The start of the 2021 Giro d'Italia in Turin is now just four days away. Team rosters have been confirmed, and the overall contenders, sprinters, climbers and breakaway artists will be preparing to tackle the first Grand Tour of the season.
With 184 names on the start list, spread across 19 WorldTour teams and four ProTeams, there are plenty of famous faces, in-form riders and riders to watch ready to do battle in Italy.
But who will be leading the 23 teams, and what are their main aims over the next three weeks?
We've sifted through every team, picking out their leaders, riders to watch and their main objectives for the Corsa Rosa, outlining the perfect outcome for each squad and what they need to do in order to achieve it.
Here's our 2021 Giro d'Italia team-by-team guide.
- Team leader: Clément Champoussin
- Objective: Stage wins and a tentative GC bid
- Rider to watch: Andrea Vendrame
With Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour leaving last winter, the French team have parked their Grand Tour ambitions for the time being, focusing more on the Classics. That said, in Clément Champoussin, they have one of the most promising French talents, and the Giro will be a key step in his development. The 22-year-old impressed at last year’s Vuelta on his Grand Tour debut and while it’s too soon to say he can be competitive at this Giro, he will nevertheless be a protected rider and will see how far he can go while learning the ropes.
Elsewhere, this is a team of breakaway hopefuls and stage hunters, with Tony Gallopin looking to complete the set of wins in each Grand Tour after a rough couple of years with injuries and illness. Although he had a poor Tour of the Alps recently, Andrea Vendrame is arguably their best chance of a win. The 26-year-old Italian was in the mix in the sprints last year – placing 6th in the points classification – and is the sort of fast finisher who can get over the hills.
Full line-up: François Bidard, Geoffrey Bouchard, Clément Champoussin, Tony Gallopin, Alexis Gougeard, Lawrence Naesen, Andrea Vendrame, Larry Warbasse
With Mathieu van der Poel due to ride the Tour de France, Tim Merlier gets his chances in the Giro sprints, with support from a number of Belgian teammates.
Merlier has won three Belgian one-day races but, surprisingly for a sprinter, hasn’t raced since Scheldeprijs. He could contend the hiller stage sprints with Peter Sagan but can’t be ruled out on the flat and fast stages, where Caleb Ewan is the rider to beat. The team is based in Piemonte and so they will be especially motivated to win on stages 2 and 3.
Merlier is making his Grand Tour debut and could also ride the Tour de France, so he is on the list of sprinters likely to quit the Corsa Rosa after stage 13 to Verona. Louis Vervaeke is the only climber on the Alpecin-Fenix roster and could offer the team an alternative strategy deep into the race.
Gianni Savio’s team were initially snubbed for a Wild Card place but received a late call-up after Vini Zabù’s latest doping case and self-suspension.
Jefferson Cepeda impressed at the Tour of the Alps, finishing fourth overall and winning the best young riders classification. The Colombian is still only 22 but has the pedigree to be Savio’s next great talent, with the Giro d’Italia the platform to show his pure climbing ability.
It will also be interesting to see how 18-year-old Andrii Ponomar of the Ukraine and 21-year old Natnael Tesfatsion of Eritrea perform at such a tender age.
Simon Pellaud is more of a guarantee, especially for the breaks in the mountain stages. He tested positive for COVID-19 before the Tour of Turkey and was placed in quarantine, but returned to Switzerland and rode the Tour de Romandie. True to character, he went on the attack on the hardest mountain stage.
Astana-Premier Tech are hoping Aleksander Vlasov can make up for his illness-struck early abandon in 2020 and that they can convince him to stay with the team for 2022.
The 25-year-old Russian has character and talent and seems on track after finishing second at Paris-Nice and third at the Tour of the Alps. He raced in Italy as a junior and Under-23 and so will have a home advantage.
Astana-Premier Tech have selected a mix of young talent and experience to back Vlasov. Gorka Izagirre, Fabio Felline and Luis León Sánchez know how to win in Grand Tours, while Vadim Pronskiy is said to be Kazakhstan’s next big thing.
Italy is hoping its next generation can fill the gap that will soon be left by Vincenzo Nibali and Samuele Battistella and Matteo Sobrero have both shown their talents at a lower level. The Giro will be their next step up.
Mikel Landa has often been close to a Grand Tour victory and the 2021 Giro could be his last chance as a new generation take control.
The enigmatic 31-year-old Basque rider can climb with the very best but usually loses ground in the time trials. He will have to start the final Milan time trial with at least a minute on some key rivals and so will have to ride offensively on the summit finishes, which could produce a great race to watch.
Bahrain Victorious have selected Damiano Caruso and Pello Bilbao to support Landa, while the rest of the team will have opportunities for stage victories. Matej Mohorič can surely win a stage and it will be fascinating to see if he can create a new UCI-legal supertuck of some kind.
- Team leader: Giovanni Visconti
- Objective: Stage victories, breakaways
- Rider to watch: Enrico Battaglin
The Italian ProTeam strengthened their roster for 2021, signing Giovanni Visconti and Enrico Battaglin in the hope of a stage victory at the Giro d’Italia.
Both have still to make a mark on the 2021 season but know what is needed to win in May. Visconti decided to leave Vini Zabù for their Italian rivals, slamming the door on the way out. He is riding his 12th Giro and was outfoxed by EF's Caicedo on the road to Mount Etna last year, but still has the class to pull off a win. Battaglin has under-performed in recent years but knows this season offers him a final chance.
The rest of the team includes talented Italians such as sprinter Filippo Fiorelli, the aggressive Samuele Zoccarato, and climber Alessandro Tonelli.
- Team leader: Emanuel Buchmann
- Objective: GC podium, stage victories, points jersey
- Rider to watch: Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan will no doubt steal the spotlight at Bora-Hansgrohe but it would be foolish to forget Emanuel Buchmann’s fourth place at the 2019 Tour de France. The quiet German from Ravensburg has had a low-key build-up to the Giro but this will be his eighth Grand Tour.
Sagan is also at the end of his hefty deal with the German team and widely expected to move on and take Specialized as a bike sponsor with him. He will look for some early wins to push along his contract negotiations, with his win at the Tour de Romandie indicating he will again be able to challenge in every sprint and win those when his rivals have been distanced in the hills. That makes Sagan the favourite for the cyclamen-coloured points jersey.
Sagan will have help in the sprints from Daniel Oss and Maciej Bodnar, while Matteo Fabbro could perform well after focussing on the Giro this spring.
Elia Viviani finally won a sprint for Cofidis at Cholet-Pays de la Loire in late March and is convinced he just needs a little luck to get back to the success he enjoyed in the past.
However, his problems seem more deep rooted, with the Italian always seeming out of place and out of sorts at Cofidis. This year he has trusted lead out men Fabio Sabatini, Simone Consonni and his younger brother Attilio in the Giro d’Italia team but they have also failed to click as a lead-out, often forcing Viviani to fight for wheels and opportunities, greatly reducing his odds of victory.
Viviani has told La Gazzetta dello Sport he will not ride the Tour de France so that he can prepare for the track events at the Tokyo Olympics. That means the Giro is the last opportunity to confirm his sprinting talents to Cofidis or anyone else who wants to invest in him for 2022.
Nicolas Edet leads the French contingent of the team, with Eritrean national champion Natnael Berhane perhaps getting chances in breakaways.
João Almeida is Deceuninck-QuickStep’s designated team leader after leading the Corsa Rosa for two weeks last fall. However, all eyes will be on Remco Evenepoel, who will naturally draw the attention.
He and Deceuninck-QuickStep have played down his actions but the Italian bookmakers have put him second favourite, knowing that if Evenepoel comes good and goes the distance, he could be very, very good. He is riding his debut Grand Tour after nine months out of action, but his previous victories confirmed his ability and he has the final time trial to pull back precious time on his climbing rivals.
If Evenepoel fades in the third week, then Deceuninck-QuickStep can count on Almeida. The 22-year-old Portuguese rider has the relaxed but focused temperament of the best Grand Tour riders. The experience and watts gained from 2020 could see him stay with the big contenders in the high mountains and so again fight for the podium.
Deceuninck-QuickStep have James Knox, Pieter Serry, Fausto Masnada and Mikkel Honoré to help in the mountains, while Remi Cavagna targets the time trials and can roll on the flat roads along with road captain and Evenepeol’s confidant Iijo Keisse.
EF Education-Nippo are expected to reveal a new jersey for the Giro d’Italia to avoid clashing with the leader’s pink jersey and they will field a new strategy in the 2021 race, with Hugh Carthy a potential overall contender.
The British climber has signed a new contract and so can race the Giro with peace of mind and determination. The limited time trials, eight mountain finishes and testing terrain all suit him if he can stay out of trouble and stay consistent. Carthy will have support from Tejay van Garderen, Will Barta, 2020 stage winner Jonathan Caicedo and mountains competition winner Ruben Guerreiro.
2019 Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol gets to ride his home Grand tour and has been training at altitude in recent weeks after overcoming ulcerative colitis. He and Anglo-Frenchman Simon Carr will be riders to watch on the hilly stages early in the race. Carr is only 22 and making his Grand Tour debut, but has already shown his ability with a solid spring programme.
Eolo-Kometa secured a ProTeam wild card invitation in their first year of activity, with owners Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador hoping to make an impact on the sponsor’s home roads. Eolo is an internet provider for remote locations and a sponsor of several RCS Sport races, while Kometa produces cured meats like the famous Bresaola from the Valtellina valley.
The team is a mix of gnarly Italian veterans and young talents. They have struggled to make much of an impact so far in the season and remain without a win but have been excellent at joining the early breaks and showing off their sponsors.
Francesco Gavazzi and Manuel Belletti can be competitive in sprint finishes, while Davide Bais is a young talent to watch for in attacks.
The absence of Thibaut Pinot has reduced Groupama-FDJ to a minor role in the Giro, with leadership passed on to Sébastien Reichenbach and Rudy Molard.
Arnaud Démare and his lead out train are focusing on the Tour de France this year and so all the team will get a chance of going in a break and targeting a stage victory. Watch for the red, white and blue jerseys trying to get into every move on every stage as the young riders are thrown in at the deep end.
- Team leader: Egan Bernal
- Objective: Overall victory, time trial stage wins
- Rider to watch: Pavel Sivakov
The British super team are the defending champions at the Giro d’Italia but have swapped team leaders, with Tao Geoghagan Hart opting for the Tour de France while Egan Bernal hopes the Giro d’Italia can help him get his career on track again.
Bernal will wear race number 1 and he and Ineos will be expected to carry responsibility for the race on their shoulders. They have Jonathan Castroviejo, Dani Martínez, and Jhonatan Narváez for the mountains, while Salvatore Puccio is an experienced and trusted road captain. Pavel Sivakov is Bernal’s joint team leader and understudy and so could step up to centre stage if Bernal’s back hinders him.
Gianni Moscon will also provide valuable horsepower, and hopefully not controversy, while Filippo Ganna will be the team’s flat road rouleur when not targeting the opening and closing time trials.
On paper, they are the team to beat but as Team Sky they learnt the hard way just how unpredictable and uncontrollable the Giro can be.
Intermarché-Wanty Gobert are riding the Giro d’Italia for the first time after securing WorldTour status for 2021. They have yet to win a race but have an eclectic team in the Giro that could finally end their dry spell.
Quinten Hermans has been strong on hilly terrain and so could be suited to the early-race stages that head south via the Sestola, Ascoli Piceno and the Apennines.
Andrea Pasqualon and Riccardo Minali are decent sprinters, while Simone Petilli showed his form at the Tour de Romandie. Rein Taaramäe is now 34, but shouldn't be forgotten.
Dan Martin’s career has seen several twists and turns and this year, at the age of 34, he takes on the Giro d’Italia as a protected team leader. It is seven years since he crashed out of the race in the opening team time trial in Belfast in 2014 but the Irish climber is still as aggressive and still as hungry for success as ever.
He faltered in recent editions of the Tour de France, struggling with injuries, but showed his potential with fourth overall at last year’s Vuelta a España. If Martin can avoid the pitfalls of the Corsa Rosa and climb at his best, there’s no reason he can’t win mountain stages and fight for a final podium spot in Milan.
Martin will not have huge support from Israel Start-Up Nation but can rely on Patrick Bevin, Krists Neilands, Matthias Brändle, Alex Dowsett, Davide Cimolai and Alessandro De Marchi. They may all have the freedom to chase stage victories on their chosen terrain but also constitute a solid Grand Tour team.
Jumbo-Visma have kept their best riders to support Primož Roglič at the Tour de France but their Giro d’Italia line-up is solid too, with George Bennett leading the team and targeting the overall classification.
The Kiwi climber finished eighth in the 2018 Giro d’Italia and has improved since then. If the race is decided in the high mountains then Bennett has a chance of the final podium but, like others climbers, the time trials represent a handicap. The Jumbo-Visma team also lacks climbing support for Bennett, with only Tobias Foss and Koen Bouwman likely to be there when needed.
All eyes will be on sprinter Dylan Groenewegen as he returns after his nine-month ban for sparking Fabio Jakobsen’s crash in the low barriers at the Tour de Pologne. The Dutchman has kept a low profile and may take a gradual approach to his return, with the sprint role given to David Dekker, who impressed in the UAE Tour sprints. He has time triallists Edoardo Affini and Jos van Emden to help in the high-speed lead outs.
Caleb Ewan is targeting stage victories in all three Grand Tours in 2021 and will want to add to his three career stage victories at the Giro d’Italia.
The Australian is arguably the fastest and most prolific sprinter on the Giro d’Italia start list, with a Lotto Soudal squad almost totally at his service. Ewan can count on Jasper De Buyst and Roger Kluge to lead him out, with other riders there to help chase the breaks.
Ewan is unlikely to ride all the way to Milan and perhaps has already booked a flight home from Verona but he will be the favourite to win on stage 2 to Novara, stage 5 to Cattolica, stage 7 to Termoli, stage 10 to Foligno and then stage 13 to Verona.
Tomasz Marczyński and Thomas De Gendt will have the freedom to make moves on the hilly stages, while Italian Stefano Oldani makes his Grand Tour debut after impressing in the last 18 months. The young Belgian pairing of Harm Vanhoucke and Kobe Goossens have the freedom to see if they can get anywhere on GC.
Marc Soler’s frustration at being stuck down the pecking order is a thing of the past. With Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Richard Carapaz all moving aside in the last couple of years, the former Tour de l’Avenir champion has his long-awaited shot at GC leadership.
It was meant to happen last year, but the pandemic shifted his programme towards the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. Even if that Vuelta – where he won the second stage but finished 18th overall – raised question marks over his consistency, he heads into the Giro with good form having placed 4th at the recent Tour de Romandie. What’s more, unlike last year, there’s no Enric Mas or Alejandro Valverde, so leadership is his alone. As at Romandie, Dario Cataldo and Davide Villella are his chief lieutenants, bringing a wealth of experience.
The Grand Tour debut of Matteo Jorgenson will be well worth keeping an eye on. The 21-year-old American has caught the eye this year – particularly at Paris-Nice (8th) and Tour de la Provence (14th) – and is still working out what kind of rider he is. Having initially been seen as more of a rouleur and Classics rider, his stage racing prospects are now being explored.
The Australian team have made it clear they are aiming for victory at the Giro d’Italia and, with an on-form Simon Yates, they have a real shot at the maglia rosa.
The Briton has gone close before, only to crack in 2018 and be derailed by COVID-19 in 2020. Yates seems more determined than ever this spring and at 28 could be at the peak of his career. He looked solid as a rock at the Tour of the Alps. That was five weeks before the key mountain stages of the Giro d’Italia, but BikeExchange insisted he is on track rather than peaking too soon.
Directeur sportif Matt White has done a lot of stage reconnaissance in the team car, a sign he believes overall victory is within grasp. White has carefully amalgamated his eight rider squad – it's not the strongest results wise but includes Mikel Nieve who was last year voted Best Domestique in the world by Cyclingnews readers.
Michael Hepburn, Chris Juul-Jensen, Cameron Meyer and Tanel Kangert are all experienced while it will be interesting to see how Nick Schultz performs in his own right as Yates’ last man.
Team DSM do things their own way, but Jai Hindley was their latest rider to benefit from their fluid hierarchy and equality in last year’s Giro d’Italia.
The team’s decision to sacrifice Wilco Kelderman to back Hindley has been questioned, but the quietly-spoken Australian went close to victory, with only Ineos and Tao Geogheghan Hart bettering him.
Hindley seems to have the same form this year and even more determination to prove it was not a one-off result in the rescheduled COVID-19 season. Team DSM think he can do it and have Romain Bardet as experienced support or an alternative card.
Nico Roche is also on hand to help out and go on the attack when needed, with Chris Hamilton and Michael Storer giving Hindley solid support, while Nikias Arndt gets chances in the sprints.
Fabio Aru is not part of the Qhubeka Assos team after a low-key spring and so the team will target sprint victories with European champion Giacomo Nizzolo, mountain stages with bionic man Domenico Pozzovivo, and the time trials with Victor Campenaerts
Nizzolo has Max Walscheid to protect him and lead him out, while the rest of the team bar Pozzovivo can play a role in a lead-out train or in chasing down breakaway.
Pozzovivo is now 38 and riding his 15th Giro d’Italia. He recently underwent further surgery to help resolve the problems caused by being hit by a car in July 2019 but is determined to make it to Milan and even shine on a stage in the mountains.
Vincenzo Nibali has confirmed he will ride the Giro d’Italia, but has logically played down his chances of overall success following his wrist injury. Bauke Mollema and Giulio Ciccone are also playing pass the parcel with leadership, making it difficult to understand who carries Trek-Segafredo’s maglia rosa hopes.
Ciccone inked a new three-year contract and is only 26, so he is likely to be focused on pink. He has won stages and the mountains classification in the past but endured a difficult 2020 season, suffering to find his form after catching COVID-19 and pulling out of the Giro on stage 14. He hasn’t raced since the Volta a Catalunya but has been training hard at altitude.
Mollema impressed in the Ardennes and so could be good on the hilly stages where breakaways are likely to stay away. But to do that he will have to drop out of the GC first. Gianluca Brambilla could also be good, while Matteo Moschetti is one to watch for the sprints. He is fully recovered after fracturing his leg last year and is a fast finisher.
Davide Formolo has long been touted as a general classification rider but seems to have accepted he has a better chance targeting mountain stages than sitting in the peloton.
Brandon McNulty has been pulled from the squad and promoted to Tadej Pogačar’s Tour de France unit and so UAE Team Emirates appear to have chosen an open strategy for every terrain at the Giro.
They have selected Fernando Gaviria for the sprints, hoping that he can get back to his best after two bouts of COVID-19 last year and a a broken wrist this spring. Diego Ulissi is recovering from his heart ablation surgery but could challenge on hilly stages, while Valerio Conti and Joe Dombrowski are other options as the race unfolds.
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