Giro d'Italia: Bernal and Yates primed for maglia rosa battle amid fierce competition

By Sports Desk May 07, 2021

The Giro d'Italia returns to its usual spot on the calendar after its coronavirus-delayed scheduling last year and it promises to be another classic.

It was not until October that last season's event took place, with Ineos Grenadiers rider Tao Geoghegan Hart taking the honours for his first Grand Tour triumph.

However, the Briton's primary target in 2021 is the Tour de France so he will not be wearing the maglia rosa in Milan at the end of the month.

Here is a rundown of everything you need to know about this year's Giro.

 

THE ROUTE

It is 3,479 kilometres of hard graft from the start in Torino on May 8 to the finish line in Milan 22 days later.

That spans 21 stages, with two rest days, beginning and ending with individual time trials.

In between are some punishing days in the saddle, including seven major mountain stages and brief trips into Slovenia and Switzerland along the way.

All eyes will be on what could be a pivotal day in the mountains on stage 16, which takes in climbs up Passo Fedaia and the Passo Giau in the Dolomites.

The literal high point of the race – though perhaps not at all figuratively for the competitors – will also come on that day atop the Passo Pordoi, at 2,239m above sea level.

THE CONTENDERS

There is little to split Simon Yates and Giro debutant Egan Bernal in the bookies' odds, with stiff competition from elsewhere in the pack.

Bernal is from the rich stock of Ineos Grenadiers' stable and will have the backing of a strong team, as will Team BikeExchange's Yates.

Both have Grand Tour successes under their belts, Bernal winning the 2019 Tour, while Yates prevailed at the 2018 Vuelta a Espana.

Given that Geoghegan Hart was not giving any billing ahead of last year's race, it would be remiss to exclude supposed 'outsiders' from the reckoning.

On that front, Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Bernal's team-mate Pavel Sivakov would be two to look out for, while 2020 runner-up Jai Hindley (DSM) cannot be discounted.

 

PAST WINNERS

2020: Tao Geoghegan Hart 

2019: Richard Carapaz

2018: Chris Froome

2017: Tom Dumoulin 

2016: Vincenzo Nibali

EXPERT INSIGHT

Tour winner and five-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins shed some light on the supposed fragility of Bernal, suggesting the dynamic with Sivakov could prove problematic.

Wiggins favours Yates instead and suggested he could be joined on the podium by fellow Briton Hugh Carthy.

"The air of invincibility around Bernal has now gone after his failure at the Tour last year due to injury," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.

"There are question marks over his form and if he's through the period of being able to get through three weeks of racing without problems for his back.

"But for me this is Simon Yates' moment. He's won the Vuelta and it's been three years since he won that race and he dominated the Giro until Chris Froome did what he did.

"We could have two British riders [Yates and Carthy] on the podium and I think that it's going to be great race, I really do."

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    Tour debutant Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the race last September, on the eve of his 22nd birthday.

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    Pogacar went down as the second-youngest winner of the Tour last year behind Frenchman Henri Cornet way back in 1904.

    A sensational time-trial ride on the penultimate stage up the Planche des Belles Filles saw Pogacar snatch the yellow jersey from Roglic.

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    The defending champion was the first rider to win the yellow jersey, polka dot jersey (mountains classification) and white jersey (young rider classification) in the same Tour de France and will have to deal with a weight of expectation over the new few weeks.

    Roglic looked to have the title in the bag last year until Pogacar produced the ride of his life to leave his fellow Slovenian shellshocked.

     

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    There will be six mountain stages, three of which will end with high-altitude finishes in a race that will see the riders head to Andorra.

    A double climb of Mont Ventoux during the 190-kilometre stage 11 from Sorgues to Malaucene will provide a huge test.

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    Julian Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to compete in the Tour as world champion since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

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    Bennett said: "Needless to say, I'm very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year's Tour de France.

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    The Colombian told Semana TV: "Yes, the Vuelta. Right now, I don't want to think about one month training and being away from home, but I like to race, and I like to prepare, to do things well, so I know I will have the motivation to go to the Vuelta and do it well.

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    Bernal said he has matured since winning the Tour two years ago.

    "I've lived a lot of things, not just in sport but at the personal level as well," he added.

    "Things are changing, and I am more mature. I won the Tour at 22, and that's not easy. I obviously had a lot to learn, and I still do. I've changed a lot since I was 22, and the Egan at 22 is very different than the Egan of today.

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