenadiers veteran richie door in what is likely to be his last major tour appearance.
BORA-hansgrohe’s Jay Hindley, scottish miles of Groupama-FDJ, chris hamilton of the DSM team and the Team BikeExchange-Jayco quartet of Lucas Hamilton Michael Hepburn Damien Howson Y scottish callum make up the rest of Australians.
Ewan set to race Mark Cavendish for sprint wins
The Giro is known as an extraordinarily tough race and this, the 105th edition, is expected to be no different, with riders prepared for more than 50,000 meters of elevation gain.
However, amidst all the mountain passes, there will be plenty of opportunities for the sprinters to make their mark over the course of the three-week race.
Ewan is among the fastest men on the start list, so he can be considered a favorite to pick up at least a handful of stage wins and be ready to claim the overall points jersey, the Maglia Ciclamino.
He has taken five race wins so far this season and a second place finish at Kurrne-Brussels-Kuurne, but illness ruled the 27-year-old out of his main early-season target, Milan-San Remo.
His Lotto-Soudal team has given him a more than decent starting train with German workhorses Roger Kluge, Rüdiger Selig and Michael Schwarzmann, with veteran Thomas de Gendt also in the line-up.
Even with that stacked lineup, the grand prix may be beyond him: Ewan has never finished a Giro in four attempts and, with the Tour de France on the horizon, whether or not he’ll take any chances on the downright Alpine stages remains to be seen. absurd-looking planned for the third week.
Then there are your direct competitors.
brand cavendish he was as good as he was on the junk heap this time last year, having endured years of injuries, illnesses and mental health issues.
However, the Manx racer made history at last year’s Tour de France, winning four stages to tie Eddy Merckx’s all-time mark of 34, cementing himself as a modern speed racing legend in what was once one of the greatest comebacks in sport.
He will now race the Giro for the first time in nine years backed by a stacked Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team with star leader Michael Mørkøv.
The 36-year-old has 15 career stage wins at the Giro and won the points classification in 2013.
Among the other riders to watch from a sprint perspective are Arnaud Demare (Groupema-FDJ) which will have scottish miles working for him, multi-talented dutch star Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), local hope Giacomo Nizzolo (Isreal-Premier Tech) and Eritrean sensation biniam girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert).
Sprint stages to consider
The sprinters are unlikely to see it until the third stage of this year’s race, the 201km course from Kaposvár to Balatonfüred on Sunday 8 May.
The race then moves to Sardinia, where the 174km stage five from Catania to Messina on Wednesday 11 May offers a tantalizing possibility for the sprint teams, should they make it past category two and climb Portella Mandrazzi, to 100 km from the finish.
The race moves to mainland Italy on Thursday 12 May, where the sprinters will once again smack their lips on the relatively flat 192km-long sixth stage between Palmi and Scalea.
The frankly awful stage seven, with 4,510 meters of climbing over 196km through the southern Apennines, will weed out the underdogs, but Saturday’s bumpy 153km stage eight around Napoli could interest the sprinters.
Stage 10 on May 17 from Pescara to Jesi is another flat route, although it gets a bit hilly towards the end, which cannot be said for the following days from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia.
After four tough days in the Alps, stage 18 will also offer a chance for the fast men, although it is not known how many will have survived the mountains within the time limit.
Richie Porte probably ending his career on the grand tours of Italy
This year will be Porte’s final in the professional peloton with the 37-year-old set to hang up his shorts at the end of the year.
The Giro will be his 17th Grand Tour, the same race where he started in three-week stage races in 2010.
He wore the pink leader’s jersey for a while in that race before finishing seventh, something he referred to as “some of the best memories of my career” in an interview with the INEOS-Grenadier website.
Porte will run for Ecuadorian Ricardo Carapazwho won the Giro in 2019 and finished third in last year’s Tour de France.
While Porte is unlikely to challenge for the overall race lead, his compatriot Jay Hindley it will be one of the three riders preferred by BORA-Hansgrohe.
The 25-year-old will look to improve on his second place overall in 2020, when the Western Australian came from the clouds to stun the pro peloton, falling an agonizing 39 seconds short of what would have been an impressive victory.
He will have competition within his own team for leadership roles with Wilco Kelderman as official leader and Emanuel Buchmann waiting in the wings, with performances along the way deciding who the team will back.
The other four Australians, Hamilton, Hepburn, Howson Y scottish callum will work hard for the British cyclist Simon Yates.
How do I see the Giro d’Italia?
The 2022 Giro d’Italia will be available to watch on SBS, with full coverage of the stage on SBS On Demand every night, with main channel coverage starting later.
The Giro begins on Friday May 6 and ends on Sunday May 29.
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