Caleb Ewan’s chase stage wins Giro d’Italia as Richie Porte rides grand tour for last time
The Giro d’Italia gets underway this weekend, with Caleb Ewan leading the Australian charge on the first grand tour of the season.
He is one of nine Australians who will start with the rest of the peloton in the 21-stage, 3,445.6km event which begins in Budapest on Friday.
The peloton will spend three days in Hungary, before decamping to Sicily for two days, then finally reaching the Italian mainland, the road winding north towards the Alps before culminating in an individual time trial in Verona on Sunday. May 29.
Lotto Soudal’s Ewan will be joined at the start line in Budapest by the INEOS Grenadiers veteran richie door in what will likely be his final grand tour appearance.
BORA-hansgrohe’s Jai Hindley, Miles Scottson of Groupama-FDJ, Chris Hamilton of Team DSM and the Team BikeExchange-Jayco quartet of Lucas Hamilton, Michael Hepburn, Damien Howson and callum scotson make up the rest of Australians.
Ewan ready to compete with Mark Cavendish for sprint wins
The Giro is known as an extraordinarily tough race and this 105th edition should be no different, with riders ready for more than 50,000 vertical meters.
However, amidst all the mountain passes, sprinters will have plenty of chances to make their mark over the three-week race.
Ewan is one of the fastest men on the starting list, so he can be considered a favorite to take at least a handful of stage wins and be able to claim the overall points jersey, the Maglia Ciclamino.
He has picked up five race wins so far this season and a second-place finish at Kurrne-Brussels-Kuurne, but illness sidelined the 27-year-old from his main early-season target Milan-San Remo.
His Lotto-Soudal team gave him a more than decent starting train with German workhorses Roger Kluge, Rüdiger Selig and Michael Schwarzmann, with veteran Thomas de Gendt also in the line-up.
Even with this stacked line-up, the jackpot may be beyond him – Ewan has never completed a Giro in four attempts and, with the Tour de France on the horizon, it remains to be seen whether he will risk it or not. not in the frankly absurd alpine stages planned for the third week.
Then there are its direct competitors.
Marc Cavendish was as good as he was on the scrap heap at this time last year, having suffered for years with injuries, illnesses and mental health issues.
However, the Manx rider made history in last year’s Tour de France, winning four stages to tie with Eddy Merckx the all-time mark of 34, establishing himself as a modern sprinting legend in which was one of the sport’s greatest comebacks.
He will now race the Giro for the first time in nine years with the support of a Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team featuring star leader Michael Mørkøv.
The 36-year-old has 15 career Giro stage wins and won the points classification in 2013.
Other runners to watch from a sprint perspective include Arnaud Demare (Groupema-FDJ) which will have Miles Scottson working for him, multi-talented Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), local hope Giacomo Nizolo (Isreal-Premier Tech) and Eritrean sensation Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).
Sprint steps to watch
The sprinters are unlikely to show up before the third stage of this year’s race, the 201km trip from Kaposvár to Balatonfüred on Sunday May 8.
The race then moves to Sardinia, where the 174km slog of stage five from Catania to Messina on Wednesday May 11 offers a tantalizing possibility for sprint teams, should they clear the category two climb on the Portella Mandrazzi, 100 km from the finish.
The race moves to the Italian mainland on Thursday May 12, where sprinters will lick their lips again for the relatively flat 192km sixth stage between Palmi and Scalea.
The frankly gruesome seventh stage, with 4,510 meters of elevation gain over 196km through the southern Apennines, will weed out the weak, but Saturday’s lumpy 153km eighth stage around Naples might be of interest to sprinters.
Stage 10 on May 17 from Pescara to Jesi is another flat route, although it does get slightly hilly towards the end, which cannot be said for the following flat days from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia.
After four difficult days in the Alps, stage 18 will also offer a chance for the fast men, although it is not known how many will have survived the mountains within the time limit.
Richie Porte probably signs his grand tour career in Italy
This year will be Porte’s final in the professional peloton with the 37-year-old set to hang up his shorts at the end of the year.
The Giro will be his 17th grand tour, the same race where he cut his teeth in three weeks of stage races since 2010.
He wore the leader’s pink jersey for a time in that race before eventually finishing seventh, which he called “some of the best memories of my career” in an interview with the INEOS-Grenadier website.
Gate will roll for the Ecuadorian Richard Carapazwho won the Giro in 2019 and finished third in the Tour de France last year.
While Porte is unlikely to challenge for the overall lead, his compatriot Jai Hindley will be one of the three runners favored by BORA-Hansgrohe.
The 25-year-old will look to improve on his second place overall in 2020, when the Western Australian came from the clouds to stun the pro field, dropping an agonizing 39 seconds from what would have been a stunning win.
He will have competition within his own team for leadership duties with Wilco Kelderman the official leader and Emanuel Buchmann waiting in the wings, with performances on the road to decide who the team will support.
The other four Australians, Hamilton, Hepburn, Howson and callum scotson will work hard for the British driver Simon Yates.
How to watch the Giro d’Italia?
The 2022 Giro d’Italia will be available on SBS, with full stage coverage on SBS On Demand nightly, with mainline coverage starting later.
The Giro starts on Friday May 6 and ends on Sunday May 29.