The evenings are longer, rides are getting warmer and the cobbled classics have been put to bed for another year, but the peloton will have little time to enjoy these glimpses of summer as they face up to life at the 100th Giro d’Italia. Opening this centenary edition of the grand tour upon the island of Sardinia is a 206km trip from Alghero to Olbia, a course which may prove somewhat tougher than many are anticipating for Stage 1. Regardless, it seems likely that we will be afforded the sight of another clash amongst the top sprinters, deciding who exactly shall be the first rider of 2017’s Giro d’Italia to pull on the revered maglia rosa. The finale features several tight turns, road furniture and even small cobbled sections, making this already tense affair a hectic maelstrom in pursuit of the win.
André Greipel is the biggest sprinting star present at this year’s race, though plenty are queuing up to usurp him at a race which could see a new sprint star step forth to claim the maglia ciclamino. His form has not been particularly well documented as of late, though his performances during the spring classics were certainly eye catching, even though they might not inform as to his current sprinting condition. His team is strong, but not the ideal line up for the nature of contrasting sprints at a grand tour race and the technical nature of today’s run into Olbia is likely to prove troublesome for the big power sprinter.
Fernando Gaviria will favour this rolling day in the saddle which lasts over 200km, while the tricky finish should also play into his hand as he seeks to burst forth with his incredible turn of speed. The Colombian rider may not have the greatest depth to his leadout train at this year’s Giro d’Italia, but the presence of Iljo Keisse, Davide Martinelli and Maximilano Richeze are a potent triumvirate which will prove hard to rival here. His teammates shall not fear an elbows out type of finish, likely to guide Gaviria into an ideal position to unleash his sprint.
Caleb Ewan is another young sprinter who has rapidly burst onto the scene and risen immediately to the top ranks in a short period of time. He has turned in consistent performances throughout the start of this year, even if he has not always managed to convert his best opportunities into victories and shall be a true contender for the overall points competition. Like Greipel, his leadout is not quite a perfect selection, but there is no doubt Ewan shall be a front-running rider for the race’s opening stage on Sardinia.
Giacomo Nizzolo has not enjoyed a good build up to the Giro d’Italia this year, suffering from a knee injury which has limited his performances and training for sometime now. Though a serious campaign upon the points competition is likely to prove too much for a rider with so little racing as of late, Nizzolo normally enjoys these complex finishes and it would not prove a great shock if he does end up in the mix.
Sacha Modolo will be short on supporting firepower compared to recent appearances at his native grand tour, but is another who tends to muster his strongest form when battling on these snaking narrow roads. It will be tough for him to navigate through the pack late on, so positioning will be crucial if Modolo is to stand a chance of crossing the line first, though he is skilled at transforming a glimpse of hope into a victory.
Others who may also feature are Sam Bennett, Kristian Sbaragli, Phil Bauhaus and Daniele Bennati.
1st Fernando Gaviria 2nd Caleb Ewan 3rd André Greipel