With the Giro d'Italia less than a month away, teams are frantically putting together their eight-rider rosters and scanning their rosters for those on form and those on the slide. At Ineos Grenadiers the plan looks relatively stable with former Tour de France winner Egan Bernal targeting the first maglia rosa of his career as the team look to win their second straight crown.
The allocation of the other seven spots to support the Colombian are a little less clear, with a glut of potential climbers and rouleurs in the mix. Cyclingnews has gathered a well-sourced list of 14 riders in contention for the team's starting lineup and analyzed each rider's chances of making the cut.
Previous Giro experience: None but set to make his debut
How things stand: Bernal heads into the Giro d’Italia as Ineos’ best bet for the maglia rosa. The route certainly suits him, with several summit finishes and only 38.4 kilometres of time trialling, while this Giro challenge comes with less pressure than riding the Tour as defending champion last year. The lack of Giro experience does count against the Colombian but then again his first Tour outings in 2018 and 2019 weren’t too shabby and he has a vast amount of experience when it comes to racing in Italy. His form looks to be improving with every race, and he’s been unfortunate not to take a win in 2021 with seven top-five finishes already. There are going to be question marks over his back injury after what happened in last year’s Tour, and his admission that the issues still need to be managed, but the Colombian remains the firm favourite for overall victory. He'll have the strongest team on paper around him with seven of the riders listed below expected to support him.
Previous Giro experience: Rode to ninth on GC in his first appearance in 2019
How things stand: We can only imagine what the Russian could have achieved in last year’s Tour had it not been for the series of falls he endured on stage 1. Heading into the race he looked in fine fettle with second in La Route d’Occitanie and 11th in the Critérium du Dauphiné but he struggled through the Tour and then didn’t race for the remainder of the year. This year has seen the all-rounder ride as a super domestique and if Ineos’ Giro goes to plan, then Sivakov will be Bernal’s right-hand man throughout the race, especially in the mountains. Sivakov's top-ten from 2019, his overall progress and Ineos' trend of losing leaders in the race suggests that Sivakov could be a viable plan B if called upon, but his primary focus heading into the race will be to work alongside and for Bernal.
Previous Giro experience: Rode the race in 2016 and 2017
How things stand: The season hasn’t gone to plan so far with the Colombian crashing in the UAE Tour and not featuring since. That’s a long absence with the Giro less than a month away, and Ineos is stacked for options when it comes to climbing potential. Therefore, what looked like an obvious pick to support Bernal a few months ago presently comes with a hint of hesitancy. Now back in full training mode, Martinez has the Tour of the Alps on his programme, and a dependable performance there will undoubtedly solidify his position within the final eight-man team.
Previous Giro experience: Finished 44th in his Grand Tour debut in 2019
How things stand: Sosa enjoyed a consistent season in 2019 but struggled to progress the following year. This time around he’s been impressive in patches but a nasty crash at Coppi e Bartali set him back and although he sustained no long-term injuries it’s not clear where he’ll next race. If selected, the Tour of the Alps would give him the ideal terrain to test himself and demonstrate that his overall victory at the Tour de la Provence earlier in the year was an indication of his growing stature within the Ineos stable.
Previous Giro experience: Made his debut in 2020 and arrived in Milan with four stage wins
How things stand: There are just two individual tests against the clock in this year’s race with a 9 kilometre effort on stage 1 and a 29.4 kilometre test in Milan on the final Sunday. That said, Ganna proved last year that he’s more than just a pure time trialist and his ability to set tempo overall but the highest peaks will be an invaluable asset for the team as they look to protect a potentially vulnerable Bernal in a race where twists and turns will be a constant worry. Ganna has the Tour of the Alps and the Tour de Romandie on his current programme but, if he’s healthy, he’s on the start line in Turin.
Previous Giro experience: Seven outings in his home race and wore the maglia rosa for a day in 2013
How things stand: One of the most loyal and underrated domestiques in the peloton, Puccio is the sort of rider every manager craves because he can fill so many roles in so many different races and with negligible levels of fuss or distraction. At 31 he's one of the most experienced riders on the long list, and after racing the Giro every year but once since 2013, he looks set for another outing. On the road, he can operate as a road captain and a valuable cog between the rouleurs and the pure climbers.
Previous Giro experience: Made his only Grand Tour appearance to date at the Giro race back in 2019, where he rode well in the service of Sivakov
How things stand: Injuries and bad luck kept the talented Irishman out of the Grand Tour frame last season and robbed him of the chance to build on his debut Giro outing in 2019. This season he has been deployed as a domestique in several stage races but a top ten in the GP Industria & Artigianato demonstrated that he can offer far more than some of his results suggest at this stage in the season. His Giro d’Italia prospects rest on how many climbers Ineos want to take because with Bernal, Sivakov, Martinez, Andrey Amador, Jonathan Castroviejo, Sebastian Henao, and Sosa they several options and combinations to work with. A few strong rides in the final stages of the Basque Country and a result or two in the Ardennes might tip the scales but Dunbar is at least in the mix.
Previous Giro experience: Three previous appearances, including 18th last year when supporting Geoghegan Hart for the win.
How things stand: Three years ago it looked as though Swift was on the verge of retirement, such was his dramatic fall from grace after two barren years at UAE Team Emirates. However, since returning to the team where he had spent the bulk of his career, Swift has reinvented himself as a solid workhorse. The sprint chances that often peppered his palmares have dried up somewhat but there’s still plenty left in the tank. His presence in a Giro line-up might come down to whether Ineos feel like they need a sprint outlet for some of the intermediate and flatter stages, or if it’s all in for Bernal. Last year’s 18th overall in the Giro is unlikely to be replicated but the veteran can step up and ride solidly when the team requires it.
Previous Giro experience: Only two appearances in a career spanning over a decade but he was part of last year’s winning team
How things stand: One of the few riders on this list who is also featured on the team’s Tour de France long-list, Castroviejo is such a safe pair of hands when it comes to Grand Tour riding that the team would ideally take him to all three events. His only DNF over three weeks came last year, when the team pulled him from the Tour to save his batteries for the Giro. He’s only done back-to-back Grand Tours a couple of times in his career and the dilemma at Ineos will be whether or not they need to dilute his efforts with another Giro-Tour combination or if a more productive Castroviejo can be deployed to one race or the other.
Previous Giro experience: None and just one Grand Tour appearance in his career so far
How things stand: The 27-year-old has only raced one Grand Tour in his entire career which is a circumstance produced by Ineos’ depth and their craving for GC success, rather than an indictment of Doull's talents. So far this year the Welshman has been deployed in one-day races with just Etoile de Bessèges on his stage racing calendar. This is a rider who desperately wants and needs a three-week race in his legs, and either the Giro or the Vuelta has to be on the management’s radar. Given there are several flat stages in this year's race, the team might feel as though someone with some excellent experience in fighting for position in the Classics could bring depth to a team stacked with climbing talent.
Previous Giro experience: Yet to race his home Grand Tour
How things stand: Moscon at the peak of his abilities would be in contention for Ineos’ Tour de France team, let alone their Giro squad, but after just 20 race days in 2020, with no results to speak of, the Italian has fallen down the pecking order. He’s scheduled to race the Tour of the Alps and at that point we’ll know where the 26-year-old’s form lies but right now it doesn't feel like he's part of the final eight. With a contract that’s set to run out this year and rumours last year of a possible move, the next few months are critical for the rider’s future.
Previous Giro experience: Rode the race five times between 2014 and 2019 but missed out on a Grand Tour last year
How things stand: If it feels like Moscon is on the periphery then where does Henao stand? Just 13 race days last year and eight so far this time around, it’s fair to say that several factors will need to fall into place if the Colombian is going to make the Giro roster. He’s a solid climber and can put in dependable third-week rides but if you’re not consistently riding at the highest level – he’s not taken part in a WorldTour stage race since the 2019 Vuelta – then the ladder becomes all the harder to climb.
Previous Giro experience: Made his first of seven appearances back in 2010 and won a stage in 2012
How things stand: The Costa Rican made the Tour and Vuelta team in his debut campaign for the team and it’s hard to imagine that he won’t feature in at least one Grand Tour this season. The Tour is a possibility but a Giro-Vuelta programme is perhaps most likely. He’s already racked up three WorldTour stage races this season, so the team still believes that at 34 he’s a reliable outlet, while his vast Giro experience, with seven starts and two top-tens, could prove valuable in the selection process.
Previous Giro experience: Won a stage but failed to finish the race in 2020 and came 80th overall in 2019
How things stand: The Ecuadorian won a stage in 2020 and despite the DNF came away from the race with his reputation enhanced. He’s since become an even more important rider in the squad’s Classics line-up but a crash in E3 Saxo Bank Classic left him with a broken scaphoid and time is running out. He’s scheduled to make a return during the Ardennes but the team might have preferred to have seen the 24-year-old ride another stage race before taking on a second Grand Tour.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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