Bugno: Giro's first summit finish coud be more decisive than Mortirolo

It’s now 25 years since Gianni Bugno joined a select handful of riders - Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda and Costante Girardengo being the others - who have won the Giro d’Italia after leading it from beginning to end. And although such a feat is unlikely (but not impossible) to happen in 2015, the President of the International Riders Association (CPA) warns that the Giro’s early climbs - and which riders shine on them - could have a greater-than-expected impact on the overall classification.

As Bugno explained to Italian newspaper La Stampa on Thursday, he believes Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and his bid for the Giro-Tour double may well give the first week’s mountain top finishes, particularly stage five’s ascent to Abetone, the first summit finish, more importance than usual.

“The leading light is [Alberto] Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who has won more than the rest of them. [Fabio] Aru (Astana) and [Rigoberto] Urán (Etixx-Quick Step) should, with the rest of the rivals, try to wear him out together, because attacking him solo won’t get him dropped,” Bugno claimed.

Bugno argued to the paper that Contador’s decision to go for a Giro-Tour double could have a big effect on how the first part of the Italian Grand Tour plays out - and how Aru, this year’s main Italian hope, could race it.

“Aru did a great Giro in 2014 and if he has come on again he could cause problems for the Spaniard, but above all, we have to see if Contador is strongly focussed on the Tour. In that case, he may not be at the top of his form early on and he could be vulnerable in the first week,” Bugno said.

With that in mind, even though Mortirolo on stage 16, which coincidentally first featured in the 1990 Giro d’Italia, has been named by some riders as vital for the Giro’s outcome, Bugno is not so convinced.

“The riders make the race, not the climbs. Often on those toughest climbs not so much happens, each rider does his own thing and there aren’t necessarily big gaps. Then on the more ‘pedallable’ climbs, a lot more is at stake.”

Bugno is so convinced this could be possible that he even claimed in La Stampa that “Perhaps the Abetone could be more decisive.” The stage five summit finish is 17.4 kilometres long but with a comparatively benign average gradient of 5.4 percent.

“It’s not a very hard climb, but it’s the first mountain top stage, which is always special, and it could still be cold there too. We’ll see who is able to fight for pink.”

Bugno himself has had some tough experiences in taking on Spaniards vying for Grand Tour doubles. In 1993, he finished eighteenth behind Miguel Indurain as the Navarran claimed the Giro d’Italia for the second year running - and then went on to conquer his third Tour de France in July.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.