The doubts of the Tour winners, the threat of the coronavirus, references to history, a trio of favorites: four things to know about the 104th edition of the Giro which begins this Saturday in Turin.
The doubts of the Tour winners
In theory, Egan Bernal has the ideal profile to win the Giro, which is traditionally played in the mountains despite the 38.9 kilometers of time trial spread over two stages. The Colombian climber, in love with Italy, is reborn beyond 2000 meters in altitude, a threshold that will be crossed five times this year (16th and 20th stages).
The winner of the Tour de France 2019 is advancing without certainty, however. Blame it on recurring back problems that he hopes he has overcome. “I want to regain the same confidence as before 2020”, he declared Thursday, referring to his disappointments of last year when, leader of the most powerful team in the peloton (Ineos), he had to abandon the Grande Boucle . “I’m working really hard for this. But it’s a long process.”
Also a former Tour winner (2014), Vincenzo Nibali says he is above all “happy to be at the start”. The “Shark of Messina”, who broke his right wrist in mid-April, has lowered his ambitions in a race he has won twice (six times on the podium).
The virus, always and again
Bis repetita: the health system adopted for the Giro 2020, in a country which was then facing an upsurge in cases of covid-19, has been renewed, with repeated checks throughout the event. More than 6,000 until the scheduled arrival on May 30 in Milan.
In the days leading up to the Grand Départ from Turin, the 650 or so detection tests carried out in the “race bubble” which concerned the riders and the staff of the 23 teams, all gave negative results. On the public side, the closed door has been decreed on the departure and arrival areas. As a reminder, two teams (Jumbo, Mitchelton) had left the race, last October, after the first day of rest due to several positive cases for the coronavirus.
A nod to the first pink swimsuit
The pink jersey will be the stake of the first stage, an 8.6 km time trial for a rider (Evenepoel, Ganna, Cavagna, Almeida, Campenaerts). First act of a weekend which continues with a plain stage, between Stupinigi and Novare, intended for sprinters (Ewan, Sagan, Gaviria, Nizzolo, Merlier, Viviani, Groenewegen, Dekker).
In a race that multiplies birthdays – the start in Turin, the first capital in chronological order, marks 160 years of Italian unity – the organizers stress that the pink jersey was created on May 10, 1931, 90 years ago, by reference to the pink color of the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. Its first carrier, Learco Guerra, one of the champions of the interwar period, was nicknamed “the human locomotive”.
Simon Yates first favorite
Three runners are favored by the bookmakers before the start of a very open edition. Briton Simon Yates, recent winner of the Tour des Alpes, is closely followed by Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel, although the young Belgian (21) is only returning to competition after a long stop due to a fractured pelvis last August. . This shows the confidence given to the phenomenon of the Deceuninck team which had crushed the competition before its serious fall from the Tour of Lombardy.
“He is ready to race. But we refuse to set specific goals in this Giro”, assures his trainer Koen Pelgrim. It remains that nothing seems able to disturb Evenepoel (“I am not very concerned about the first climbs”, he admitted this week), even if he assures to take the Giro, the first big lap of his career, as a stage on the road to the Tokyo Olympics.
For his part, Yates assumes his ambitions of final victory. But, scalded by his three previous participations, the Briton is cautious: “I have grown older and I hope to have learned how to manage myself better. The team has also grown and I hope we can use our experience to try to win this Giro. “