With the Maglia Rosa being the competition for the GC contenders at the Giro, the sprinters have a chance of winning the coveted Maglia Rossa.
“Red as fire, like the one who inflames the race, the one who lights up and then burns himself in a sprint. Red like speed, like shivers, like thrill. But nonetheless red as danger. The red jersey for the first classified by the point.” (Extract from the Giro Road book)
At the Giro, it used to be the case where a GC rider could would more than likely win this jersey, however, changes were made so that the jersey more achievable for the sprinters.
These changes were first introduced in the 2014 edition, classifying the stages based on their profile, awarding different tiers of points for the varying stages. This had its desired effect and in the past two editions sprinters have won the jerseys as can be seen in the images below. With Bouhanni winning in 2014 and Nizzolo in 2015.
More of the same this year?
At the point of writing, there hasn’t been any official confirmation if the points system will change or not for this year. However, it is safe to assume that it will stay the same, and going off of this we are able to figure out how the stages will be classified. Credit goes to those at Velorooms for the table below.
As you can see, the points for the “Sprint” stages massively outweigh those that are “Medium” mountain or “High” mountain stages, that also includes the points awarded at the intermediate sprints of the day. 4 of these high-scoring sprint stages come within the first week of competition, with them being more scarce throughout the rest of the Giro. However, there are still some in the back-end of the race to entice the sprinters to stay. The heavy weighting of sprints in the first week could see someone build up a massive advantage and it will then be a question of willpower if they want to drag themselves over the various tough climbs in the final week to reach Torino.
Who are the contenders?
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ The fastest man on the planet Marcel Kittle is here, along with the majority of his trusted lead-out from the first part of the season. With 8 wins so far this season, he will be the man to beat in the sprints and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win the majority of the sprints in the first week. The only concern is that he pulled out of Romandie because of a cold, but I think that was more of a precaution than anything else. However, the main thing that will hold Kittel back from winning the jersey is that I can’t see him staying until the end of the Giro. It’s feasible he’ll do two weeks and then pull out. Saying that, if he amasses a huge lead in the first fortnight, then he might just stay until the end and no-one will beat him.
⭐ ⭐ There are a lot of contenders for the jersey who should be put in this category for varying reasons. Andre Greipel is probably the second-fastest man in the peloton here and should be up contending with Kittel in the first week. He has had a pretty poor start to the season, but got a confidence boosting win in Turkey last week, so it will be interesting to see how he goes here. However, like Kittel, there is a chance he might pull out early, with a focus on the Tour later in the year. If he stays, I don’t think he’ll beat Kittel’s points haul.
The same can be said for young Australian sprint-sensation Caleb Ewan. A fast finisher, who’s already got one Grand Tour stage under his belt (stage 5 at the Vuelta last year. He’s not completed a Grand Tour yet and I think Orica will try and protect him and he’ll more than likely withdraw before the final week.
Three Italian riders who more than likely will last the distance are last years winner Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani and Sacha Modolo. All of these riders are fast and will look to contend for wins and podiums within the first week. If one of them manages to be close to the likes of Kittel and Greipel on the leaderboard then that will increase the likelihood the two Germans will leave the race before the final week. I’m struggling to split them and so are the bookmakers, but I would say that they’ve priced them up appropriately. With the reigning champion rightly being the favourite. However, as I have eluded to earlier, all of these prices are based off the assumption that the likes of Kittel and co will withdraw. Demare is a similar ilk to these riders, but I think he’ll pull out before the final week with a focus on the Tour. He hasn’t raced since since the start of April and he sometimes goes missing in these big bunch sprints.
⭐ There are some “lesser” sprinters who will be hoping that the proper fast-men drop out. These include the likes of Arndt, Mareczko, Pelucchi, Sbaragli, Hofland and Colbrelli. The first two listed have shown good recent form, with Arndt performing well at the Tour de Yorkshire and Mareczko winning a couple of stages over in Turkey. However, this is a step-up in terms of rider quality so I can’t see them winning a stage or winning the jersey. I can’t even see Mareczko lasting the whole way in his first GT.
Pelucchi is the fastest of those mentioned and he has the credentials to seriously challenge the likes of Kittel in the sprints. I would not be surprised if he goes onto win a stage in the first week! However, he is notoriously not the best climber so I find it hard pressed that he’ll make the final week, more than likely being over the time limit on one of the mountain stages.
Sbaragli won himself a stage in the Vuelta last year, but he’s not fast enough to challenge in the flat stages and I think that there are other riders who are faster in the more rolling stages. One of those riders is Sonny Colbrelli. He’s impressed me greatly in the first quarter of the season, his result at Amstel was a shock! He’s shown power on the flat too, with a strong finale at Volta Limburg. He is one of those riders who could potentially make it to the selection on the medium mountain stages, therefore it opens up more points to him. The only concern with his Maglia Rossa challenge is that Bardiani bring another sprinter in the shape of Nicola Ruffoni. If they choose to go for Ruffoni in the flat opening stages then Colbrelli has no chance.
I’m very curious to see how Hofland goes here. He’s disappointed me for the past couple of seasons after having a very promising start to his career. I have him down as a fast rider, up there with the Italians if he has his act together, plus he can handle the rolling stages too (although he is inconsistent in that area). After completing the Giro last year his legs will be stronger for it and he’s just back from a big block of training. I hope he can turn around his season and go well here!
This is a very difficult jersey to call. If it was down to who was the fastest then Kittel would win it hands down, but I’m concerned that he’ll drop out before the end. However, from a betting point it’s almost worth backing him straight up at the 12/1 that’s available now and then cashing out after the first week, dependant on what messages we get from the Etixx camp. I’m not too sure what sites offer this, I know Paddy Power and Bet365 do for GC so i assume they would for this market too!
There’s no real value in backing any of the trio of Italians that top the betting market as it’s very hard to split them and their prices are too short to back EW.
Two long-shots who I’m going to have a small play on are be Colbrelli and Hofland, both EW. I hope that Bardiani will relinquish Colbrelli of lead-out duties for Ruffoni and that he’ll be able to make his own way in the flat sprints. He’s available at 66/1 in most places. Hofland definitely has a chance of getting involved in the big sprints and maybe one of the “medium” stages. He doesn’t seem to be priced up by most bookmakers, but is available at 80/1 with Ladbrokes so that’s worth a little investment. Both of these riders will more than likely need at least one of the three Italians to drop out if they want to podium.
Due to the unpredictability of backing anyone over 21 days of racing, I have to remind you to keep the stakes small!
In terms of an outright prediction (assuming Kittel drops out) then I have to side with reigning champion Giacomo Nizzolo. He is incredibly consistent here (winner last year, second the year before) and has been sprinting well in Croatia, beating Cavendish in a couple of the sprints. Italians always want to impress at their own Grand Tour and I don’t see it being any different for them this year round. Giacomo Nizzolo or Giacomo Not-so-slow as he’ll be known after the Giro will walk away with the Maglia Rossa again!
Thanks for making it this far, any feedback would be great as usual! This one was longer as I found it really hard to predict how everything is going to pan out, with some riders maybe dropping out etc. I’ll have a “KOM and other” preview up tomorrow (which should be shorter), so hope you can all join me then! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.