Team Sky sports director Sean Yates has warned that the extreme difficulty of the route of the 2011 Giro d’Italia means that few Tour de France contenders will be on the start line in Turin.
"I'm not expecting many of the Tour favourites to be competing here now because I think it's simply going to be too hard to do both races in such a short space of time,” Yates told his team’s website after the presentation.
While Yates stopped short of naming any riders from Sky who might tackle next year’s Giro, it seems increasingly unlikely that Bradley Wiggins will build for the Tour de France by riding in Italy. In 2010, Wiggins took the opening prologue time trial and wore the pink jersey. He was lying 7th overall as the race entered its final week but ultimately opted to conserve his energies for his Tour bid rather than defend his position. He also rode the Giro in 2009 ahead of his fourth-place finish in France.
"Although the team hasn't been decided yet, we are going to have someone there who'll be looking to contest the GC, and if they are able to ride consistently over the full three weeks then they will have a great chance of finishing right up the standings,” Yates said.
Yates is no stranger to the Giro and was in the team car for Discovery Channel in 2005, when Paolo Savoldelli rode to victory. That Giro, which took in the Colle delle Finestre on the final weekend, was viewed as one of the toughest in recent times, but Yates reckons that the 2011 vintage could be even harder to digest.
"It's savage, there's no other description for it,” he said. “Seven mountain-top finishes has got to be some kind of record, and the fact that they are hard ones as well means it's going to be an unbelievably tough race. It'll be great to watch from a spectator's point of view though.”
Like most observers, Yates feels that Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) is the man to beat and cites the race’s passage into Sicily as just another reason for the Shark of the Strait to prioritise the Giro in 2011.
“Vincenzo Nibali has got to be the early favourite for me. He'll have got the belief after his Vuelta win this season and the fact that the race visits Sicily, where he's from, will be another big incentive for him to perform.”