100 YEARS OF AMORE
Love is unpredictable. For every joyous high, there’s a sudden crash, a cheater’s stab in the back, or worse: Mario Cipollini might steal your girlfriend. The Giro d’Italia is an affare di cuore, and a passion for la Corsa Rosa courses red hot through our veins. For the next three weeks, the centenary edition of Italy’s Grand Tour will provide us with the glorious unpredictability of the most fiery of romances. Over a torturous route engineered by the cycling masochisti, almost 200 brave cyclists will compete to take home the 100th maglia rosa. Oh, what challenges await these gladiators! They’ll have to overcome countless obstacles to get to Milan, and many of them will even manage it with style and panache. Amore is love, but it’s also what we feel for the Giro - the greatest bike race in the world. Andiamo!
1. Vincenzo Nibali
How a bike racer should look: razor-thin shoulders and a rich tan the colour of mamma’s bolognese sauce. The Shark of the Strait knows how to keep the tifosi in thrall too, with his solo attacks and perfectly-timed comebacks.
2. Thibaut Pinot
All class and elegance, just as you’d expect from a French climber. Unfortunately, this 26-year-old Pinot vintage is a bit of a fluffy croissant - he looks great, but flakes easily.
3. Geraint Thomas
Slimmed down since his track and classics days, the British team’s ‘G’C leader possesses a beautiful pedal stroke, and a growing killer instinct in the mountains. Oh, but those glasses, G.
4. Tom Dumoulin
It’s curtains up for Tom Dumoulin-Rouge… Can-can he prove his ability as an overall contender? The classy Dutchman fights the good fight for smooth rouleurs who can hang tough in the mountains.
5. Adam Yates
A Brit who rides like a Euro. The Yates brother who won the white jersey at the Tour, Adam now takes his swashbuckling racing style to Italy’s steep climbs, while his twin Simon gets a crack at France in July.
6. Mikel Landa
On his day, the Spaniard is one of the world’s silkiest and strongest climbers. The rest of the time, he looks like he’s just stumbled out of a restaurant after gorging on tapas and sangria.
7. Nairo Quintana
Some say that ‘El Condor de los Andes’ was chiselled out of Colombia’s icy mountain ranges and placed straight onto a bike. It might explain why he looks old enough to be your dad, has a facial expression range from stony all the way through to impassive, and doesn’t seem to feel the cold.
8. Steven Kruiswijk
Despite having a coat-hanger wingspan that you could drape a three-piece suit off, the Dutchman has a rather elegant pedalling style - that is, unless he’s smashing face first through snowdrifts, as he did last year to lose the pink jersey.
9. Tejay Van Garderen
If only TVG swapped his initials round to TGV, he might be fast enough to win something big. Still, he loves the Big Lebowski, and isn’t afraid to speak up against wrongdoers, so he gets our vote.
10. Ilnur Zakarin
All lanky limbs and chin-fuzz goatee, this young Russian looks like Ron Weasley’s long-lost cousin. But boy can he ride - a prototype climber developed in the deepest East.
11. Bauke Mollema
Sure, Mollema might make the podium, but unless this anonymous Dutchman snogs a podium girl, insults Marco Pantani’s auntie, or punches Vincenzo Nibali on the nose, who’ll even notice?