The 2013 Giro d’Italia begins tomorrow in Naples to finish on Sunday 27 May at Brescia. Since Michele Acquarone took over as the race director of Giro from Angelo Zomegnan in 2011, the Giro has been promoted globally much more aggressively than Tour de France. The Italian grand tour still has some way to challenge the Tour as the biggest race in the world but it certainly is giving the Tour a run for its money. The internet is flooded with preview of the race, the pick of the lot is of course at Inrng. The Inner Ring also assesses the chances of main contenders for the leader’s jersey maglia rosa. In this preview, I highlight the possible riders who will challenge for the lesser jersey, maglia azzurra, the leader’s jersey of mountains classification. Giro d’Italia is famous for its high mountain passes and hence, maglia azzurra is the most coveted jersey for riders who enjoy riding when the road tilts up. It is also the jersey which grimpeur-poseurs like myself look up to.
Given the nature of racing these days, mountains classification is typically won by climbers of aggressive nature who feature out of top 10 in the general classification. The past 5 winners of the mountains classification and their position in general classification is as follows:
2012 Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini, ITA) GC position: 60th @ 2hr 29min 35sec
2011 Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone, ITA) GC position: 25th @ 1hr 4min 0sec
2010 Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto, AUS) GC position: 50th @ 2hr 13min 22sec
2009 Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone, ITA) GC position: 7th @ 8min 43sec
2008 Emanuele Sella (CSF, ITA) GC position: 6th @ 4min 31sec
2007 Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval, ITA) GC position: 14th @ 17min 40sec
Another obvious pattern is that the winners of this jersey tend to be Italian nationals from relatively smaller teams who’re motivated to perform in front of the home crowd and deliver publicity for the team sponsors (but no UCI points!). Keeping the above factors in mind – Italian, non-GC leader team, good climber, propensity to go in long breakaway – the possible contenders for the mountains classification at this year’s Giro d’Italia are:
1. Cristiano Salerno (Cannondale Procycling): With Ivan Basso dropping out of the team due to a lemon-sized cyst, the team will go for stage wins. This also frees up Salerno who was mountains classification winner at Volta a Catalunya where he led the ranking with whopping 109 points over second placed and Vuelta al Pais Vasco winner Nairo Quintana with 51 points. Looking at his latest results, its clear that the Italian from Imperia has been saving himself for the Giro.
2. Manuele Boaro (Team Saxo-Tinkoff): This race will be very different for Bjarne’s boys in the absence of team leader Alberto Contador who is focusing on winning the Tour. Young climber Rafal Majka is the team leader but Boaro could be set free if the Pole is not able to withstand the heat from bigger GC men. Boaro already has a mountains classification jersey this year from Volta ao Algarve and has been generally going strong this season. It will be interesting to see how his team races this Giro.
3. John Darwin Atapuma (Team Colombia): Okay, so Atapuma is not an Italian but is a strong climber and was fourth last year in the mountains classification at Giro del Trentino with an amazing victory on Passo Pordoi. He has had a different season with lesser racing days and will be fresher than other riders to raid the mountain points. Team Colombia will also try to prove a point at the Giro as they’re making an appearance after a long hiatus.
4. Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox): Coming back to the Italians, everybody knows that Pirazzi loves to attack and go into breakaways. Last year, he finished second in the Giro mountains classification behind Matteo Rabotini. He has been going decent this season and showed his form when he went on typical suicidal attack at Sega di Ala climb of Giro del Trentino. He will not hold himself back when the road tilts up.
5. Fabio Felline (Androni – Venezuela): Gianni Savio’s team boasts of the Italian road race champion Franco Pellizotti who has just not got going this season without his usual medication. But Savio’s younger charge Felline has racked up decent results. Felline’s teammate Emanuele Sella is not the rider he once was and the responsibility to represent team in the moutains will fall on the shoulders of Felline. Although, the Giro mountains could prove to be too much for him.
Mauro Santambrogio (Vini-Fantini) is in great shape this season. Luca Scinto has also hired Stefano Garzelli and Danilo Di Luca which means that the team has ambitions to take a crack at the podium with Santambrogio. As time-trialing is not Santambrogio’s greatest strentgh, he will try to make up most of his time on GC contenders in the mountains. There’s a good chance that one of his teammates or even himself could run away with the mountains classification jersey.
Other outsiders are Eros Capecchi (Movistar) and Dominico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who will also be aiming for a high placing in the general classification but will not mind going for the maglia azzurra if their GC bid falters.