Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) expects the 2012 Giro d’Italia to be decided by the climbers in its gruelling closing days in the Dolomites. Although coy about naming the riders he believes will be in contention for the pink jersey, the Italian admitted that his hopes have been boosted by Alberto Contador’s announcement that he would not be on the start line in Herning next May.
“Compared to 2011, next year’s Giro maybe gives more possibilities to riders who can go well on the flat to get to the last week in a decent position on GC,” Scarponi told Cyclingnews in Milan on Sunday. “But then it’s clear that the last stages are hard, so it’s going to be people who are strong on the climbs who’ll fight it out for this Giro.”
That arduous final week features a tappone over the Passo Giau to Cortina and then consecutive summit finishes at Alpe di Pampeago and the Stelvio in the closing days. While Scarponi expects the main contenders to try to keep their powder dry for that grandstand finale, he warned that the first ten days of racing could see some surprises.
“If the race goes as normal, so to speak, then I think the favourites will try to save their energy for as long as possible since it’s clear the difference will be made on the stage to Pampeago and the Stelvio,” Scarponi said. “But then the beauty of it is that the race mightn’t always go as you expect. A break could go away and gain a lot of time, or someone could make an unexpected attack on a climb. You never know.”
Scarponi broadly agreed with the consensus that the route will be more human than that of 2011, as it has a more generous sprinkling of flat days and fewer transfers between stages.
“This year, a lot of riders stopped at Ravenna [stage 12 – ed], but next year nearly everyone will continue to Milan,” Scarponi predicted. “It’s more human in terms of climbs too, but they’re still there and they’ll still decide the GC. In terms of transfers, well, if you take away the one from Denmark, I don’t think the rest of them are excessive.”
Harmonious relationship with Cunego
While Scarponi has the Giro firmly pencilled into his schedule, it remains to be seen if he will be joined by teammate Damiano Cunego, who enjoyed a return to stage racing form last summer with 7th place at the Tour de France. “My relationship with Damiano is excellent,” Scarponi insisted. “We just need to talk at our first training camp about our calendar and the best way to approach the Giro. We’ll decide together whether both of us are there or not.”
And now after having seen the route officially confirmed, which of the overall contenders would be leaving RAI’s Via Mecenate studios with the most to smile about on Sunday night?
“Contador did say he isn’t doing the Giro, right?” Scarponi asked after a conspiratorial pause. “Well, I think there are three or four of us who are happy about that. But I won’t name any names.”
With that, he threw a glance in the direction of Ivan Basso, locked in earnest conversation with the television cameras six feet away. “Look at Basso over there, he seems pretty happy too, doesn’t he?”