Davis Phinney, a three-time participant in the Giro d'Italia, is currently travelling through Italy with his wife Connie Carpenter-Phinney, before the couple watch the Venice start and follow the race for the opening few days. Phinney, a former US national champion, talked with Cyclingnews and gave his opinions the centenary course and who he sees as the main protagonists.
"Connie and I are here for a bit of a holiday. A bike racing holiday," said Phinney, who last year underwent an operation to implant an electrical stimulation device in his brain to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease. "We used to live here so it's a case of seeing old friends and living a bit of the dolce vita. I'm also here to see how I handle the travel and time zone effects since my operation."
Phinney has been watching the favourites prepare for the race over the last weeks from his home in the US and believes that the first week and the excursion into the Dolomites will drastically alter the pattern set by previous editions of the race. "It's a very difficult start with the riders going straight into the mountains. When I rode the race you had time to settle into the pattern of racing, but the riders can't do that this year."
"We're staying near the Dolomites now and some of peaks have snow on. That's not a problem if the weather stays clear but if it takes a turn for the worse we could have something retro like the 1988 stage on the Gavia. Potentially the conditions in the first week could rip the race apart."
As for the possible protagonists, Phinney said that the home grown contingent could play a major role. "I'm sure the Italians will try to make is at as hard as possible, and as early as possible. The course suits the Italian riders who can afford to be aggressive and take chances," Phinney said.
Ten American riders will line up at the start in Venice, but Phinney believes that Levi Leipheimer will be the one to watch after the Astana rider won the Tour of California and Tour of the Gila on US soil. "The only problem is that neither Leipheimer nor Armstrong has ridden the route like they would normal do so before the Tour de France. This will definitely make it harder for both of them to win the race, but not impossible. Contador showed that last year that best rider wins the day if he makes good decisions and has a good team around him. Levi can be that rider," said Phinney.