Team Sky sports director Scott Sunderland believes the 2010 Giro d'Italia route will force teams to re-evaluate their selection for the Italian Grand Tour. Sunderland told Cyclingnews on Sunday that he expects the race's opening days in The Netherlands to see traditionally climber-based teams tempered with more robust squads, capable of seeing off the challenge of the first three stages.
"It's a well thought out course, I think it's well balanced, but it's one where you'll have to be on your toes right from the start," he said. "With that prologue [in Amsterdam], you'll have to be a good technical rider. There are some narrow streets and the 'klinckers' [Dutch paving stones] could cause problems."
With the first two road stages to be held within Dutch borders, Sunderland said the region's weather will have the potential to present conditions atypical of the Giro d'Italia.
"Those couple of days in Holland throw up a whole bag of surprises," he said. "You'll go over the dyke, you'll have bridges and a lot of wind. The peloton might get really lucky and have no wind, but they could have wind and storms; everything thrown at them in the first three days of the race.
"Typically in Italy you don’t have those strong winds, whereas we have seen those sorts of conditions in the Tour of Spain and the Tour de France, so it could add a different dimension to the Giro, which I think is quite good."
Although Sunderland expects a level of status quo to return to the Giro once on Italian soil, he indicated that the stage four team time trial from Savigliano to Cuneo will be another factor in teams possibly starting the race with a little more bulk that usual.
"Teams will have to be well thought out and well balanced. We'll go from three days in Holland to a rest day and then straight into a flat, very fast team time trial, that will suit the big drivers and sprinters teams," he said.
Sunderland said the course revealed in Milan yesterday would force Sky, too, to re-evaluate the team that they will eventually take to their debut Grand Tour. He said that although it was too soon to make a firm decision on the Giro line-up, it would be a topic of discussion when Team Sky management sit down next week to discuss their plans for next season.
"Normally, you head to the Giro with a climber-based team, but with three days in Holland and the team time trial you need to take a second look at the course and how you design your team," he said.
"The ideas I had when I discussed the make-up of the team with the other [Sky] sports directors will have to be tweaked again. We'll be meeting next week to finalise our race program [for 2010], so that will be one of the discussions I will be having with the team management.
"We have a couple of Italian riders. I think [Morris] Possoni will definitely want to go for general classification and we'd like to give him the opportunity to step up and have that chance, but it's too early to make calls about Sky's Giro selection."
While Sunderland expects the opening days of the Giro to prove treacherous, he has little doubt that the final week of the race will decide the overall winner. With a mountain time trial and stages that will include the brutal climbs of the Zoncolan, Mortirolo and Passo di Gavia, the race looks to suit the lighter members of the peloton.
"That mountain time trial to Plan de Corones, with the Zoncolan just two days before, will mean you'll need to be a really good, lightweight climber. The final week is really meant for the true, Pantani-type climbers."
"It could really suit riders like [Stefano] Garzelli and [Ivan] Basso – if he's on good form. I also think a rider like [Vincenzo] Nibali could go really well, if he chose to go 100 percent for the Giro, the course could really suit him. Even guys like Dan Martin, lighter riders, who have a strong team to look after them for the first two weeks will have a shot. I don't know what Contador's plans are and whether he will want to go so deep at the Giro, but the course certainly suits him down to the ground."
"You will win the Giro in the mountains, but you will lose the Giro in the first three days of the race and the team time trial."
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