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Giro d'Italia 2022 – The GC favourites

Landa Carapaz Almeida
Mikel Landa, Richard Carapaz, and João Almeida are among the favourites for the Giro d'Italia pink jersey (Image credit: Getty Images/composite)

The Giro d'Italia has long been one of the most unpredictable of cycling's three Grand Tours, with high mountains, lots of climbing, and late time trials all contributing to the changeable race situation as riders battle for the maglia rosa.

You have to go all the way back to 1992-93 to find the last time a rider managed to win the Giro d'Italia back-to-back, and so producing a realistic set of favourites, let alone predicting the winner, can be a challenge at times. The race is usually a more speculative affair than either the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España.

But is anybody really complaining about that. At this year's race, the 'big three' GC hitters in the pro peloton – Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, and Egan Bernal – are all absent from the start list, leaving behind something of a power vacuum and a more open field for overall victory as a result.

One of the key pleasures of the Giro's inherent uncertainty is that it also ensures a multiplicity of plot lines to follow as the fortunes of those GC contenders who are racing rises and falls. With or without the 'big three', that doesn't change.

As we saw in the 2020 race, where Tao Geoghegan Hart beat Jai Hindley for overall victory, Grnad Tour scenarios where the top names are missing are almost always fertile ground for new, or left-field, contenders to raise the bar. The breakthroughs of the 2020 race will likely not be matched again anytime soon, but nevertheless there are still opportunities.

Our resident expert Philippa York predicted an almighty battle between Richard Carapaz and Simon Yates this May. However, there are more contenders and outsiders in the peloton as they race through Italy. Here's our look at the top GC favourites at the 2022 Giro d'Italia.

Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)

SCALEA ITALY MAY 12 Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers competes during the 105th Giro dItalia 2022 Stage 6 a 192km stage from Palmi to Scalea Giro WorldTour on May 12 2022 in Scalea Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Richard Carapaz in action in Italy (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
  • Age: 28
  • Best Giro results: Winner in 2019, fourth in 2018
  • Top 2022 results: Second at Volta a Catalunya

One of four former Giro d'Italia winners in this year's race, Richard Carapaz is undoubtedly the best placed to repeat that success. For some, his Giro victory in 2019 was taken almost under the radar as Vincenzo Nibali and Primož Roglič watched each other too closely.

But in fact Carapaz's gutsy defense of pink in the rain-soaked third week left no doubt that he was a worthy winner, and since then podium positions in the Vuelta a España (2020) and Tour de France (2021) have done nothing but cement that belief.

Carapaz can count on far more than just past history to justify his contender status. Second in the Volta a Catalunya after a spectacularly long breakaway with Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) shows that after a difficult start to the season, Carapaz is now in top condition.

On top of that, Carapaz can count on a team which has won three out of the four past Giros, each in radically different ways, so clearly has got the measure of what it takes to guide a rider to the top spot in Milan (or in this year's race, Verona) after three weeks.

Almost a week into the race, and with the first mountain battle at Mount Etna behind him, the Ecuadorian lies in a solid 11th place in GC. At the Visegrád opener, he was part of the front split which gained four seconds on a swathe of GC rivals, while he finished 19th in the Budapest time trial, shedding 28 seconds to a flying Simon Yates.

Etna turned out to be a stalemate, but Carapaz finished among the main GC group as several others faltered. On Blockhaus, meanwhile, he led the attacking and finished among an elite GC group of six riders.

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)

Almeida took third place at the Volta a Catalunya (Image credit: Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency)
  • Age: 23
  • Best Giro results: Fourth in 2020, sixth in 2021
  • Top 2022 results: Third and a stage win at Volta a Catalunya, fifth at UAE Tour, eighth at Paris-Nice

One of the main highlights of a 2020 Giro d'Italia that was full of surprises was João Almeida's breakthrough defence of the maglia rosa, which lasted far longer than even he expected. But on top of his 15-day spell in pink, the Portuguese racer's eventual fourth place in Milan that summer showed Almeida was doing far more than keeping the jersey warm for the real contenders.

In 2022, and with a string of top placings in each WorldTour stage race he's taken part in, as well as victory in the Volta a Catalunya's hardest mountain stage, Almeida has shown no sign of slowing down in his steady progress.

Now with UAE Team Emirates, Almeida will have far more room for manoeuvre, too, than in 2021 where he was somewhat overshadowed by former teammate Remco Evenepoel's much-hyped Grand Tour debut for QuickStep. But he still made sixth.

A huge gifted time triallist, it's arguable that the 2022 Giro route, with less than 30 kilometres of racing against the clock, does not suit him as well as previous editions. But at 23, it would seem certain he's yet to reach his limits as a GC contender too. Perhaps more importantly, his 2020 race proved beyond doubt that if Almeida gets into a strong position overall, he's all but impossible to dislodge, no matter the terrain.

Almeida lies well in the top 10 after Mount Etna, secure in seventh place as the race heads north. He  He was 14th at Visegrád, losing four seconds to Carapaz, while he lost 18 seconds to Yates in the time trial, a day he might've expected to do slightly better. On Etna he had no problems finishing in the main GC group, and grabbed a handy pair of bonus seconds on the sprinter's stage 5. At Blockhaus he finished among the best climbers, keeping himself in contention.

Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco)

BUDAPEST HUNGARY MAY 07 Simon Yates of United Kingdom and Team BikeExchange Jayco celebrates winning the stage on the podium ceremony after the 105th Giro dItalia 2022 Stage 2 a 92km individual time trial stage from Budapest to Budapest ITT Giro WorldTour on May 07 2022 in Budapest Hungary Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Yates has already celebrated a win at the Giro, on the stage 2 time trial (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
  • Age: 29
  • Best Giro results: Third in 2021, DNF in 2020, eighth in 2019, 21st in 2018
  • Top 2022 results:  Fifth at Vuelta a Andalucia, 2nd and a stage win at Paris-Nice

Few riders have seemed to thrive and suffer quite so much as Simon Yates in the Giro d'Italia – and for fans, if not for Yates at times, that dual tendency means his taking part in the 2022 Italian Grand Tour can only add to the overall intrigue.

His 2018 debut was memorable both for his crushing domination of the race to almost within sight of the finish, only for things to fall apart in memorable style in the last days in the mountains.

Last year in the third week, when Egan Bernal was threatening to turn the race into a procession with all the most wearily familiar style of Chris Froome at his zenith in the Tour de France, it was Yates who suddenly breathed life into a near-moribund GC battle at the unbearably steep, clutch-burner of a climb called Sega di Ala.

After so much drama in his previous participations, a podium finish in the 2021 Giro d'Italia felt almost overdue for Yates. And this year, with an even more mountainous course and with the myth that he cannot time trial hopefully laid to rest for good by now, Yates could well go even higher in 2022.

Yates has had an up-and-down lead-in to the race, finishing the recent Vuelta Asturias with two stage wins grabbed after late hilly escapes. They came either side of a jour sans on stage 2, though the Briton attributed his collapse to the heat, which likely won't be as big an issue at the Giro.

So far, Yates has looked the strongest of the main contenders. He's not in pink, but he's certainly the top dog on GC after blitzing the stage 2 time trial to lay down an early marker. On Etna, meanwhile, he managed to finish among the favourites while also avoiding taking the pink jersey – and all its obligations – at such an early stage in the race.

Things fell apart five days later on Blockhaus, though, as he dropped 12km from the summit, eventually shedding over 11 minutes to the other GC men by the top.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan)

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazakstan)

Nibali is a double Giro winner but an outsider this year (Image credit: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)
  • Age: 37
  • Best Giro results: Winner in 2013 and 2016, second in 2019, third in 2010 and 2017
  • Top 2022 results: Fourth at Giro di Siclia

When Italian veteran Vincenzo Nibali says that he will be going for stage wins and teammate Miguel Angel López will be the leader for Astana Qazaqstan in the Giro d’Italia, in one sense, it barely matters. For Italy’s tifosi, the local media and a hefty proportion of the Giro peloton, Nibali’s palmares and presence in the Giro d’Italia is so integral to its modern history, he will remain a key reference point throughout.

Having first raced back in 2007, winning it twice and finishing on the podium a further four times, Nibali remains Italy's last home champion and by far the most experienced Giro d'Italia racer.

Nibali relished the opportunity to race on home roads in Sicily earlier this week, but faltered on Mount Etna, finishing 2:15 down on the main GC group after dropping partway up the long climb.

It was an eventuality that wasn't wholly unexpected, and one that Astana might've prepared for given their selection of Miguel Angel López. However, the Colombian is already out of the race with a hip injury.

Nibali, who on stage 5 announced his retirement from cycling at the end of the season, will now be seeking stage wins at what is his final visit to his home Grand Tour. He finished eighth on Blockhaus, 34 seconds down and moves up to 13th overall, so still in with a shot at the top 10.

Romain Bardet (Team DSM)

LIENZ AUSTRIA APRIL 22 Romain Bardet of France and Team DSM celebrates at podium with race trophy as Green Leader Jersey and final overall winner during the 45th Tour of the Alps 2022 Stage 5 a 1145km stage from Lienz to Lienz TouroftheAlps on April 22 2022 in Lienz Austria Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Bardet won the recent Tour of the Alps (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
  • Age: 31
  • Best Giro results: Seventh in 2021
  • Top 2022 results: Ninth at UAE Tour, Winner at Tour of the Alps

A notable seventh place in his debut in 2021 would have made Romain Bardet's return Giro for a second year running interesting enough. But the Frenchman has unintentionally raised the bar a whole lot further after he recently took the overall win in a rain-lashed, climb-packed, final stage of the Tour of the Alps.

But the Giro is another level altogether, and the interminably long ascent to Etna on stage 4 will act as a surefire test of whether Bardet is back in the GC game for real in Italy for another year, or if he is opting for stage wins this time round. Should it prove to be the former, Bardet will find himself on a course that suits climbers like him down to the ground.

Without the weight of expectations that in Tour de France so often proves counter-productive for local riders, battling for his first ever Grand Tour win (but third Grand Tour podium of his palmares, let's not forget) suddenly would look a lot more feasible.

Like many of the other main GC contenders at the race, Bardet lies in and around the top 10 at around 20 to 30 seconds down on Yates. He's in 10th place after a solid time trial and a good showing on Mount Etna, where he finished among the favourites. On Blockhaus he was among the strongest climbers and looks set to challenge for a podium spot.

Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)

Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)

Dumoulin leads Jumbo-Visma into the Giro (Image credit: Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency2022)
  • Age: 31
  • Best Giro results: Winner in 2017, Second in 2018, DNF in 2016 and 2019
  • Top 2022 results: Sixth at Volta Limburg Classic

Riding his first Grand Tour since a lacklustre participation in the 2020 Vuelta a España culminated in an abandon on stage 8, Tom Dumoulin's return to the race he won back in 2017 has all the feel of a voyage into the dark.

Having barely raced this year, Dumoulin argued earlier this season that this would not be an impediment, as he was short on race miles prior to performing at his best in the Giro, too. All eyes were on how he'd fares in Budapest's short, testing stage 2 TT and if he could even repeat his opening TT victories in Jerusalem in 2018 and Holland in 2016.

He finished in third, five seconds down on winner Simon Yates. It was a good result, but still not what Dumoulin had hoped for. Any hopes of whether that podium spot might be a show of form ahead of upcoming mountain tests were dashed on Mount Etna, though.

There, he dropped far from the finish and came to the line over nine minutes down, shedding over six minutes to the main group of GC contenders. He'll now be looking at going for stages, supporting teammates such as Tobias Foss and Sam Oomen, and using the race as a testing ground ahead of possible future GC runs.

Miguel Angel López (Astana Qazaqstan)

Team Astanas Colombian rider Miguel Angel Lopez holds his leg as he rides in the first kilometers of the 4th stage of the Giro dItalia 2022 cycling race 172 kilometers between Avola and EtnaNicolosi Sicily on May 10 2022 Photo by Luca Bettini AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images

López left the race on stage 4 citing hip pain (Image credit: LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images)
  • Age: 28
  • Best Giro results: Third in 2018, seventh in 2019
  • Top 2022 results: 3rd at Vuelta a Andalucia, stage win at Tour of the Alps

To say Miguel Angel López has some unfinished business at the Giro d'Italia is no exaggeration, after his disastrously unlucky previous performance in 2020 saw the Colombian climber crash out on stage one in the time trial in Palermo.

It could be argued, too, that after his spectacular last minute abandon of the 2021 Vuelta a España when still battling for the GC, López will want to supplant that memory in fans' minds with other, less controversial, performances.

And the truth is when in good shape and not beset by misfortune, López is to be underrated at his peril. He has won the toughest mountain stages of both the Vuelta a España and the Tour de France, has a third place in the Giro in 2018 to his name, and only his time trialling kept him out of the podium places in the 2020 Tour, too.

Despite high hopes beforehand, López continued his run of bad luck in Italy, leaving the race before even reaching Mount Etna. He was already some way adrift following the Budapest time trial, where he shed 42 to Yates.

On stage 4 it all came crashing down as López trailed off the rear of the peloton in the opening kilometres. Shortly afterwards, he stopped for good, his Giro over.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)

LIEGE BELGIUM APRIL 24 Mikel Landa Meana of Spain and Team Bahrain Victorious attacks during the 108th Liege Bastogne Liege 2022 Mens Elite a 2572km one day race from Lige to Lige LBL WorldTour on April 24 2022 in Liege Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

Landa on the offensive at Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Age: 32
  • Best Giro results: Third in 2015, fourth in 2019
  • Top 2022 results: 3rd at Tirreno-Adriatico

Memories of Mikel Landa’s single Grand Tour podium finish, back in 2015, are steadily growing dimmer and he is in his early thirties now, yet Landa continues to keep plugging away at the GC battle. And more often than not, it seems like Landa somehow (and through no fault of his own) ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that, rather than poor form, has kept the Basque star out of potential GC contention for way too long.

Certainly last year Landa looked to be in stunning form in the opening mountain skirmishes of the Giro, but that was just a few days prior to a appalling crash that saw him leave the race in an ambulance. Yet four top five Grand Tour finishes, two in the Giro, cannot be ignored.

Bahrain Victorious have never lacked for strength in depth in recent Giros. And it could be interesting to see if teammate Pello Bilbao, clearly on form in the Tour of the Alps and who has a more consistent but less sparkling GC track record, overtakes Landa in the Bahrain Victorious GC pecking order.

Landa, like most of the other GC men, lies around the top 10 placings. He's in 12th following the time trial and the Etna test. He was solidly among the main contenders on the mountain-top finish, and had a decent TT, too. There, he placed 30th, but still has work to do in the remaining mountains, especially with another 17.4km of time trialling to come at the end of the race.

He was up there with Carapaz and Bardet on Blockhaus, the three looking like the best climbers in the race at this mid-point of the race.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Valverde is still a contender at 42 years old (Image credit: Bernard Papon - Pool/Getty Images)
  • Age: 42
  • Best Giro results: Third in 2016
  • Top 2022 results: Seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, second in La Fleche Wallone, second in Strade Bianche, winner of Gran Camiño

At 42, Alejandro Valverde’s inclusion in the ranks of the overall contenders may come as a surprise, particularly as he is not said to be looking for more than stage wins in his second last Grand Tour of his career.

And yet, even the quickest of glances at Valverde’s results in 2022 make it clear he is not just riding round this year to soak up the applause. He is, in fact, the only Movistar men's team rider to have won a race this season. And his ability to garner major triumphs even when racing against riders half his age has been proven time and again in recent years.

On top of which, if there is one rider starting the Giro d’Italia with zero external pressure on his shoulders and nothing to lose, it is Valverde. Nothing is to stop him from going for broke one last time in Italy’s Grand Tour, where he claimed a third spot overall way back in 2016.

Valverde is drifting in the GC already, lying as he does in 17th place, 41 seconds down on Yates. He was among the GC favourites on Etna, but endured a poor time trial to take 55th place in Budapest. He finished ninth on Blockhaus, moving to 11th overall and keeping himself in with a shout of the top 10.

Dark horses

Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

Veteran climber Pozzovivo is among the dark horses (Image credit: SprintCyclingAgency)

The list of potential dark horses in this year’s Giro had two pairs of teammates right at the top, with Hugh Carthy and Esteban Chaves (EF Education First-EasyPost), though by Blockhaus the pair have lost minutes already, with Carthy best-placed on GC at 4:22 down in 17th place.

Former Giro podium finishers Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) spearhead an extremely powerful squad that also includes German stage racing specialist Emanuel Buchmann and (as seen at the Tour of the Alps) an in-form Lennard Kämna. On Blockhaus, Hindley took the win and emerged as Bora's top GC choice as others floundered.

Italy may not have many options in the GC battle, but neither Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) nor Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) have shirked that particular mission in the past. After Blockhaus, Pozzovivo is the best-placed Italian on GC in eighth place.

Experienced veteran Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) has fallen out of contention and lies almost 14 minutes down after Blockhaus. France’s Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), eighth in last year’s Tour, is sixth overall after gaining minutes in the breakaway on stage 8.

Missing from the action

Quite apart from the lack of cycling’s top three GC contenders, the  absence of former Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana and former Tour King of the Mountains Warren Barguil (both Arkea-Samsic) from this year’s Giro d’Italia is a real pity. On a route which seems made for climbers, both could surely have made an impact. 

Similar thoughts could also be spared for former top five finishers and mountain specialists Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), the latter arguably the strongest climber of the Giro’s third week in 2021.

In addition to Quintana, other former winners who won't be lining up in Hungary include Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), and the Ineos Grenadiers pairing of Tao Geoghegan Hart and Egan Bernal.

Last but not least, what Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) could have achieved, too, in a Grand Tour route that could have been designed for him and after his spectacular Tour of the Alps performance will remain purely, too, as speculation.

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Daniel Ostanek
Daniel Ostanek

Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.


Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.