CyclingQuotes.com uses cookies for statistics and targeting ads. This information is shared with third parties.
ACCEPT COOKIES » MORE INFO »

Every day we bring you more pro-cycling news

CyclingQuotes.com takes a thorough look at this year's favourites and outsiders and finds out all about their strengths and weaknesses

Photo: Sirotti

GIRO D'ITALIA

RACE PROFILE
|
NEWS

RICHIE PORTE

RIDER PROFILE
|
NEWS

RIGOBERTO URAN

RIDER PROFILE
|
NEWS
07.05.2015 @ 23:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The Giro d'Italia was once known as a predominantly affair but a clear strategy to internationalize the race has paid off. For the second year in a row, the two biggest favourites for the Italian grand tour are international stars as Alberto Contador and Richie Porte prepare themselves for a very exciting battle in the first three-week race. The start list may not be quite as star-studded as in 2014 but with local heroes Fabio Aru and Domenico Pozzovivo and the ever-consistent Rigoberto Uran all in the mix, the scene is set for three weeks of great racing. CyclingQuotes.com takes a thorough look at this year's favourites and outsiders and finds out all about their strengths and weaknesses.

 

When Michele Acquarone took over the reins from Angelo Zomegnan as race director of the Giro d'Italia, he had a firm objective. He wanted to internationalize what was by many seen as a mostly Italian race in an attempt to challenge the position of the Tour de France as the world's leading bike race and the first premise for success in that regard was the attraction of more international stars to the race's line-up.

 

The effort has clearly paid off as a more balanced route design with shorter transfers, no excessive climbing and more time trialing has convinced several international stars to make the Giro a big  target of the season. Last year Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez both made the race their biggest goal of the season and it is the first big objective for Alberto Contador and Rigoberto Uran.

 

With Vincenzo Nibali again focusing on the Tour de France, the local fans will again have to look to Fabio Aru and Domenico Pozzovivo to come up with the goods while riders like Rigoberto Uran, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Ryder Hesjedal, Prsemyslaw Niemiec, Carlos Betancur, Ilnur Zakarin, Roman Kreuziger and Leopold König add more international flavor. The line-up may not be quite as star-studded as it was 12 months ago but the organizers have nothing to be ashamed of as they invite the cycling world to one of the most beautiful cycling festivals of the year.

 

CyclingQuotes.com has taken an in-depth look at the race's favourites, assigning 5 stars to the race's biggest favourite, 4 to his two biggest rivals, 3 to three other potential winners, 2 to four of the podium contenders and 1 to five of the race's minor outsiders. In this article, we take a look at the 4-star riders that may be seen as the main challengers to the race's biggest favourite.

 

Richie Porte (****)

After an excellent 2013 season, all was set for a big breakthrough for Richie Porte at the 2014 Giro d’Italia. With an overall win in Paris-Nice, a second place in Vuelta al Pais Vasco and an excellent performance in the Tour de France, the Australian had taken a massive step up and earned himself the chance to lead Sky in the Italian grand tour. With his versatile skills, he was even widely regarded as the biggest threat for pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana.

 

However, nothing went according to plan for Porte who had a real annus horribilis. Everything had seemed to be on track when he cruised to a solo win in the Tour Down Under queen stage. At this point his biggest concern was the fact that the course for Paris-Nice didn’t leave him many chances to defend his title and so he was pleased when he got the call from the team management and was asked to replace an injured Chris Froome as the team leader in Tirreno-Adriatico.

 

From there, everything unraveled for Porte. After a solid showing in the first mountain stage, he fell ill on the eve of the decisive stage and was forced to leave the race. He tried to bounce back in the Volta a Catalunya but after having been distanced already on the first stage, he abandoned. A few weeks later, the team announced that the initial plans of a leadership at the Giro had to be skipped and instead the Australian would line up at the Tour.

 

After very poor performances in the classics and Romandie and a terrible start to the Criterium du Dauphiné, he seemed to be getting closer to his usual level towards the end of the French preparation race. At the start of the Tour de France, he had ridden himself into a great condition and suddenly it seemed like his fortunes had changed when Chris Froome left the race and he got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead Sky in the biggest race. Heading into the Alps, he found himself in perfect position to finish on the podium when disaster again struck. Porte fell ill and even though he managed to finish the race, he was never a factor in the final part of the race. Two DNFs in one-day races ended a lacklustre season for the Sky rider.

 

Determined to turn things around, Porte decided to change his approach. In the off-season, he strictly followed his training schedule instead of doing some of his famous ridiculously long rides, and he kept a firm focus on his diet. The effort paid off immediately as he was already 5kg lighter than usual in November and by the time we got to the start of the Australian season in early January, he was absolutely flying. He made use of his improved climbing to crush the opposition in the Australian TT championships on a very hilly course and went on to repeat last year’s performance of winning the queen stage at the Tour Down Under.

 

In that sense, things were pretty similar to 2013 when he arrived in Europe for the start of his European campaign but the results could not have been more different. In the Volta ao Algarve, he took a fantastic win in the queen stage despite having worked had for teammate Geraint Thomas. He proved to be in a class of his own in Paris-Nice where he both won the queen stage and the Col d’Eze time trial just as he had done it two years earlier.

 

However, the result that boosted his confidence the most, was probably his overall victory in the Volta a Catalunya. He went into the race as a domestique for Chris Froome but when the team leader turned out to be far from 100%, he took his chance. He took the overall lead with a great performance in the queen stage and went on to take his second WorldTour stage race victory of the year. That result was hugely important as he found himself up against Alberto Contador, Rigoberto Uran, Fabio Aru and Domenico Pozzovivo – the four riders that are expected to be his greatest rivals in the Giro. To have been able to drop Contador in the queen stage must have been hugely satisfying for the former Contador domestique.

 

After a stint at altitude, Porte was back in action in the Giro del Trentino and again he turned out to be in a class of his own in the race that usually indicates who is on form for the Giro. Since then he has been checking out some of the key stages and finalized his preparations and there is no doubt that Porte will be 100% ready to go when he rolls down the start ramp in San Lorenzo de Mare on Saturday.

 

The results speak for themselves and have positioned Porte as the stage race rider of the spring season. Furthermore, Porte could probably not have designed a better course if he had been given the reins by organizers RCS Sport. The race includes the longest time trial in a grand tour since the 2009 Giro d’Italia and with a mix of flats and lumpy terrain, the 59.4km on stage 14 are perfectly suited to a versatile time triallist like Porte. On paper, Rigoberto Uran is the only GC rider that will be able to challenge him in that stage which has the potential to create massive time differences like last year’s long time trial that put Uran into a very comfortable race lead.

 

In the early years of his career, Porte was an excellent time triallist and in his great 2013 season, he confirmed his potential when he finished fourth in the long, flat time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel. In 2014, everything went wrong for him and he was far from his usual level in the TTs but this year he has returned to his former level. He was strong in Australia and Paris-Nice and only his Volta ao Algarve TT was below his usual level. In theory, he should be able to deal Contador a blow in stage 14 and then it will be all about defending his lead in the mountains in the final week.

 

In general, the irregular Italian climbs don’t suit Porte as well as the longer French mountains but this year the Giro organizers have done him a massive favour. There are no really difficult summit finishes and the hardest climbs come earlier in the stage. On paper, the final climbs can only create minor differences and the races will have to be made hard from afar to be made more selective.

 

On paper, Contador may be the better climber but Porte has nothing to be ashamed of. If he has the same legs as he had when he finished second behind Froome in Ax 3 Domaines at the 2013 Tour de France, Contador has to be at his very best to distance the Australian. If that is the case, we honestly don’t think that Contador will be able to take back enough time from Porte who could very well end up winning the race.

 

Nonetheless, Contador is our favourite. Porte has proved that he is a great stage race but there is a massive difference between a one-week race and a grand tour. The key word in the longer races is consistency and that is exactly where Porte has shown signs of weakness. He has not raced a grand tour as a team leader since he finished seventh in his debut grand tour at the 2010 Giro and so he finds himself in untested territory. However, he always seems to have an off-day in a three-week race. Most famously he was far off the pace on the second stage in the Pyrenees at the 2013 Tour de France before bouncing back in the Alps.

 

While Contador is one of the most consistent riders in the world, Porte still has to prove that he can handle the strains of a three-week race. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his excellent condition until the end of the race. He has been riding at a very high level since early January, winning stages and finishing in the top 4 in every stage race he has done, and he even plans to ride the Tour de France later. It will be very hard to maintain that kind of form all the way from January to the end of July.

 

If he shows any kind of weakness, he can rely on a formidable team. Sky have gathered a line-up that is fully worthy of a Tour de France team. With Leopold König and Mikel Nieve, they have two riders who can potentially finish in the top 5 themselves, and Kanstantsin Siutsou and Vasil Kiryienka are the kind of riders who can ride for hours in the mountains, setting the hard, consistent pace that suits Porte. If one adds young Sebastian Henao to the equation, they are fully ready to match Tinkoff-Saxo in the mountains.

 

Everything is ready for Porte to win a grand tour: the course suits him, he is in excellent condition and he has a formidable team. The only issue is the question of consistency. Can he keep his high level and avoid that famous bad day? He hasn’t proved that yet but as he has not been riding as a grand tour leader since 2010, he hasn’t disproved it either. History shows that the spring results often indicate who will be on form in the grand tours. If that is again the case, Porte will be able to make a remarkable comeback one year after the lowest point of his career.

 

Rigoberto Uran (****)

Etixx-QuickStep have always been known as a team for the classics but manager Patrick Lefevere also has the desire to make an impact on GCs in stage races. For a couple of years he has been searching for a potential grand tour winner. First he tried to sign Levi Leipheimer but as he got involved in the Lance Armstrong affair, he had to search the market for a replacement.

 

The rider who caught his attention was Rigoberto Uran. When Lefevere was considering his options in 2013, the Colombian made a breakthrough as a GC rider in the grand tours on the Italian roads at the Giro. Having gone into the race as one of two key domestiques for Bradley Wiggins, he took over the reins when the Brit fell ill and left the race prematurely. At that point, he had already completed an excellent display of Sky tactics by winning the first hard mountain stage of the race and found himself in solid podium contention.

 

With a 7th place in the 2012 Giro d’Italia being his best previous grand tour result, it still remained to be seen whether the talented Colombian could maintain such a high level throughout the three-week race but Uran proved his capabilities as a grand tour contender by finishing the race in second. He was never even close to challenging overall winner Vincenzo Nibali but the result was enough for several teams to approach him and in the end he signed a contract with Lefevere’s team.

 

Originally, Uran left Sky as he wanted a chance to ride as a leader in the Tour de France. However, the 2014 Tour de France started in England and the team decided to build a roster that was entirely devoted to Mark Cavendish. That left no room for Uran who was again left to do the Giro where he had to confirm his grand tour potential after a disappointing performance at the 2013 Vuelta.

 

With Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez both on the start line, Uran went into the race as an outsider but he managed to clearly surpass expectations. With an outstanding time trial, he took a firm grip on the maglia rosa. As Rodriguez had crashed out of the race and Quintana had fallen ill, he found himself with a fantastic chance to win the race and he is probably still left wondering what might have happened if he hadn’t been the big loser in the Stelvio controversy that cost him the race lead.

 

This year Uran has again made the Giro his big goal and even though he plans to do the Giro-Tour double, he does not yet know whether he will be riding for GC in the French race. For now, he is fully focused on the Italian grand tour and he will hold nothing back in his quest to improve on his two consecutive second places.

 

Despite his consistent results in the Giro, we would usually not have mentioned Uran as a potential winner of a grand tour. When he first made a name for himself, he was known as a climber and there is no doubt that he is excellent in mountainous terrain. However, he has never been able to follow the very best and nothing suggests that he has suddenly taken that extra leap that will see him follow the likes of Contador and Porte when the going gets tough in the final week.

 

What makes it possible for Uran to realistically dream about victory in Milan is the fact that the course is tailor-made for him. In a strange turnaround of his characteristics, Uran has emerged on one of the very best time triallists among the GC riders and he probably had a hard time believing in his own luck when RCS Sport presented the route in Milan in October.

 

Uran emerged on the European scene at a very young age when he took a hugely surprising stage win in the Tour de Suisse as a 19-year-old Unibet rider. Since then he learned his trade at the Movistar team and was known as a pure climber. The time trials were always about limiting the losses and that didn’t change when he joined Sky in 2010.

 

However, his move to Etixx-QuickStep made a major difference. Nothing suggested that Uran would be a time trial specialist when he lined up for the 2014 Tour de Romandie but that race changed his status. With a remarkable performance, he finished fourth in the final time trial on a day when he even matched his teammate Tony Martin in the final, completely flat part.

 

Uran confirmed that it was no coincidence when he took a dominant victory in the long time trial in the Giro and later he proved that the results were no fluke when he finished second in the Vuelta time trial behind teammate Martin. The Colombian is now no even a serious contender for the stage win in almost every time trial he does.

 

This year the single most decisive stage is likely to be the mammoth 59.4km time trial in stage 14 and with its combination of flats and rolling hills, it is very similar to the ones in last year’s Giro and Vuelta that saw Uran shine. If Uran can perform at that same level, he may even be able to beat Richie Porte and such a long stage can create massive time differences. This means that Uran may find himself in the leader’s jersey as he heads into the third week of the race and that will allow him to ride defensively.

 

Uran is clearly not at Contador’s and Porte’s level in the mountains but on his best days he is climbing very strongly. Last year he matched Nairo Quintana pedal stroke for pedal stroke on the Zoncolan and if he can rediscover those legs, he won’t be far off the best.

 

This year things even indicate that he has improved his level a further notch. With a third place in Tirreno-Adriatico and fifth places in the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie, he has had his best spring season ever. Furthermore, he has rarely been very strong in his preparation races but this year he climbed better than usual in Romandie. Last year he lined up at the Giro with lots of doubts after an illness-plagued spring season but this year he will be full of confidence when he rolls down the ramp.

 

However, there are still a number of chinks in his armour. First of all there is the matter of consistency. Even though two consecutive second places can’t be described as anything else than consistent, his performances in the mountains have been very irregular. One day Uran has been flying and the next day he has been in survival mode. He is very good at limiting his losses and never loses a huge amount of time but to win a grand tour, he needs to be able to change that tendency completely.

 

Furthermore, there is a small question mark regarding his time trialling abilities. Last year he was time trialling excellently but this year he has not been at the same level. He was off the pace in Tirreno-Adriatico and he did a surprisingly poor TT in Romandie where he was even beaten by the likes of Romain Bardet and Rafal Majka. His TT prowess is a relatively new thing and the Colombian champion still needs to confirm that he can definitively be regarded as a top time triallist.

 

Finally, Uran doesn’t have the strongest team at his side. With the likes of Tom Boonen, Gianni Meersman, Iljo Keisse and Fabio Sabatini, almost half of the team is focused on the sprints and this leaves just Maxime Bouet, David de la Cruz, Pieter Serry and Petr Vakoc to support him on the hilly days and those four riders look very tame compared to the formidable Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo line-ups. If he finds himself in the lead after the time trial, Uran will easily be isolated in the big mountain stages.

 

Being up against Contador and Porte, it will be very hard for Uran to win the Giro but with this kind of course, it may be his best ever chance to win the Giro. Everything will hinge on what happens in stage 14. If he can produce another splendid ride against the clock, he may be strong enough to hold onto the advantage in the mountains. In any case, another podium place is on the horizon for the ever-consistent Colombian.

MORE NEWS:

VIEW SELECTED

Bycykling 101: Navigering i byens gader og cykelvenlige... 27.11.2023 @ 12:11The Best Danish Cyclist To Bet On At 2022 Tour De France 13.01.2022 @ 15:262022 Upcoming Tournament Overview 03.01.2022 @ 09:45Best Place to Find Stand-Up Paddleboards 16.06.2021 @ 08:16What are Primoz Roglic’s Chances to Win 2021 Tour de Fr... 17.03.2021 @ 08:37Amazing victory by young champion Sarah Gigante 04.02.2021 @ 14:21Three reasons why cycling is one of the best ways to ex... 28.09.2020 @ 12:03Why do businesses use meeting room managers? 14.09.2020 @ 13:42Five things that you can do, if you want to gain more f... 20.08.2020 @ 15:38One for the road 09.06.2020 @ 15:25List of CyclingQuotes previews 07.05.2020 @ 13:20Blue Energy: room for all interests 26.08.2019 @ 12:56Get your daily dose of exercise at home 08.07.2019 @ 10:443 good advice to be able to afford your favorite bike 25.02.2019 @ 12:32Cycle through gorgeous landscapes 22.10.2018 @ 21:41Balance Your Economy and Diet and Start Saving Money 08.10.2018 @ 11:18Stay Safe: 3 Helmets That Can Keep Your Head Protected... 20.07.2018 @ 07:59Planning to bet on Tour De France - Bet types and strat... 24.05.2018 @ 14:18Basics of cycling betting 25.10.2017 @ 13:10Bauer moves to ORICA-SCOTT 28.08.2017 @ 10:45End of the road for CyclingQuotes 08.01.2017 @ 16:00Rui Costa confirms Giro participation 07.01.2017 @ 12:55Van Avermaet: I am not afraid of Sagan 07.01.2017 @ 09:45Unchanged course for E3 Harelbeke 07.01.2017 @ 09:32Jenner takes surprise win at Australian U23 Championships 07.01.2017 @ 08:53No replacement for Meersman at Fortuneo-Vital Concept 06.01.2017 @ 19:14Barguil with two goals in 2017 06.01.2017 @ 19:06More details about French Vuelta start emerges 06.01.2017 @ 14:16Kristoff to start season at Etoile de Besseges 06.01.2017 @ 14:10Ion Izagirre announces schedule for first year at Bahrain 06.01.2017 @ 12:40JLT Condor optimistic for Herald Sun Tour 06.01.2017 @ 09:19Haas leads Dimension Data trio in fight for Australian... 06.01.2017 @ 09:15Sagan spearheads Bora-hansgrohe at Tour Down Under 06.01.2017 @ 09:12Henao and Thomas lead Sky Down Under 06.01.2017 @ 09:09Bauer crowned New Zealand TT champion 06.01.2017 @ 08:33Van der Poel ready to defend Dutch title 05.01.2017 @ 21:00Pantano ambitious for first Tour with Trek 05.01.2017 @ 20:41Landa with new approach to the Giro 05.01.2017 @ 20:36Sunweb Development Team sign Goos and Zepuntke 05.01.2017 @ 20:27Dumoulin confirms Giro participation 05.01.2017 @ 20:19Bauer targets victories in Quick-Step debut 05.01.2017 @ 20:16Gaviria and Boonen lead Quick-Step in San Juan 05.01.2017 @ 20:13Team Sunweb presented in Germany 05.01.2017 @ 20:09ASO take over major German WorldTour race 05.01.2017 @ 11:01Team Sunweb unveil new jersey 05.01.2017 @ 10:54Reactions from the Australian TT Championships 05.01.2017 @ 08:27Dennis defends Australian TT title 05.01.2017 @ 08:21Scotson takes back to back U23 TT titles in Australia 05.01.2017 @ 08:15Utrecht on track to host 2020 Vuelta 04.01.2017 @ 18:28Pre-season setback for Talansky 04.01.2017 @ 17:56Kristoff: It's not impossible for me to win in Rou... 04.01.2017 @ 17:49Boom close to first cyclo-cross win in LottoNL debut 04.01.2017 @ 17:40UAE Abu Dhabi make late signing of Arab rider 04.01.2017 @ 17:36UAE Abu Dhabi unveil new jersey 04.01.2017 @ 17:30BMC unveil race schedule 04.01.2017 @ 17:21

Currently no news in this list

Carlos Andres PARRA
32 years | today
Saned ABU-FARES
25 years | today
Jeferson CALDEIRA
41 years | today
Maximilian Gil MITCHELMORE
27 years | today
Mark ZATHURECZKY
27 years | today

© CyclingQuotes.com