Grand Tour season is upon us and Movistar Team, our representatives in the WorldTour, have selected a strong squad that will be heading to the Grande Partenza in Bologna on Saturday for the 102nd Giro d’ Italia. Once again the organisers have set-out a tantalising three weeks of racing and the peloton face an arduous parcours that will cover 3,578km with no fewer than 40 categorised climbs and six mountain finishes, many of which come in a characteristically brutal final week.
The opening time trial to Basilica della Madonna di San Luca is no “easy” prologue, with the final couple of kilometres touching 10%, so we’ll get an early indication of who’s has their climbing legs in top shape for the challenges of the Alps and the Dolomites. After Saturday’s opener, the first week looks like one for the breakaways and sprinters before the next big appointment, stage nine’s individual time trial to San Marino. The 35km stage is flat to start with, but finishes on a steep, narrow approach to the micro state that will pose a dilemma for the GC contenders – to swap bikes or not?
A couple of flat stages follow the first rest day and before the fireworks truly begin in the Italian Alps. Those that get through the Alpine stages will be rewarded with a second rest day in Bergamo, before heading for a series of stages that promise exciting if gruelling racing that sets us up for a final 17km time trial in Verona.
Movistar Team have won the Giro on three occasions; with Miguel Indurain winning in 1992 and 1993 before Nairo Quintana became Colombia’s first Grand Tour winner in Triest back in 2014. Although Quintana will be sitting this year’s Giro out as he aims for success at the Tour de France, and World Champion Alejandro Valverde will miss out due to injury, Movistar Team will still be represented by one prong of their fearsome trident of leaders in Mikel Landa.
The Basque has raced the Giro on three occasions, with the 2015 edition marking his emergence as a true Grand Tour GC rider when he claimed two stage wins and a podium finish. He went on to claim another stage and the mountain classification in 2017. After having fully recovered from an unfortunate early season injury in Mallorca, Landa will be aiming to re-establish his credentials in three week tours.
With one of the strongest squads in the World Tour, team manager Eusebio Unzué and his sports directors can craft a line-up that also includes two riders who have finished in fourth spot in recent years in Richard Carapaz and Andrey Amador, both of whom also have Giro stage wins under their belts.
Landa, Carapaz and Amador will also be able to call on the wise head of José Joaquín Rojas and the one man powerhouse of Jasha Sütterlin who will provide the raw wattage to keep their leader’s nose out of the wind for as long as possible.
With the production team in Livingston’s hard work on the Giro squad’s kits completed, we get to relax and enjoy the spectacle as our gladiators battle it out around Italy over the next three week.