4 of the world’s best GC riders don’t take to the Giro D'Italia start line, (they're targeting Tour de France instead), but there's still plenty of high value sports betting here.
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The 99th Giro d’Italia starts this Friday with a short time trial around the streets of Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. Although it’s a three-week race over more than 3,300kms and has nearly 200 starters, the betting suggests that it could be a two-horse race between former winner Vincenzo Nibali of Astana and last years’ third place rider Mikel Landa of Team Sky. Between them, the best betting odds available say there’s a 69% chance that one of them will win..
Vincenzo Nibali - Astana | +200 best price (Betfair)
Nibali is going all-in with the Giro this year and on paper he is probably the best GT rider here. He started the season well with the dominant performance up Green Mountain in the Tour of Oman. Since then though, it's not exactly been confidence-inspiring stuff from Nibali as he built his form slowly ahead of the Giro. After a steady and unspectacular 6th place in Tirreno-Adriatico he took a month off to do a training block at altitude to prepare for Italy. His return to action in Trentino was disappointing though as he couldn't stay with the big guns on the climbs.
Another disappointing result in Liege-Bastogne-Liege with 51st place, it was worrying that the likes of Zakarin, Rodriguez, Costa and Poels all rode away from him. He has finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Giro in the past though and has been on the podium in 8 stages in total over the years and goes in to the race this year with probably the best chance he'll get for the rest of his career to win another Grand Tour.
But is he any value at +162.50 best price? I don’t think so. Three weeks, three time trials, lots of tough stages for him to be attacked on, potentially dangerous weather conditions.. lots of reasons why he may not win this race, and not a lot in his recent form to suggest he is worth backing.
Mikel Landa - Team Sky | +275.00 best price
Mikel Landa - 15 race days this year, 3 wins. Not a bad start to the year, a start that was delayed due to illness. He didn't start racing until the 24th March in the Coppi e Bartali where he rode stealthily in to 11th place in the GC. He followed that up with a stage win on the first mountain stage in Pais Vasco and 12th overall in the GC. He entered Trentino as team leader for Sky and set his stall out from day one with 2nd place in the TTT. He followed that up with a 1st, 6th and 3rd in the other three road stages to take the overall by 2" from Kangert and 14" from Fuglsang who had to take up the Astana mantle when Nibali faded out of contention.
Two stage wins and 3rd overall last year when riding in support of Fabio Aru at Astana, Sky signed him in the off-season to lead them in this race year with a view to winning it.. But will his lack of race days count against him? He has only ridden 2,233kms in races this year so far, the likes of Pozzovivo and Nibali have done around twice that.
Sky have assembled a powerful team to support him here, with Roche and Deignan two loyal lieutenants who have been riding well lately, but it's possible that when push really comes to shove in the last few kilometres of the crucial climbs he might find himself on his own.
Alejandro Valverde - Movistar | +600 best price (General)
Valverde has been his usual impressive self this year, notching up wins in the Fleche-Wallone, the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and in Andalucia to steal the GC on the final day. He did however miss out on one of his biggest targets in LBL, finishing a lowly 16th, after being unable to go after Poels, Albasini and Costa on the penultimate hill. That was after skipping Amstel Gold Race as well, a race that he would probably have been one of the favorites for.
It's always a bad idea to write off Valverde though, he showed in Fleche-Wallone just how untouchable he is on a tough uphill finish. The reason for skipping AGR was in order to prepare better for the Giro, a race he is taking very seriously this year - in his very first attempt at the race.
He will lose time in the TTs, but will make up time on some of the tougher stage which will result in GC bunch finishes, he can snag wins and bonus seconds. Bonus seconds rarely win a race as hard as this, but it happens and we could see a real battle in the final week as Landa and Nibali try to shake him off but he hangs in there doggedly.
Rigoberto Uran - Etixx-QuickStep | +1400 best price.
Unlucky runner-up in 2014, he’s always an 'outsider' for races like this, could this finally be the year that he steps up and lands a big one? With a lower quality field than usual for a Grand Tour, it's certainly possible. All it would take is for him to have a really good day, particularly in the TTs and he could be right in contention. He destroyed the field in the 42km ITT in the Barolo stage in 2014, finishing 1'14" ahead of Ulissi in 2nd place, 2'09" ahead of Pozzovivo and 2'41" ahead of Quintana.
If he can repeat that sort of performance he has a big chance of leaping in to the leader's jersey after that stage. He has been climbing reasonably well lately, showing himself at the front in Catalunya and Romandie, finishing 4th on the uphill finish to Morgins won by Zakarin (unjustly given to Quintana)
On the other hand though you'd like to have seen him win, or at least come close to winning something this season to give you confidence that he can land a podium spot at least here, but in a field with two short priced favourites, some might find value again at the +1400 he is available at with a few firms. I think if Uran is ever going to win a Grand Tour then this is his chance, he won't face many weaker fields for the rest of his career.
Rafal Majka | +1600 best price.
Rafal Majka could be the sleeper here. Everyone is talking about the top 3 of Nibali, Landa and Valverde, but Majka hasn't really been spoken about much as a possible winner of this race. I think that's a mistake as the Pole is a very talented rider who has shown he is capable of big performances in GTs with his fine 3rd place in last year's Vuelta. He has also finished 6th and 7th in the Giro in the past and has won the Tour de Pologne, so he should not be discounted at all I think.
He also is a rider that gets stronger as a race goes on, and as this is a Giro that is back-loaded with some tough stages in the Alps at the end of the race, if he is still close enough to being in contention he could move right up the GC in the last stages.
The Tinkoff Sport Director Tristan Hoffman is confident of Majka's chances:
“Rafal Majka is the absolute leader here – if you look to the parcours, his history, how he has been riding in Romandie – so he will be our main card and our protected leader. We have a strong team around him” I think he is someone to definitely have a small interest in at the price, and he may even be someone to top up on after the first week.
Tom Dumoulin - Giant-Alpecin | +2800 best price
Dumoulin will have fun in the time trials and is sure to put decent time gaps between himself and all the climbers. Well he should in the first two time trials anyway, but maybe not on the uphill TT. He wasn't climbing all that great in Romandie though, losing 57" to Quintana on stage 2 to Morgins.
I think he has been over-hyped a little now and could well be found out in this race, although I could be very wrong of course! I just think that he might struggle on some of the climbs here, especially in the final week with stages 19 and 20 being particularly nasty looking. He will be isolated and alone at the end of these stages too; I can't see any of his team-mates being there to support him when he needs it. I think he has his eyes set on two TT wins, and if he loses time he might be able to go on the attack one day too later in the race. I think he is poor value at +2800 and he may not even finish in the first six.
Ilnur Zakarin - Katusha | +1600 best price
Now here's another outsider that could be a real dark horse in this race. He rode very well in Romandie and also in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and could be a real danger here in a sub-par Giro field. He's not that young after all at 26, so is starting to come in to his prime, but he needs to prove that he can challenge for a whole 3 weeks at a GT. He finished the Giro last year, but in 44th place, but he did land a stage win along the way on the lumpy stage to Imola.
I think he has a big chance here of showing up some of the established, older guys and will be a real thorn in the side of the favorites. He is now best price +1600, but I think that is still worth a small interest as I think he will go well in the two key time trials and will be right up there on the big mountain stages too.
Domenico Pozzovivo - AG2R | +4000 Best price
One of the smallest, lightest men in the peloton at just 1.65m and 53kgs, he has a good record in the Giro but has never really come close to winning it. 9th in 2008 at 25 years of age, 8th in 2012, 10th in 2013, 5th in 2014, he has been pretty consistent in recent years in. Stage winner on stage 8 in 2012, he has come close since, but hasn't managed to take another victory.. Last year of course was a nightmare for him, crashing horribly on stage 3 and having to take a month off to recover from his injuries.
I think though that he now firmly looks like a 5th to 10th place sort of guy, like he was in the TDU, Oman and Trentino this year. He also finished 17th in Catalunya and 32nd in Tirreno so that doesn't fill me with much confidence he can skip away from Landa and Nibali and land a big result here. Keep your money in your pocket I think.
Johan Esteban Chaves - Orica Greenedge | +5000 best price
Chaves comes here on the back of an excellent Vuelta a Espana last August, where he won two stages. He also led the race for six days and never slipped lower than 7th on the GC, eventually finishing a fantastic 5th. He was remarkably consistent, the worse he finished on any stage was 40th, and that was the final stage to Madrid, with most results in the top 20. He followed that up with 8th in Lombardia and a win in the Abu Dhabi Tour GC after winning stage 3 also.
This year hasn't exactly followed on from that hot streak, with his best result a 14th place finish in the GP Industria & Artigianato, finishing 10" down on the likes of Uran and Formolo. Orica and Chaves are pretty confident about his chances though “This is the first time in the team’s history that we have a team assembled around a rider who has the genuine credentials to compete for the general classification,” Team director Matt White said.
I think he could have fun in the race, but the TTs will be his Achilles heel, the final hill TT might be more to his liking, but it's still a very difficult discipline. I think he might be a wait and see, he is +5000 now, but I don't think his price will go down by much in the first week, if he gets caught in a cross-wind split he could lose time.
After that you are really heading in to the big outsiders, Steven Kruiswijk has been riding well lately and he could be good enough for a top 15 finish. Rein Taaramae and Tanel Kangert could go well in support of their leaders, but won't be in the top 6, Davide Formolo and Joe Dombrowski could go stage hunting but will be mostly needed to look after Uran.
Sergey Firsanov is an interesting one in that he has never really done much in his 9 years as a pro other than beat Nairo Quintana in the Comunidad de Madrid in 2012, but all of a sudden this year he is tearing up the Coppa e Bartali and Trentino, winning the former and finishing 4th in the latter, but I can't see him troubling the podium here.. Top 10 maybe. Carlos Betancur will also be interesting to watch, he has slimmed down dramatically and seems to be in the best form he's been in in a long time, attacking repeatedly in LBL just a few weeks ago.
One that I like at a big price though is Andrey Amador (right) of Movistar. The Costa Rican was 4th in the GC here last year after a remarkably steady and consistent three weeks. He only finished outside the 30 on just four stages and pulled off some big rides on the big mountain days. He hit the top 10 as soon as the 5th stage and never slipped outside it for the rest of the race. He has been timing his prep for this race and rode well in Romandie at times, taking 2nd on stage 5 behind Albasini. He's +15000, but most of that is because he is supposed to be here supporting Valverde, but if something were to happen to Valverde, or if he just isn't 100% after all, then Andrey can step up.
So who wins then?! I think I am leaning towards Mikel Landa over Nibali as my betting pick, I just think he looks sharper this year and has a strong team with him. But there's no value really left in him now at just +250. It may be a wait and see bet, as he might lose some time in the opening week and might go out to a backable price. At bigger prices Zakarin and Majka should put on a good show I think and we'll get a good run for our money. Amador is a fun play at a big price that could give some excitement over the next three weeks.
1pt each-way on Rafal Majka at +1600 with Various
1pt each-way on Ilnur Zakarin at +1600 with PP
0.25pts each-way on Andrey Amador at +15000 with Ladbrokes
Majka to beat Pozzovivo (-225) and Zakarin to beat Dumoulin (-300) - 3pts on the double at -111.11 with Bet365
Chaves to beat Peraud - 2pts at -137.50
Top 10 bet
Andrey Amador to finish in the top 10 - 2pts at evens with 365