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Form ranking: Giro d’Italia 2021 contenders

Giro d'Italia countdown 2021
Giro d'Italia countdown 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

The start of the Giro d'Italia is just 10 days away, and there's not much time left for the pink jersey hopefuls to reach top form. The training and racing have been done, the foundations have largely been laid, and there are contrasting fortunes throughout the list of pre-race favourites. 

From Simon Yates' ominous dominance of the recent Tour of the Alps – perhaps the most revealing final race – to Remco Evenepoel's complete absence from racing due to injury and a careful recovery, we've taken a look at how the contenders have fared so far this season. 

1. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange)

FEICHTEN IM KAUNERTAL AUSTRIA APRIL 20 Simon Yates of United Kingdom and Team BikeExchange celebrates at arrival during the 44th Tour of the Alps 2021 Stage 2 a 1215km stage from Innsbruck to Feichten im Kaunertal 1291m TourofTheAlps TouroftheAlps on April 20 2021 in Feichten im Kaunertal Austria Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Simon Yates (BikeExchange) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Results: 

  • 63rd Strade Bianche
  • 10th Tirreno-Adriatico
  • 9th Volta a Catalunya
  • 1st Tour of the Alps

The 2018 Vuelta champion issued a huge statement of intent at the recent Tour of the Alps, winning the key mountain stage and then sealing the overall by almost a minute. He had started out modestly enough, with top ten results at Tirreno and Catalunya, but his performances in the Alps will have had his rivals very worried indeed. 

No one could get close on the road to Feichten im Kaunertal and a visibly suffering Aleksandr Vlasov was the only one who could keep in touch on the final climb two days later. What’s more, his Bike Exchange teammates, many of whom will be with him at the Giro, did a fine job of controlling the race thereafter.

Yates looked very much the rider who stormed the 2018 Giro for two-and-a-half weeks and has to be considered a major contender to finish the job this time around. Not everyone was at the Tour of the Alps, but it was the most reliable pre-Giro yardstick, and Yates dominated it.

2. Alexandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech)

Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) at the 2020 Vuelta a España

Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) at the 2020 Vuelta a España (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Results:

  • 10th Tour de la Provence
  • 6th Ardèche Classic
  • 19th Drome Classic
  • 2nd Paris-Nice
  • 3rd Tour of the Alps

The rising Russian has finished on the podium of two of the three stage races he’s entered this year, and at the other one he was still in the top 10. 

Paris-Nice showcased his all-round ability, with a strong time trial putting him onto the podium ahead of the pure climbers. At the Tour of the Alps it was all about climbing and he emerged as Yates’ closest challenger. Although he ‘only’ managed fourth on stage 2, he was the sole rider who could follow Yates on the other decisive stage two days later.

Looking further back, Vlasov’s run of form extends all the way back through 2020 and his debut season in the WorldTour. He was identified as one of the favourites for last year’s Giro, even if it was his Grand Tour debut, but he was ruled out on the second day through illness. In far from ideal circumstances, he bounced back with 11th at the late-season Vuelta.

It was already apparent that Vlasov was ready for Grand Tour leadership, but his performances so far this year have cemented him as one of the leading names for the Giro. 

3. Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)

LA PLANCHE FRANCE SEPTEMBER 19 Mikel Landa Meana of Spain and Team Bahrain Mclaren during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 20 a 362km Individual Time Trial stage from Lure to La Planche Des Belles Filles 1035m ITT TDF2020 LeTour on September 19 2020 in La Planche France Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

Mikel Landa in last year's Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results: 

  • 6th Trofeo Laigueglia
  • 3rd GP Industria & Artigianato
  • 3rd Tirreno-Adriatico
  • 8th Itzulia Basque Country

Landa was absent from the Tour of the Alps, so it’s hard to directly compare his form to others on this list but he nevertheless has had a strong start to the season. He’s also down to ride the Tour de France but, given the time trial heavy route, he is by all accounts not looking past the Giro as he attempts to finally win a Grand Tour.

Landa last raced at Itzulia, and while he might not have been right in the hunt for overall, he was encourage by his final outing ahead of altitude training and the Giro. 

"I'm definitely coming out of this much better than when I began it," he said. Considering he hadn't finish a race outside the top 10, it looks like he'll be in the thick of the fight for the podium.

4. João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Deceuninck-QuickStep's João Almeida had to dig deep to retain his pink leader’s jersey on stage 15 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia

Deceuninck-QuickStep's João Almeida during the 2020 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results:

  • 3rd UAE Tour
  • 37th Strade BIanche
  • 6th Tirreno-Adriatico
  • 7th Volta a Catalunya
  • 65th Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The Portuguese rider was the breakout star of last year’s Giro and, on paper at least, will lead Deceuninck-QuickStep as question marks surround Remco Evenepoel’s form. 

It’s easy to forget Almeida only turned pro at the start of last year, and only got his chance due to Evenepoel’s injury. Before that, he had already turned heads, but in a support role for the Belgian in the early-season races.

After leading last year’s Giro for so long and eventually finishing fourth, his results have continued to underline his ability so far this year. Confidence and experience will have multiplied, and he now goes into a Grand Tour as a consistent performer. 

That said, if there's one area of doubt, it's the fact that time trialling has helped him along in the week-long stages so far, as it did at the Giro last year, but there’s less of an emphasis on the clock this time around.

5. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers)

Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) was one of several riders to crash during stage 1

Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Results: 

  • 16th Tour du Var
  • 67th Strade Bianche
  • 19th Tirreno-Adriatico
  •  6th Tour of the Alps

The 23-year-old’s final result at the Tour of the Alps perhaps does him a disservice, given his crash on stage 3. He struggled on the following stage and slipped a place on the easier final day. Still, before that he was the closest challenger as Yates blew the field away on stage 2. He finished at 41 seconds, 17 ahead of Vlasov and Dan Martin, and a minute on the likes of Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet.

Sivakov had a rather quiet start to the season but that one day in the Alps suggested he is on track for the Giro. After finishing ninth at the 2019 Giro, Sivakov was flying ahead of the 2020 Tour de France but was similarly hampered by a nasty crash on the opening day. 

If he’s not suffering any lasting effects from the Alps crash, he’s on course to have a major say in a three-week race.

6. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)

Tirreno Adriatico 2021 56th Edition 3rd stage Monticiano Gualdo Tadino 219 km 12032021 Egan Bernal COL Ineos Grenadiers photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2021

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) during Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Results:

  • 64th Etoile de Bessèges
  • 3rd Tour de la Provence
  • 2nd Trofeo Laigueglia
  • 3rd Strade Bianche
  • 4th Tirreno-Adriatico

The 2019 Tour de France champion’s form is something of a mystery and so are his chances in the Giro. 

That’s mainly because of the back injury that ruined his yellow jersey defence last year. The issue is being managed but has yet to disappear completely, with Bernal still occasionally suffering pain in racing and training. That makes the mountainous third week of a Grand Tour a real unknown.

Adding to the mystery is Bernal’s withdrawal from the Tour of the Alps. There has been no indication he had suffered any major setback in his Giro preparations but if nothing else his absence denied us a chance to compare him with some of his key rivals.

Going on his results in his early-season block, Bernal is still a force to be reckoned with. He might not have been at the height of his condition but he raced aggressively and produced an impressive string of results for someone whose 2020 had ended so grimly. 

We’ve seen Bernal’s underlying class as a bike rider, and it will carry him far, but the back problem makes it an unknown if he can go all the way.

7. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Dan Martin (israel Start-Up Nation) at Tour du Var 2021 recon

Dan Martin (israel Start-Up Nation) at Tour du Var 2021 (Image credit: Israel Start-Up Nation)

Results:

  • 15th, Tour du Var
  • 25th Volta a Catalunya
  • 15th Tour of the Alps

Like Sivakov, the Irishman’s final placing at the Tour of the Alps was skewed by a crash. In his case, it was more costly, as his spill late on stage 4 saw him drop 10 places. 

Before then, he was fourth overall after placing third on the aforementioned stage won by Yates. Even on stage 4 he looked to have emerged as one of the three best climbers in the race, closely following Yates and Vlasov over the top of the final climb. However, he crashed on the sketchy descent to the finish and lost nearly three minutes.

After a subdued start to the season in which he was knocked about by illness, Martin’s climbing legs on show in the Alps should give him plenty of confidence, even if the race ended on a sour note. His Grand Tour experience and ability to suffer for three weeks makes him ideal for the Corsa Rosa. 

8. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)

Trofeo Laigueglia 2021 58th Edition Laigueglia Laigueglia 202 km 03032021 Bauke Mollema NED Trek Segafredo photo Dario BelingheriBettiniPhoto2021

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) scored a fine victory in the Trofeo Laigueglia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Results:

  • 65th Etoile de Bessèges
  • 6th Tour de la Provence
  • 3rd Tour du Var
  • 1st Trofeo Laigueglia
  • 18th Strade Bianche
  • 2nd GP Industria & Artigianato
  • 7th GP Miguel Indurain
  • DNF Itzulia Basque Country
  • 64th Amstel Gold Race
  • 11th La Flèche Wallonne
  • 8th Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The Dutchman has had a busy season so far with four stage races and seven one-day races. He started out in great form, winning Laigueglia and a stage of the Tour du Var. There was concern as he struggled towards a DNF at Itzulia but it has since proved to be more of a blip, with some solid results in the Ardennes.

Trek-Segafredo hope to have Mollema, Nibali and Ciccone as leaders and so it will be interesting to see who emerges as their GC riders. It could well fall to Mollema. 

9. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo)

LIVRONSURDROME FRANCE FEBRUARY 27 Arrival Hugh Carthy of United Kingdom and Team EF Education Nippo during the 21st FaunArdche Classic 2021 a 1713km race from GuilherandGranges to GuilherandGranges bouclesclassic BDA21 on February 27 2021 in LivronsurDrome France Photo by Bruno BadeGetty Images

Hugh Carthy (EF Education Nippo) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results:

  • 3rd Ardèche Classic
  • 43rd Drome Classic
  • 8th Volta a Catalunya
  • 12th Itzulia Basque Country
  • 5th Tour of the Alps

After his Grand Tour breakthrough with last year’s Vuelta podium, the fuss-free Lancastrian has quietly continued to establish his status so far this season. 

He was solid at Catalunya and Itzulia but his fifth place at the Tour of the Alps suggested his form is moving in the right direction. It’s hard to place him as a major contender for the pink jersey, but his continued consistency suggests he’ll be well in the top five or 10 in the GC mix.

10. Jai Hindley (Team DSM)

Paris Nice 2021 79th Edition 3rd stage Gien Gien 144 km 09032021 Jai Hindley AUS Team DSM photo Ilario BiondiBettiniPhoto2021

Jai Hindley (DSM) during Paris-Nice (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Results:

  • 18th, Paris-Nice
  • DNF Volta a Catalunya
  • DNF Tour of the Alps

Yet another rider to crash at the Tour of the Alps having previously appeared spritely, last year’s Giro runner-up is set to lead DSM alongside Romain Bardet. 

For most of last week’s race, he appeared a cut above his more decorated teammate, placing sixth on the decisive stage 2 – where Bardet was ninth – and going fifth over the top of the final climb on stage 4. 

However, like Martin just ahead of him, he crashed on the tricky descent. He lost time but also had to abandon the race the next morning. He now has two successive DNFs to his name but there was enough evidence that he’s going well, as long as his crash hasn’t knocked him back too much.

11. Romain Bardet (Team DSM)

Romain Bardet Team DSM training camp 2021

Romain Bardet Team DSM training camp 2021 (Image credit: Team DSM)

Results:

  • 62nd Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
  • 20th Strade Bianche
  • 8th Tirreno-Adriatico
  • 27th Milan-San Remo
  • 9th Tour of the Alps

In his first season with his new team, the Frenchman missed the Ardennes Classics to join the pre-Giro hit-out at the Tour of the Alps. Coming off the back of a decent result at Tirreno, he placed top 10 on two stages to secure another overall top 10.

Bardet to DSM was one of the harder transfers to read but so far things seem to have started out well enough. That said, Bardet has produced some great moments in his career and they haven’t been on display yet in his new colours. He appears to be in solid shape, but still not back at the status he enjoyed after back-to-back podiums at the Tour de France in 2016 and 2017.

12. Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)

ARRATE EIBAR SPAIN APRIL 10 Arrival Emanuel Buchmann of Germany and Team Bora Hansgrohe during the 60th ItzuliaVuelta Ciclista Pais Vasco 2021 Stage 6 a 1119km stage from Ondarroa to Arrate Eibar 535m itzulia ehitzulia on April 10 2021 in Arrate Eibar Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at the Itzulia Basque Country (Image credit: Getty Images)

Results:

  • 12th UAE Tour
  • 40th Strade Bianche
  • 13th Itzulia Basque Country

The German’s breakout fourth place at the 2019 Tour de France is beginning to feel like a long time ago. A crash ahead of last year’s Tour hampered his progress and he was one of a number of riders swayed by the Giro’s route this year. 

So far it has been hard to read much into his form. He was just outside the top 10 at both UAE and Itzulia – not terrible results but not exactly confidence-building. 

What has been strange has been the inconsistency, with fourth place atop Jebel Hafeet in the UAE and fifth on the stage to Hondarribia at Itzulia thrown in among more disappointing displays.

13. Marc Soler (Movistar)

Marc Soler (Movistar) at the Vuelta a España 2020 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results:

  • 11th Tirreno-Adriatico
  • 76th Volta a Catalunya

The former Tour de l’Avenir winner enjoys sole leadership at the Giro as Enric Mas, Miguel Angel Lopez, and Alejandro Valverde focus on the Tour de France. 

He hasn’t done much of note so far this season. The 11th overall in a tough and well-stacked edition of Tirreno was solid enough, even if he did finish eight minutes down on the winner. At Catalunya he shipped some 15 minutes on the first summit finish, which will only heighten concerns over his consistency. 

Soler has been training at altitude and is testing his legs at the Tour de Romandie which makes him one of the very few contenders to race that close to the Giro.

14. George Bennett  (Jumbo-Visma)

George Bennett Jumbo-Visma Tour Down Under

George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) at the Tour Down Under (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results:

  • 2nd Time Trial, New Zealand Championships
  • 1st Road Race, New Zealand Championships
  • 30th Paris-Nice
  • DNF Volta a Catalunya

The Kiwi rider finally has his shot at Grand Tour leadership at Jumbo-Visma, but he hasn’t thrown down any gauntlets so far this season. 

After getting his hands on the New Zealand road race title, he worked for Primož Roglič at Paris-Nice on his European season debut, before heading to the Volta a Catalunya, where he abandoned after three stages with a chest infection. 

He hasn’t raced since and so, despite every indication that he has the ability to mount a GC challenge, on form he can’t be considered one of the big pre-race protagonists.

15. Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo)

Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) made a late attack from the peloton on the climb to Jebel Jais

Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo)  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Results:

  • 26th Etoile de Bessèges
  • 17th UAE Tour
  • 25th Trofeo Laigueglia
  • 10th Gp Industria & Artigianato
  • 9th Tirreno-Adriatico
  • 35th Milan-San Remo

This is likely the two-time winner’s final crack at a third Giro crown, but preparations were derailed by a training crash last week. It might have been his wrist rather than his lower body, but undergoing surgery that close to a Grand Tour is never ideal. 

It’s not even clear, at this point, if Nibali will race. He’s doing everything he can to be fit, including training at altitude with an arm brace, but a final say on his participation has not been given.

If he is cleared to start, his ninth place at a grueling Tirreno was encouraging. He has hardly raced since but if anyone knows how to hit a three-week race in top shape it’s Nibali, winner of all three Grand Tours. Even so, the injury will continue to raise question marks about whether or not he will indeed set off from Turin with the rest of the peloton.

16. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Remco Evenepoel in action at Il Lombardia before his crash

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quickstep) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Results:

  • N/A

The young Belgian is arguably the biggest star on this list but he hasn’t raced in almost nine months so his form is impossible to gauge and his prospects difficult to judge. 

He has taken longer than expected to recover from his pelvis fracture at last year’s Il Lombardia and his team have already played down expectations, referring to Almeida as team leader. 

Racing any Grand Tour – nevermind your first – with no racing in the legs is a huge ask. Then again, if anyone can surprise us, it’s Remco Evenepoel.

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.