10 GC riders to target the Giro d'Italia in 2018

While the 2018 Giro d'Italia route has been unveiled to the public the number of Grand Tour contenders set to take part remains unclear. Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) are two of the exceptions, having already declared their participation, while the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and the defending champion, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) remain coy. Cyclingnews looks at the key riders who could line up in Jerusalem next May.

Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Chance of riding: 100 per cent
GC prospects: The four-time Tour de France winner has already announced that he will race the Giro for the first time since disqualification in 2010. The Team Sky leader is an unrecognisable force since then, and has become stage racing's dominant proposition. He appears to modify his characteristics for each challenge, and while the Giro is an entirely different beast to the Tour, or even the Vuelta, Froome will head to Israel as the man to beat. Whether he can maintain his condition and win a fourth straight Grand Tour in July is far more uncertain but the 32-year-old's participation marks Team Sky's most determined attempt to win the Giro since their inception.

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)
Chance of riding: 100 per cent
GC prospects: Aru is the only other genuine Grand Tour contender to have thrown his hat into the ring at this early stage. The Italian, having moved teams from Astana to UAE Team Emirates, doesn't have the armoury around him that Froome possesses at Team Sky but the importance of racing on home roads can't be overlooked, and while Froome has been concentrating on the Tour the Sardinian has finished second and third at the Giro, and picked up three stage wins along the way. The lack of depth at UAE could prove to be a telling issue at the Giro but at least Aru can concentrate on a Grand Tour that has neither a team time trial nor Alexander Kristoff to contend with. Spare a thought for Dan Martin.

Esteban Chaves (Orica Scott)
GC prospects: 100 per cent
Overall: After a disappointing 2017 Chaves needs a strong Giro d'Italia, and while Orica Scott are keeping their Grand Tour plans under wraps until the new year, Italy makes the most sense for the Colombian climber. Second in 2016, and with a relatively mountain-friendly parcours, the 27-year-old could be Froome's most dangerous rival. The prologue in Jerusalem will be a minor concern, and although the Rovereto test against the clock will likely see Froome gain between two and three minutes, Chaves should be knocking on Matt White's door demanding a Giro shot.

Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data)
Chance of riding: 100 per cent
Overall: Both Meintjes and his team have already announced that the South African climber will target the Giro in 2018. The Tour de France remains the long-term goal but with Mark Cavendish heading to France in order to break Eddy Merckx's stage record, Meintjes is heading to Italy in order to 'get some more experience'. Having finished in the top-10 in three Grand Tours already one could argue that the Dimension Data returner already has the knowledge to race over three weeks but the Giro perhaps gives him the chance to compete over more favorable terrain. The lack of team time trialing in Italy will please him, while his style of plugging away in the mountains and remaining consistent should help during the Giro's brutal mountains.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Chances of riding: 80 per cent
Overall prospects: With Aru leaving for UAE Team Emirates and Jakob Fuglsang leading at the Tour de France, Astana need riders to step up in other areas. Their winter recruitment was poor to say the least but in Lopez they still have one of the most talented prospects on the circuit. The 23-year-old was on his way to a disappointing season in 2017 due to injury but came back strongly to win a stage and finish third at the Tour of Austria and then win again and finish just off the podium at the Vuelta a Burgos. He saved the best for last with two stage wins and eighth overall at the Vuelta to at least give Astana and Vinokourov hope for next year. The Giro looks like the next logical step.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Chance of riding: 70 per cent
GC prospects: Movistar's game plan could decide the outcomes of both the Giro and the Tour. That's not to say they'll walk away with the crowns in either event, but in Valverde, Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana they have the riders to make the race at either or even both Grand Tours. The most likely scenario sees the returning Valverde head to Italy, while Quintana and Landa duke it out for leadership at the Tour before the trio converge on the Vuelta. That scheme makes sense but Movistar must also be tempted by the idea of deploying Landa to the Giro with the bare minimum hope of tiring out Froome before the Tour.

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
Chance of riding: 60 per cent
GC prospects: After three consecutive Giro challenges the Russian must surely be considering a tilt at the Tour de France. Fifth in Italy in 2017, and third at the Vuelta a Espana, the 28-year-old's stock has consistently risen over the last year. That being said, Katusha are not blessed with a deep pool of GC riders and the first week of the Tour de France, with the cobbles, and tricky roads through Brittany, might be enough to persuade Zakarin to stay within his comfort zone. A Giro-based programme also alleviates any discussion over how the Russian team split their Tour squad between Zakarin and new signing Marcel Kittel.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)
Chance of riding: 50 per cent
GC prospects: Regardless of route, wouldn't a return to the Giro in 2018 be a backward step for the Dutchman? Having conquered the race so dramatically this year, the freshest face on the Grand Tour landscape surely needs to set the bar higher and make the Tour de France his sole ambition for 2018. With Froome splitting his resources across May and July, Dumoulin and Sunweb are unlikely to have a better chance of ending Team Sky's dominance at the Tour, while the Tour's team time trial provides another incentive should Dumoulin remain on the fence with regards to his programme.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
Chance of riding: 50 per cent
GC prospects: Although Bahrain is seen as Nibali's team, it's not certainly not Nibali's money. Sponsor commitments are likely to nudge the 33-year-old towards the Tour in 2018, especially when one considers that the Italian focused on the Giro-Vuelta in 2017, leaving Bahrain rudderless at the Tour. Next season will probably be Nibali's final chance to win a Tour de France before returning to the Giro at the ripe old age of 35 – by which point he'll be in the final year of his current Bahrain-Merida contract. Next year's Tour route has enough about it to attract the 2014 winner with the tricky first week and the cobbles suiting the Italian more than most. With the Worlds another of his targets, a likely programme will see the Italian focus on the Classics, Tour and then an all-out assault on ending Peter Sagan's grip on the rainbow jersey.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Chances of riding: 50 per cent
GC prospects: It looked and sounded as though 2017 would be Pinot's lone experiment at riding the Giro and Tour de France but no sooner had the Giro's route been announced than the Frenchman began mulling over another double Grand Tour undertaking. The 2017 attempt drew mixed results with a stage and fourth overall at the Giro followed by a Tour display beset by fatigue and illness. Pinot is already sounding bullish, saying that lessons had been learned and that the extra week's rest will benefit his chances. Whether Marc Madiot agrees with all that remains to be seen, with a final decision set to be announced at the FDJ winter training camp.

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