6 Questions for the 2012 Giro d’Italia

The 2012 Giro d’Italia begins this Saturday in Denmark—here are 6 questions on my mind heading into this year’s first grand tour.

1. Will Taylor Phinney be the first American since Christian Vande Velde to don the Giro’s maglia rosa?
Looking over the Giro’s start list, there appear to be few riders able to defeat American Taylor Phinney in the 8.7-kilometer individual time trial that opens the race Saturday. From there, two field sprints are likely to follow, then a travel day and a team time trial once the race returns to Italy on Wednesday. Phinney’s BMC sqaud holds no GC aspirations—it’s racing simply to win stages. With the young American, Norway’s Thor Hushovd (perhaps Phinney;s greatest competition Saturday), and a supporting cast that just won the TTT at the Giro del Trentino, look for BMC to make its mark early—perhaps with Phinney leading the charge.

2. Can Tyler Farrar find his field sprint speed?
Tyler Farrar spent the first part of the season training for the classics—now he turns his attention to the Giro, hoping to regain the sprint speed that won him his first stage in the Tour de France last July. Farrar won two stages in Italy in 2010, beating men like Matthew Goss, Andre Greipel, and Alessandro Petacchi to take what were then the biggest grand tour victories of his career. This year, Farrar faces Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish at the Giro, a rider also trying to ride his way back into shape after some time away from the bike. A win would certainly be a confidence boost for the American, who is still winless on the season following his cobbled focus.

3. Will Mark Cavendish prove that his lead-out train deserves a place in Team Sky’s roster for the Tour de France?
Bradley Wiggins has won Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandie so far this season, making him one of the top picks to win this summer’s Tour de France. So it’s only natural that some have started to wonder how the aspirations of the defending green jersey champ (and 20-time stage winner) Cavendish and an in-form Wiggins can co-exist in a squad with room for only nine riders. Sprinting is a team venture, and Cavendish needs a strong performance in Italy to prove to Team Sky management that he deserves to have his full lead-out train (with men like Danny Pate and Bernard Eisel) on the Tour’s starting line in Liege.

4. Will Damiano Cunego thwart Scarponi’s attempt to win the Giro “for real”?
With two defending champions starting the race, Lampre’s official stance is that Scarponi is going for the overall while Cunego is hunting for stage wins and fitness for the Tour de France—a race in which he finished sixth last year. But while Scarponi has progressed steadily as a Giro GC contender (he finished fourth in 2010 and then was awarded the overall title after Alberto Contador’s retroactive suspension) one has to wonder how he and Cunego will co-exist should the 2004-Giro champion feel he has the legs to race for himself. Cunego could turn out to be Scarponi’s greatest ally—or his biggest rival.

5. Will Frank Schleck prove what many have suspected: that he’s more of a grand tour contender than his brother?
Until Andy Schleck won Stage 18 of the Tour de France on the Galibier, pundits were wondering if Leopard-Trek management had made a mistake in not asking the younger Schleck to defer to the elder during last year’s Tour de France. With Jakob Fuglsang’s last-minute withdrawal and the subsequent addition of Frank Schleck to the roster, we will get another chance to see what Frank can do in a grand tour without worrying about his brother. 2010 was the last time we saw Frank riding for himself over the course of a three-week race. But that was at the Vuelta a Espana—at the end of a long season in which Frank broke his collarbone at the Tour de France. While a bit underprepared, Schleck’s fresher heading into the Giro. He should get stronger as the race progresses.

6. Can Basso win his third Giro without the help of Vincenzo Nibali?
Ivan Basso won his second Giro d’Italia in 2010 with much help from third-place finisher Vincenzo Nibali. This year, the two riders have swapped places from last season, with Basso leading the team at the Giro and Nibali taking the reins at the Tour. In a 3-week stage race, two heads are often better than one—especially in the mountains. This season, it seems as if Basso has abandoned more races than he’s finished, but he says he’s ready after finishing key Giro preparation events in Trentino and Romandie. Can Basso prove that two heads are not always better than one?

What are your questions for the first grand tour of 2012?

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Image: Photoreporter Sirotti

 

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11 comments

  1. Champs

    When I was a lad, one of my science textbooks said the US would adopt the metric system within a decade of (whatever year it was). My science teacher then added that the previous generation of textbooks said the very same thing. We’ve seen this story before. If this is the year Farrar finally dominates Cavendish, we’re going metric.

    The Manx Missile will earn his leadout train for the Tour, which Sky will hold back to vainly support Wiggo. Team management won’t let Cav go *too* deep, not as long as it’s got conflicted interest in the Olympics.

    Cunego and Schleck will ride to their level and no further. I don’t know why people keep expecting these guys to suddenly dig into their suitcase of courage and step out of the phone booth as Superman. Side note: the same goes for Farrar and Wiggins.

  2. Bob

    Which route is better for SKY? They started with saying they wanted to win the tour, and now they have a chance. Does the inclusion of Cav now change their stated goals?

  3. Miguel

    Bob,

    Yes, it complicates things greatly. Cav is not a team player. He is an egomaniac who will insist that team ride for him. Wiggins’ aspirations will take a backseat to The Mouth. I feel bad for Wiggins – I like his style – but The Mouth will have his way.

  4. Michael Schlitzer

    Phinney and Cunego are the two guys that I want to see do well. As for Cav and Wiggo – I don’t think that Cavendish is as bad as Miguel says. I think his work in the last races with and for Wiggo speak volumes. But, I will admit that the Tour is different.

    Cav is going to try and get his without screwing Wiggins, and then he’ll leave the Giro. That’s what all the non-Italian sprinters do every year to the Giro and everybody does to the Vuelta, but when Cipo would do it to the Tour they got all up in arms.

  5. Mr Bad Example

    The thing is that Cavendish has shown some ability to go all Robbie McEwen and get stage wins without a dominant leadout train.

    But as far as Farrar goes, it’s tough to say he’s probably the 5th best sprinter out there and not make it sound like a backhanded compliment, because he just isn’t able to beat any of the 4 guys ahead of him on a regular basis.

  6. Hautacam

    You forgot the #1 question – Why on earth is the Giro starting in Denmark? Is it having a junket?

    No, seriously. Put aside the start money or PR or whatever the Danes threw down. Starting in Denmark is just plain weird. Spain, I could get. Greece, I could totally get (they need the help and the Giro could get a great rate). Mallorca, Gibraltar, Turkey, etc. Even Austria or France make geographic sense.

    But Denmark? How the heck do the dour Danes have any play at the Giro?

    Almost as nutty as that Hawaii stage in the Coors Classic waaay back when.

  7. A Stray Velo

    1. That would be really sweet but I don’t see it happening. I’d put my money on Peter Stetina or Tejay van Garderen.

    2. No, I don’t think he’ll ever live up to the “sprinter” everyone says he is.

    3. Maybe. He’ll win a few stages before dropping out. Sky will end giving him 1 or 2 extra helpers for the Tour.

    4. Certainly not. Cunego unfortunately was a one hit wonder.

    5. Frank will prove he’s a grand tour contender but not more so than his brother. They have what it takes to be on the podium but I still feel like something is lacking to seal the deal for a win.

    6. I’d like to see it happen but I can’t say that I think he’ll do it. I see a three way battle between Basso, Nibali and Scarponi. With Nibali and Scarponi battling for the win in the end.

  8. gmknobl

    I’m coming late to this post. After the first three stages I think Farrar is improving but my idea about sprinters is that early season form often remains form for the entire season. So, he may go up a notch but he’s not on form this year and perhaps doesn’t have the speed any more to be a top sprinter. He’ll live out the rest of this year winning but a few sprints where the fastest men are not there.

    As for Basso, he’s doing okay but he’ll have to have a great resurgence of form to really dominate things. We’ll know perhaps as early as stage 7. However, I think Ryder can be the “surprise” of this Giro. He’ll have to have better help than Garmin’s ever given anyone though to get on the podium. Since Garmin is going with a team committed to two fronts, GC and Sprint, it will be up to him with help of a few other GC people on the team for the most part. This is always their strategy. I can’t help but think that they could improve someone who has podium potential by providing more help but I may be wrong on this and will happily concede error.

    WRT Ryder, he is a bit of an unknown but has performed well in the past. I’m rather bothered not many have mentioned him. The latest article on Cyclingnews, just about the only rag I read (online) aside from this and PEZ anymore since Velo did the dirty to so many, has an article on Basso calling him the best placed of all the GC contenders. Really? He’s ten seconds behind Ryder. And I bet there is at least one other who looks better.

    Schleck, well, he wasn’t trained for the Giro and clearly doesn’t like his new management. And it appears he and his brother are head cases in that their performances can be negatively influenced by outside events. Since he’s not getting on with Bruyneel, this isn’t the GT for him so just ignore him. Maybe he’ll get a stage win if he’s very lucky. But that will be on pure talent, not because he’s going for a top step on the podium. Contrast this with Contador’s last second call up to go to the Giro and you can see the different attitude. On one hand we have the “meh” of Schleck as a response to the call versus “I’ll show them” response from Contador. Attitude can make a difference.

  9. gmknobl

    I suppose I should comment on the other questions.

    Cavendish is the fastest man for the flats this year again. Will the crash hamper him? Yes. Will it hamper him too much on the rolling stages with a sprint finish? Maybe. Wait and see. The real question is did he loose enough weight to make it over the mountains? Again, wait and see. But he won’t go ’til the end of the Giro. I think he’ll drop out sometime around the beginning of the third week. I’d like it if he didn’t but with the extra crash, I think he’ll go home and heal up then train for the tour.

    Cunego? Like Levi, he’s realizing potential shown early in his career. He can do very well on some stages. I see him as a possible top five finisher if he’s motivated. But, I don’t think he’s matured into a top GT contender. No matter what it was early on, his body is different now. He’s probably a great guy for one or two week tours and the guy can really motor downhill. But I just can’t see him as a top podium finisher in the three grand tours anymore. He’ll be great help though. Again, I’d love to be wrong. He’s been quiet in the (English) press, and that tends to endear me. I’d like to think that he’ll help the other guy on his team with a legit GC possibility if he isn’t doing as well. I think Simoni’s attitude just got to him. But we’ll see. He’s better these last two years than he’s been since he won the Giro so it’s an open question.

  10. andrew

    Does Ryder stand a chance at staying with the leaders in the mountains and thus winning the overall GC?

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