Giro d’Italia 2023: Analyzing the possible GC contenders

Hot off the back of the Giro 2023 route reveal, we pick through who's in the mix for the maglia rosa.

Photo: Getty Images

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With the 2023 Giro d’Italia (May 6-28) route announced this week the speculation as to which grand tour specialists will head to Italy has already begun with no shortages of names thrown into the ring.

The Tour de France route will not be made official until October 27 at a presentation in Paris but it already looks as though the Giro d’Italia has catered more towards time trial specialists with more than 70km of racing against the clock.

There are still seven summit finishes and the customary final week that is crammed with climbing but already the likes of Remco Evenepoel, Geraint Thomas and even Primož Roglič have been mentioned as possible contenders for the maglia rosa.

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VeloNews takes a look at 10 potential GC candidates for the race.

Remco Evenepoel

Age: 22
Giro pedigree: One start, one DNF

Targeting the Giro d’Italia feels like the logical step for Evenepoel following his Vuelta a España success. The route and stacks of time trialing Mauro Vegni has carved out for the young Belgian couldn’t be more enticing, and there’s every chance that Evenepoel can put four to six minutes between himself and the pure climbers due to his TT advantages. He would essentially start the race as the out-and-out number-one favorite, unless of course, Primož Roglič decides that he’s done with the Tour de France.

The Giro would also provide Evenepoel with an achievable stepping stone toward his ultimate goal of winning the Tour de France. After his Vuelta and Worlds success, few would claim that he’s not ready to at least compete for a shot at glory at the Tour de France but jumping from the Vuelta to the Tour in one year can put undue pressure on a young rider’s shoulders. Patrick Lefevere is understandably cautious, and with time on Evenepoel’s side he shouldn’t need much persuading when it comes to finalizing his 2023 campaign. Head to the Giro, add a maglia rosa to your palmares and allow Lefevere another twelve months to build a more robust Tour roster around you.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) at the Tour de France in 2022. (Photo: Getty Images)

Age: 36
Giro pedigree: Four starts, two DNFs, nothing to write home about

All the noises coming out of Thomas and his entourage suggests that 2022 was his final outing at the Tour de France. The veteran finished on the podium this year and with visits to all three steps of the final steps in Paris it probably looks like the end of his Tour days. Finishing third in 2022 was in many ways the best possible goodbye for Thomas, who was best of the rest behind an untouchable tandem of Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar. He’s not going to win the Tour again, and finishing on another Tour podium would be a stretch compared to at least fighting for the top-three at the Giro.

With age seemingly not yet an issue Thomas has a realistic chance of taking another podium spot at the Giro, a race he has unfinished business with following his two last DNFs. The route looks decent for the Welshman, and he’ll relish the chance to create a buffer against some of the pure climbers with the 70-plus kilometers of time trialing within the route. Additionally, Ineos will almost certainly send a strong team to the race, and while they may lack the firepower of Jumbo and UAE at the Tour, the team still possesses the quality to compete for a Giro. Thomas to the Giro just makes sense.

Aleksandr Vlasov

Age: 26
Giro pedigree: Two starts, fourth in 2021

With Jai Hindley already hinting that he won’t be back in 2023 to defend his crown it looks increasingly likely that Bora-Hansgrohe will shuffle the deck when it comes to its grand tour ambitions. Emanuel Buchmann isn’t a bad shout but it’s Vlasov who looks like the most tailor-made Bora rider for the Giro. The time trial kilometers suit him better than someone like Sergio Higuita, while Bob Jungels – who would have devoured this route a few years ago – is probably a better shout for a super domestique role at the Tour. Vlasov was fifth at the Tour this year but he doesn’t have the engine to match the top riders in July. We don’t know if Hindley can either but he’s earned the right to at least head to the Tour with sole leadership.

João Almeida

Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) (Photo: Getty Images)

Age: 24
Giro pedigree: Three starts, two top-10s

With Tadej Pogačar focussing on regaining his Tour de France crown it’s likely that UAE turns to its other grand tour options and posts two leaders at both the Giro and the Vuelta a España. With so much time trialing it seems unlikely that Adam Yates will venture to Italy at this point, and that leaves the door open for a returning Joäo Almeida and American rider Brandon McNulty.

Almeida looked set to compete for a podium spot this year until COVID wrecked his race, and he’s one of just a few riders on this list who could survive an Evenepoel onslaught in the time trials and then possibly exploit weaknesses in the high mountains. The 24-year-old was one of the most consistent grand tour riders in the world in 2022, and it would be highly surprising if he wasn’t given another chance to lead the line at the Giro.

Brandon McNulty

Age: 24
Giro pedigree: One start, 15th overall in 2020

In a recent interview with VeloNews the UAE management stressed that McNulty remained part of the team’s GC plans for the coming years but with the signing of several new riders and the quick rate development of Juan Ayuso the American has certainly dropped down the pecking order when it comes to leadership opportunities. On a number of other WorldTour teams, McNulty would be given free rein at a race like the Giro d’Italia but at UAE the landscape is entirely different.

That said, the team is considering a two-up leadership bid at the Giro in 2023, and with Almeida the most likely candidate to fill one of those spaces it’s possible that McNulty will have the second spot. If he’s passed over for Yates or Ayuso it’s hard to see the American being given a grand tour leadership role for the rest of the year because a Tour domestique slot would potentially leave him without his best shape for the Vuelta.

Tobias Foss

Tobias Foss of Norway and Jumbo Visma (Photo: Getty Images)

Age: 25
Giro pedigree: Three starts, one top-ten

Looking back, Foss had a peculiar season with just 42 race days, four stage races, and then a shock win in the time trial at the UCI World Championships in Australia. His best stage race result in 2022 was sixth overall in Algarve, so while the rainbow jersey is a huge boon for the Norwegian it also papered over some of the cracks from a complex year. All that said, the 25-year-old may head back to the Giro after a disappointing ride in 2022, when he failed to back up his surprise result from the previous year. The former Tour de l’Avenir winner is an undoubted talent but next year’s TT-friendly route could be a pivotal point in his stage racing career.

Primož Roglič

Age: 32
Giro pedigree: Two starts, third in 2019.

The safe bet would be sending a combination of Foss and the returning Wilco Kelderman to the Giro d’Italia, while maintaining the two-pronged assault of Roglic and Vingegaard for the Tour de France. After all, Roglič was instrumental in helping to crack Pogacač at the Tour before eventually succumbing to his injuries.

That said, The Slovenian might feel like playing second fiddle to Vingegaard is a waste of his talents, and that with his 33rd birthday on the horizon he might want to return to the Giro and improve on his third place from 2019. It’s a huge call and the Jumbo management might take the decision entirely out of Roglic’s hands if they feel that Vingegaard would be better served with another rider entirely enlisted to serve his needs, rather than a plan-b shadowing him. The Giro route certainly has elements to attract Roglič, and on paper he would be the closest rival to really put pressure on Evenepoel. Heading to the Giro is a huge call, and effectively calls time on Roglič’s Tour days, but from the outside it looks plausible.

Alexey Lutsenko

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) (Photo: Getty Images)

Age: 30
Giro d’Italia pedigree: One start

Astana Qazaqstan had a shambolic 2022 with almost more controversial stories surrounding doping, investigations and dodgy doctors than wins (five). And the reality is that if they have hopes of retaining a WorldTour status three years down the line they need to start 2023 with a bang and try and recruit better riders for the following season. The latter is a tough proposition when budgets are tight but their grand tour plans should revolve around sending the team’s two best riders to the grand tours that suit their characteristics. That means posting Miguel Angel Lopez to the Tour and lining up the super-consistent Lutsenko at the Giro. Lutsenko is the better time trialist of the two, while sending Lopez to a Giro that consists of 72km of time trialing would efficiently mean the team is solely targeting stage wins.

Mikel Landa

Age: 32
Giro d’Italia pedigree: Seven starts, two visits to the podium

Bahrain Victorious has a number of GC cards to play in 2023 with Pello Bilbao, Damiano Caruso, and Jack Haig all viable options when it comes to leadership. It’s still Landa though who looks best suited to the Giro d’Italia. He might not be a pure time trialist but the last time the race had this many TT kilometers was back in 2013 and the final podium in that race consisted of Vincenzo Nibali, Rigoberto Urán, and Cadel Evans. None of them were really time trial specialists like Bradley Wiggins, who failed to even finish the race.

The Giro does contain a large quantity of time trialing but Landa is no slouch against the clock when he’s in top form, and his dogged ability to handle back-to-back mountain stages in the final week probably gives him the nod ahead. We’ve not seen Haig race since the Tour due to injury, so he might need a slower build-up in order to properly prep for the Tour de France.

Domenico Pozzovivo

Age: 39
Giro d’Italia pedigree: 16 starts and nine top-tens

He’s 39 and without a contract but we’ve been here before with the pint-sized climber. The facts are that Italy is short of stage racing talent and Giulio Ciccone is not a three-week specialist. Unless Caruso heads to the Giro then the responsibility for home representation falls on the shoulders of Pozzovivo. Andrea Piccolo might one day become a grand tour climber but he’s 21 and EF is unlikely to put that sort of responsibility on a rider that young. The American team is also unlikely to send new signing Richard Carapaz to the Giro given the investment they’ve made in him and the requirement to have a contender for the Tour, so for now Pozzovivo gets the last slot on this list.

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