Giro d'Italia victory is between Alberto Contador and Richie Porte
Australian has the form while Spaniard has the experience
Last Updated: 07/05/15 11:51am
This year’s Giro d’Italia may not have the deepest pool of riders contending for overall victory but it is nevertheless extremely difficult to pick a favourite.
People like Rigoberto Uran, who has been second for the past two years, and Fabio Aru, who performed brilliantly 12 months ago, are in the picture, but in my eyes the only two genuine candidates for the pink jersey are Alberto Contador and Richie Porte.
Which one out of those two will win, however, I don’t know. I can’t split them.
Porte has had a tremendous season so far and has been producing the best performances of his career, both in time trials and in the mountains.
His build-up to the race has been almost perfect. He won Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and the Giro del Trentino, and the only hiccup he has had was a crash at Paris-Nice, which he nevertheless recovered from by claiming overall victory the following day.
If Team Sky mapped out the ideal run-in to the Giro for Porte, this was probably it. There are parallels with Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome’s build-ups to their Tour de France wins in 2012 and 2013 in the way that it has gone so accurately to plan.
Contador, on the other hand, doesn’t have the form but does have two key factors working in his favour.
Firstly, he will be highly motivated for the Giro because he knows that if he wins, whatever else happens this season, it will have been a successful one.
He can go to the Tour de France in July and if he doesn’t perform, it won’t be the end of the world because he has already got a grand tour win for 2015.
If Nairo Quintana attacks on a mountain stage at the Tour, he can look at Froome or Vincenzo Nibali and say, ‘Fellas, I have already won the Giro, you haven’t won anything, so you chase him down’.
He would also become only the second man ever to have won all three grand tours more than once. Only Bernard Hinault has done that, so it would be an historic victory for Contador and he will be very well aware of that.
Secondly, he also has the experience. He knows how to win grand tours and he knows how to win the Giro, neither of which can be said for Porte at this moment in time.
Porte tends to have one bad day in grand tours and you cannot afford that if you are going for the win. That is an obstacle he has to overcome, whereas Contador knows that he can perform for all 21 days of the race.
As for where the race will be won and lost, the most eye-catching stage is unquestionably the 59.4km time trial on stage 14.
That is a huge distance for a time trial and if you are not feeling good and have a bad day, it could be a race-ending stage. Equally, if you are an accomplished time-triallist and are feeling strong, you could gain a lot of time on your rivals.
But I also think stage 14 carries a trap that riders will have to be careful not to fall into.
Waiting the day after the time trial is one of the toughest of the race’s six summit finishes, a 15.5km climb to Madonna di Campiglio on stage 15, so riders will need to keep something in the tank for that.
If they go too hard on the time trial and exhaust themselves, they could pay the price on that climb and give back any gains they made the day before.
It’s crucial that teams and riders look at those two stages almost as a single entity and carefully plan out how expend energy evenly over the two days.
That was a clever piece of scheduling from the organisers and I think it could be the key to the race.