In true Giro fashion, the 2018 edition of the race will have fans on the edge right up until the end of the race. The race is set to start in Israel with an opening time trial followed by two flat stages then heading to Italy for some rolling terrain and the first of eight mountaintop finishes on Mount Etna on stage six. The rest of the Giro will expose the true GC contenders and crescendo the final week with a long time trial and three mountaintop finishes.
2017 Giro Review
Last years race went down to the final time trial with Tom Dumoulin making up more than enough time to take back the pink jersey from Quintana on the day that matters most. While there was little concern that Nairo Quintana could turn into a time trial specialist overnight, the race podium was completely up for grabs and anything could happen.
Last years race saw Dumoulin develop into a true general classification contender battling climbers like Quintana, Nibali and Pinot. He displayed amazing composure during each climb by riding his own tempo and letting the climbers attack him over and over again. All of this was put the test when on stage 16 Dumoulin suffered from stomach issues forcing him to stop at the base of the final climb of the day for an emergency bathroom break.Quintana went on to take back just over two minutes of his time deficit to Dumouiln leaving the Dutchman just 31 seconds ahead of him at the end of the stage. While Dumoulin gave back significant time on Quintana he stayed focused and rode his way back into the race holding onto the Pink jersey after a manic stage.
2018 Riders to Watch
Froome and Dumoulin
Froome and Dumoulin are similar in that each of them has a very strong time trial ability at their disposal. Froome has proven time and time again that he can time trial with the best in the world but he also has a leg up on Dumoulin with his ability to climb well in high-pressure situations as displayed by his four Tour de France victories and his Tour – Vuelta double last year. Froome also has a well-drilled team behind him with Sky that is all in to go for the Giro-Tour double a feat that has not been done since Pantani in 1998. If he wins the Giro he will be the first rider in 35 years to win three successive Grand Tours and if he pulls off the double with a win at the Tour then he will be the first rider in 45 years to win four consecutive Grand Tours. With plenty of controversy around Froome and Team Sky ahead of the Giro, all eyes will be on the team’s performance and the biggest goal they have set as of yet.
While Fabio Aru has not won the Giro yet he has been on the podium twice in his career and has one Grand Tour victory to his name with his win over Dumoulin in the 2015 Vuelta Espana. While Aru will animate the race on the big mountain top finish stages with his pure climbing capabilities he will give up time on the time trial stages to Froome and Dumoulin. If the two main GC contenders get pre-occupied with each other Aru could go rogue and sneak out of the pack to gain time on the others.
Finally, Simon Yates has been knocking for a while now but has yet to be able to put together the ride needed for a Grand Tour. He won the best young rider jersey at last years Tour although he has not had a top-five finish in a Grand Tour yet. The Mitchelton Scott team is strong but do they have what it takes to take on a team like Sky? Yates also has Esteban Chaves on the team who could be an asset but could also hamper the efforts of Yates due to potential team leadership battles. The upside to having both riders is that both Yates and Chavez are capable of putting pressure on the other contenders in the mountains which could remove some of the pressure on the team as a whole to control the race. The rub is that Yates has the best time trial ability between the two, he is still not able to put out a TT effort to contend with the likes of Froome or Dumoulin.
The 2018 Course
The 2018 Giro takes the riders from Jerusalem to Rome and makes the first appearance of any Grand Tour in Israel. There are eight total mountaintop finishes and two very important individual time trials. This is a true grand tour riders course but leaves plenty of races within the race for viewers to get excited about and for riders to challenge their competition.
The first week will see the sprinters come out firing with two semi-flat stages in Israel and then some rolling terrain that may favor a breakaway rider, though unlikely. The real story will center around stage six as the GC contenders will be put to the first real test on the slopes of Mount Etna for the first of the eight mountaintop finishes.
The second week leads the riders through central Italy and ends with the steep climb of Monte Zoncolan at the base of the Dolomites. The front half of the week has two mountaintop finishes including the Gran Sasso on stage nine. Stage nine includes this years Montagna Pantani (the Pantani Mountain, a memorial to the Italian climbing legend), the Gran Sasso will test not just the climbing ability of the riders but their ability to stay focused under the pressure for the leg- searing 26 kilometers. While the Sasso does not get into double-digit grades the length and where it is at in the stage will be sure to put pressure on the riders. We could see a change in who is wearing Pink at the end of this stage.
Stage 14, on the slopes of Monte Zoncolan will mark the end of the second week and will be the testing ground for the GC riders who can hang in for the long haul. This stage will see riders crack under the pressure or there could be riders step into the spotlight, stamping their authority on the race.
The slopes of the Zoncolan are unrelenting with an average gradient of 11.5% with the final eight kilometers averaging over 15%. The max gradient is 22% and falls in between six kilometers that average over 13%. With the steepness of this climb, the likely hood of riders being able to put in sharp attacks to put time into their competitors is dulled. It may even favor a rider like Dumoulin or Froome who are able to measure their efforts and have huge engines that can put out high wattage for extended periods of time. While this is not an uphill time trial it may very well feel that way once the GC riders are isolated from the rest. Finally, this could be a day that we see a true climber snag the stage win while the GC contenders battle it out for Pink.
The race heads out of the Dolomites and into the Alps by way of climbs like the Prato Nevoso, the Colle delle Finestre – this year Cima Coppi (Tours highest point) and a 34.5-kilometer time trial. Every stage this final week is worth watching but pay close attention to stage 16 as the time trial experts flex their muscles. The end of stage 16 could see the GC battle really heat up and the time gaps get closer than ever before. Stages 18, 19 and 20 are poised to battles with each GC contender and their team exchanging blows to see exploit the weaknesses of their competition.
These three stages all finish atop a climb but none of these stages will challenge the riders as much as the Colle delle Finestre with its average grade of 9.2%. The final nine kilometers of Finestre are ridden on gravel making the ruggedness of this climb feel even more epic and the potential impact it may have on the race that much more dramatic. From the top of Finestre the riders descend a very technical road on their way to the climb up to Saestriere and then on to the final seven kilometers climb to Bardonecchia that averages 9%. These last three climbs are sure to ignite the race and force the GC contenders to dig deeper than they have up to this point in the race.
Stage 21 will be more of a precessional than the final time trial in last years race. Moreover, the history of the circuit in the heart of Rome, the reflection of the past three weeks and the final sprint make this stage a beautiful capstone to an amazing Giro.
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