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Know it all: 2015 Giro d’Italia

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May 8, 2015 – Ahead of the start of the 2015 Giro d’Italia in San Lorenzo al Mare on Saturday with a 17.6km team timetrial, AFP looks at the top five contenders, as well as the key stages, and more.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Alberto Contador, Spain, Tinkoff-Saxo
Major results: Tour de France winner (2007, 2009), Giro d’Italia winner
(2008), Vuelta a Espana winner (2008, 2012, 2014), Paris-Nice winner (2007,
2010), Tirreno-Adriatico winner (2014), Tour of the Basque Country winner
(2008, 2009, 2014)

The Spaniard has the experience and ability to romp to a seventh Grand Tour victory but two elements may work against him. Contador is also targeting July’s Tour de France, which is arguably a greater aim, and he is no longer the force he once was — primarily prior to his doping suspension. Even so, he proved in winning last year’s Vuelta that he is still one of the best climbers in the world and if he can avoid losing too much time to superior time-triallers in the 60km stage 14 race against the clock, it is hard to look beyond the 32-year-old.

Richie Porte, Australia, Team Sky
Major results: Giro d’Italia 7th (2010), Tour de France 19th (2013),
Paris-Nice winner (2013, 2015), Volta a Catalunya winner (2015), Giro del
Trentino winner (2015), Volta ao Algarve winner (2012), Criterium du Dauphine
2nd (2013), Tour of the Basque Country 2nd (2013)

The Tasmanian has never really kicked on since an impressive seventh-placed finish on his Giro debut in 2011. He has more often than not disappointed in Grand Tours. Yet his form in one-week stage races is impressive, particularly this season. He won Paris-Nice for the second time and also triumphed at the Volta a Catalunya. Back in 2013 he was second in the Criterium du Dauphine despite riding as a domestique for team leader Chris Froome, who won. But it remains to be seen if the 30-year-old can transfer that to the three-week format.

Fabio Aru, Italy, Astana
Major results: Giro d’Italia 3rd, plus one stage win (2014), Vuelta a
Espana 5th, plus two stage wins (2014), Giro della Valle d’Aosta winner (2011,
2012)

The Sardinian is only 24 but he had a breakout season in 2014 where he finished third at the Giro and fifth at the Vuelta, taking three stage wins along the way. Seen as the natural successor to compatriot and Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali, the Tour de France champion, much is expected of Aru. But his preparations have been upset by a stomach virus in April and he has only 15 race days in his legs this year.

Rigoberto Uran, Colombia, Etixx-Quick Step
Major results: Giro d’Italia 2nd (2013, 2014), Olympic Games road race 2nd
(2012), Tirreno-Adriatico 3rd (2015), Volta a Catalunya 2nd (2008), Tour de
Romandie 5th (2009, 2015)

Having finished second the last two years, Uran should be there or there abouts and a top five finish, or even podium finish is a near-certainty. But there are question marks over his ability to actually take the next step and win a major race. Too often the 28-year-old comes close, like the 2012 London Olympics, but without ever claiming the cigar. High finishes are his speciality, winning is not.

Ilnur Zakarin, Russia, Katusha
Major results: Tour de Romandie winner (2015), Tour of Azerbaijan winner
(2014), Russian timetrial champion (2013), Junior European timetrial champion
(2007), GP Sochi winner (2014), GP Adygeya (2012, 2014)

A week ago 25-year-old Zakarin was an almost unknown but his stunning victory at the Tour de Romandie, beating the likes of Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana, has catapulted him into the pre-Giro limelight. His three-week Tour capabilities are totally unknown but his Romandie win suggests he should be considered a contender. However, having already served a two-year doping suspension earlier in his career, his sudden rise has obviously raised eyebrows and he will be under as much scrutiny for his results as for his biological passport readings in Italy.

Key Stages in the 2015 Giro d’Italia

Stage 7: Grosseto-Fiuggi, 264km
This is the longest stage of the race and covers a distance more suited to a one-day classic. It’s supposed to end in a bunch sprint as it’s relatively flat. But the pitfalls are numerous, not least because of the distance. The parcours is lumpy while the the first part of the race follows the Adriatic coast. High winds could cause splits in the peloton and if that happens, being caught the wrong side could be fatal to a rider’s overall hopes.

Stage 14: Treviso-Valdobbiadene, 59.4km (individual timetrial)

This is the only individual timetrial in the race but its sheer length means the gaps will likely run into the minutes rather than seconds. It’s not technical, the climbs are far from challenging and therefore it’s going to be simply a tour de force. Specialist climbers risk losing considerable time here.

Stage 16: Pinzolo-Aprica, 175km

Five climbs including the first category Passo del Mortirolo make this potentially the key stage of the entire race. Alberto Contador has already said he believes this is where the race will be won and lost and it is certainly not the place to discover your legs aren’t feeling great.

Stage 19: Gravellona Toce-Cervinia, 237km

This is made for a long breakaway as the first 150km are relatively flat. But three first category climbs in the last 85km on an already long stage will seriously test the riders’ stamina. There will also be a temptation not to too hard given there is a summit finish the next day as well. But those feeling strong who do go for it could make significant gains

Stage 20: Saint-Vincent-Sestriere, 196km

The penultimate stage will be the last chance to shake things up and it’s a testing mountain stage that will crest the highest point of the race, the Colle delle Finestre. All the climbing happens in the last 45km of another long stage. The length and difficulty of the Cole delle Finestre suggests that is the most likely place for the attacks to happen, but if they don’t stick, there will still be the third category climb to Sestriere left to launch one last final bid for glory.

All 21 Stages:

May 9: Stage 1 – San Lorenzo al Mare – Sanremo, 17.6km (team time-trial)
May 10: Stage 2 – Albenga – Genoa, 173km
May 11: Stage 3 – Rapallo – Sestri Levante, 136km
May 12: Stage 4 – Chiavari – La Spezia, 150km
May 13: Stage 5 – La Spezia – Abetone, 152km
May 14: Stage 6 – Montecatini Terme – Castiglione della Pescaia, 181km
May 15: Stage 7 – Grosseto – Fiuggi, 263km
May 16: Stage 8 – Fiuggi – Campitello Matese, 188km
May 17: Stage 9 – Benevent – San Giorgio del Sannio, 212km
May 18: rest day
May 19: Stage 10 – Civitanova Marche – Forli, 195km
May 20: Stage 11 – Forli – Imola, 147km
May 21: Stage 12 – Imola – Vicenza (Monte Berico), 190km
May 22: Stage 13 – Montecchio Maggiore – Lido di Jesolo, 153km
May 23: Stage 14 – Treviso – Valdobbiadene, 59.2km (individual time-trial)
May 24: Stage 15 – Marostica – Madonna di Campiglio, 165km
May 25: rest day
May 26: Stage 16 – Pinzolo – Aprica, 175km
May 27: Stage 17 – Tirano – Lugano (Switzerland), 136km
May 28: Stage 18 – Melide – Verbania, 172km
May 29: Stage 19 – Gravellona Toce – Cervinia, 236km
May 30: Stage 20 – Saint-Vincent – Sestriere, 196km
May 31: Stage 21 – Turin – Milan, 185km