Giro d’Italia 2021: Simon Yates and Egan Bernal bid to take crown in unpredictable race

Twenty-one stages stand between 184 cyclists and victory on 30 May

Bella Butler
Friday 07 May 2021 10:34
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Britain’s Simon Yates is among the favourites at this year’s Giro d’Italia
Britain’s Simon Yates is among the favourites at this year’s Giro d’Italia

The 2021 edition of the Giro d’Italia is set to start this Saturday in Turin and will finish 21 stages later in Milan on Sunday 30 May. 

Only seven months ago, Tao Geoghegan Hart unpredictably claimed the maglia rosa, while race favourite Geraint Thomas crashed out early. 

This year will see riders living up to the unpredictable racing that the Giro is famous for in its usual timeslot in May, tackling 3,450km across Italy’s central and northern regions, with tough gravel sections, the infamous Monte Zoncolan, and two individual time trials included.

The Italian Grand Tour is always interesting and difficult to predict, with the best of the pro peloton generally targeting the Tour de France, leaving the race open for upcoming youngsters and veterans alike. The 2021 edition has 184 names on the start list with 19 WorldTour teams and four ProTeams set to race.

The riders will have hopes to claim one of the four jerseys – the pink jersey (maglia rosa) for the GC, the cyclamen jersery (maglia ciclamino) for the sprinters points classification, the blue jersey (maglia azzurra) for the mountain classification, and the white jersey (maglia bianca) for the young rider’s classification.

The route

Despite a number of early sprint stages, the riders will have the first big day of climbing on stage six. Stage eight and nine will also prove crucial in the first week for the GC riders, with over 3,000m of climbing up some big mountains.

The second week will see the peloton take to the gravel sections, starting on stage 11 between Pergui and Montalcino. The riders face a tough day on stage 14 as they climb up the brutal Monte Zoncolan. Stage 16 is another massive climbing day, with riders facing the best the Dolomites has to offer, taking on the Passo Fedaia, Passo Pordoi and Passo Giau.

The final week will see the peloton head up more mountains, including new Giro finishes on the Sega di Ala on stage 17, and the Alpe di Mera on stage 19, with the latter including a massive 3,700 metres of climbing.

The penultimate stage of the race is an epic mountain stage as usual with 4,800 metre of climbing, including the Passo San Bernadino and Passo Spluga, which are both 2,000 metres above sea level, before a finish on Alpe di Motta.

The Italian Grand Tour is bookended by time trials, both of which are around 30km, which could prove decisive for the GC contenders.

The GC contenders

The top three favourites are Briton Simon Yates (BikeExchange), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep). 

Yates has had a turbulent time with the Giro, having won three stages in the race in 2018 and sitting in the leaders jersey for 13 days before cracking in the last few stages and dropping out of the top 20. He did go on to win the Vuelta a Espana that year and so definitely has the potential to win the Italian Grand Tour. Last year, he was unable to race due to coronavirus.

This year, Yates is in phenomenal form, winning the Tour of the Alps a few weeks ago. BikeExchange carefully selected the team based around Yates and, combined with his determination, he is sure to be in with a shot of wearing pink.

British super team Ineos Grenadier are the defending champions at the Giro but have swapped Geoghegan Hart with Bernal as he looks to the Tour de France. Bernal has suffered with back issues since last year but has had podium finishes at the Tour de la Provence, Strade Bianche, and Tirreno-Adriatico. When he is on form, Bernal is one of the world’s best climbers. However, Ineos have said that Pavel Sivakov will act as a “joint leader” depending on how the Giro plays out. Time trial world champion Filippo Ganna will also be vital for Ineos on the bookending stages.  

The favourite underdog is definitely 21-year-old Belgian Evenepoel who will be making his Grand Tour debut. Having not raced since August last year, his form is questionable, but his versatility gives him an edge on the other GC contenders. Evenepoel’s time trialling ability gives him a big advantage, but Deceunick-QuickStep also have Joao Almeida as a backup if necessary. 

Other riders who could be in with a chance are Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), who is remarkably consistent, Emanual Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), who finished fourth in the Tour last year, the 2020 Giro d’Italia runner up, Jai Hindley (DCM), and the only actual Giro winner on the start list, Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), who broke his wrist less than three weeks ago.  

The sprinters

The Italian Grand Tour also has a strong field of sprinters this year who will be battling for the points classification.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) is arguably the fastest man in the Giro peloton, having won three of its stages. The Australian’s climbing abilities also gives him an advantage over the other sprinters, but he has only claimed one victory this year. 

Dylan Groenwegen (Jumbo Visma) will return to racing following his suspension in last year’s Tour of Poland. The Dutchman has incredible speed when he is on form, but it is difficult to know what to expect after his absence. 

The legendary Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) will be taking to the start line, having just won back-to-back stages at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie. 

Other sprinters include Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis). 

Where to watch

The Giro d’Italia will be covered live by Eurosport and GCN+ from Saturday 8 May until Sunday 30 May. 

The first stage will be televised from 1pm on Saturday.

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