Six contenders with a week to win the Giro d'Italia

As the overall contenders enjoy the third rest day near Lake Iseo or at altitude in the shadows of the Passo Gavia at Ponte di Legno and the Passo Tonale, the fight for the pink jersey and final overall victory remains wide open.

Despite 15 stage of intense, hard racing, the top six riders overall are still within 2:42 of each other, with the top ten riders within seven minutes.

Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) extended his lead on nearest challenger Cadel Evans (BMC) on the climb to Montecampione on Sunday, but Fabio Aru (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) pulled back some precious seconds. Rarely has a Grand Tour been so finely poised going into the decisive mountain stages, with so many riders from different teams and with different characteristics, having an excellent chance of victory or a place on the final podium in Trieste.

Cyclingnews looks at the strengths and weakness of the six overall contenders and studies where and if they can win the Giro d'Italia.

Name: Rigoberto Urán

Team: Omega Pharma-QuickStep

Overall Classification: race leader

Strengths: Consistent and can handle the pressure

Weaknesses: first time as a Grand Tour leader

Decisive stage: 20: Maniago-Monte Zoncolan

Cyclingnews prediction: Overall winner

Uran seemed to struggle on the climb to Oropa, but bounced back and even attacked on the long climb to Montecampione. 

He has never lead a Grand Tour before but has he constantly points out, this is his fourth Giro d'Italia and his ninth Grand Tour. He will have to fight on every stage to defend the pink jersey and handle being in the spotlight but thanks to his lead on all his rivals, this Giro d'Italia is his to lose.


Name: Cadel Evans

Team: BMC

Overall Classification: Second at 1:03

Strengths: Experience

Weaknesses: Age and pure climbing ability

Decisive stage: 16: Ponte di Legno-Val Martello

Cyclingnews prediction: Fourth

Evans seemed in total control during the first half of the Giro d'Italia but appears to be weakening with every stage.

He admitted he doesn’t like the changes in pace the pure climbers love to produce but will have to respond to them on every mountain stage. If he strugglers to go with them, he will loose time and perhaps even a place on the final podium in Trieste.

Name: Rafal Majka

Team: Tinkoff-Saxo

Overall Classification: Third at 1:50

Strengths: Consistency and team support

Weaknesses: Experience

Decisive stage: 19: Cima Grappa mountain time trial

Cyclingnews prediction: Third

Majka has flown under the radar for much of the Giro d'Italia but he is leading the best young rider's competition ahead of Aru and Quintana.

He never seems to panic in a complex race situation, when riders are going up the road and he can count on the support of Nicholas Roche and especially Michael Rogers.

If Majka gains time on his closest overall rivals in the Monte Grappa time trial, he will be on track for a place on the final podium.


Name: Fabio Aru

Team: Astana

Overall Classification: Fourth at 2:24

Strengths: Climbing ability and motivation

Weaknesses: Experience and handling expectation

Decisive stage: 16: Ponte di Legno-Val Martello

Cyclingnews prediction: Fifth

Perhaps the biggest mountain Fabio Aru faces between now and Trieste is the mass of expectation that is building up around him following his victory at Montecampione. Gazzetta dello Sport dedicated six whole pages to Aru on Monday morning, drawing inevitable and unfair comparisons with Marco Pantani. After beginning the race ostensibly in the service of Michele Scarponi, the young Sardinian must now cope with the full glare of home pressure in the final week.

It’s worth noting that in Aru’s debut Giro twelve months ago, his best performance came on the penultimate stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, suggesting that he has the engine to last the course.

Tuesday’s stage to Val Martello is crucial for Aru. If he backs up his Montecampione triumph with a solid showing there, a place on the podium will be within reach.

Name: Nairo Quintana

Team: Movistar

Overall Classification: Fifth at 2:40

Strengths: Climbing ability

Weaknesses: Form in third week after illness

Decisive stage: 20: Maniago-Monte Zoncolan

Cyclingnews prediction: Second

Stricken by illness and injured in the mass crash at Montecassino, this is not the same Nairo Quintana who finished second overall at last year’s Tour de France but he enters the third week of the Giro d'Italia just about within reach of overall victory.

After struggling in the Barolo time trial, Quintana began his fight back at Oropa and Montecampione, and though still some way short of his best, he pegged back 43 seconds on Urán during the weekend.

Quintana will need to do much more, of course, in the final week, but with three summit finishes and a mountain time trial to come, the terrain is there. The question is whether it is possible for the Colombian to recover sufficiently from his illness at this point in a three-week race. If he can claw back more time over the coming days, the stage could be set for a thrilling denouement on the Zoncolan.

Name: Domenico Pozzovivo

Team: Ag2r-La Mondiale

Overall Classification: Sixth at 2:42

Strengths: Climbing, fighting spirit

Weaknesses: Time trial ability, descending

Decisive stage: 20: Cima Grappa mountain time trial

Cyclingnews prediction: Sixth

After sparkling at Sestola and Oropa, and delivering a solid showing in the Barolo time trial, Pozzovivo suffered his first major setback of the Giro at Montecampione, conceding time to Aru, Quintana, Majka and Uran. He has now dropped to sixth overall, 2:42 off the maglia rosa, but in a sense, that might play to his advantage in the tough final week.

When Pozzovivo attacked at Oropa, Quintana locked immediately onto his rear wheel but the Italian’s current deficit perhaps grants him a little more leeway from his GC rivals.

Pozzovivo insists that his target is a stage win and a place in the top five overall and both goals are certainly within striking distance. But the race is entering the terrain that ought to suit him best, and he has perhaps the strongest climbing team in the race at his disposal – Alexis Vuillermoz, in particular, has been a revelation. Considering how fast he was on the climbs in the Barolo time trial, Pozzovivo also fancy his chances of making gains in the Montegrappa time trial.

The fight for the top ten

Before the start of the Giro d'Italia in Belfast, a lack of depth in the start list and a lack big-name riders worried race organisers RCS Sport. However the close overall classification and the consistency of a number of young talented riders has created a thrilling race.

Behind the top six overall contenders are swathe of names to watch for and remember.

Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) is consistent and showing ambition beyond his years. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) could have been a podium contender if he had not lost so much time in the time trials. He will surely win a stage later this week. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek Factory Racing) is also showing he is a future talent, while Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) is set to climb into the top ten overall after starting the Giro with a three-minute handicap after the team time trial crash.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.