Caleb Ewan hunting stage wins at Giro d’Italia as Richie Porte competes at a grand tour for the last time
Posted On May 5, 2022
The Giro d’Italia kicks off this weekend, with Caleb Ewan leading Australia’s charge at the first grand tour of the season.
He is one of eight Aussies who will set off with the rest of the peloton on the 21-stage, 3,445.6km ordeal that starts in Budapest on Friday.
The peloton will spend three days in Hungary, before decamping to Sicily for two days and then finally hitting the Italian mainland, the route winding its way north towards the Alps before culminating in an individual time trial in Verona on Sunday, May 29.
Ewan of Lotto Soudal will be joined on the start line in Budapest by INEOS Grenadiers veteran Richie Porte in what is likely to be his final grand tour appearance.
BORA-hansgrohe’s Jai Hindley, Miles Scotson of Groupama-FDJ and the Team BikeExchange-Jayco quartet of Lucas Hamilton, Michael Hepburn, Damien Howson and Callum Scotson.
Ewan set to vie with Mark Cavendish for sprint wins
The Giro is known as an extraordinarily tough race and this, the 105th edition, is expected to be no different, with riders set for over 50,000 metres of climbing.
However, amidst all the mountain passes, there will be plenty of chances for the sprinters to make their mark over the course of the three-week race.
Ewan is among the fastest men on the start list, so can be considered a favourite to take out at least a handful of stage wins and be in with a shout of claiming the overall points jersey, the Maglia Ciclamino.
He has picked up five race victories so far this season and a second place finish at Kurrne-Brussels-Kuurne, but illness ruled the 27-year-old out of his major early season objective, Milan-San Remo.
His Lotto-Soudal team have given him a more-than decent lead out train featuring German workhorses Roger Kluge, Rüdiger Selig, and Michael Schwarzmann, with veteran Thomas de Gendt also in the line up.
Even with that stacked line up, the big prize may be beyond him — Ewan has never finished a Giro in four attempts and, with the Tour de France on the horizon, it’s yet to be seen whether or not he will risk himself in the frankly absurd-looking Alpine stages set for the third week.
Then there are his direct competitors.
Mark Cavendish was as good as on the scrap heap this time last year, having suffered through years of injury, illness and mental health issues.
However, the Manx rider made history at last year’s Tour de France, winning four stages to draw level with Eddy Merckx all time mark of 34, cementing himself as a modern sprinting legend in what was one of the greatest comebacks in sport.
He will now race the Giro for the first time in nine years with the backing of a stacked Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team featuring star lead out man, Michael Mørkøv.
The 36-year-old has 15 career stage victories at the Giro and won the points classification in 2013.
Among the other riders to watch from a sprint perspective are Arnaud Démare (Groupema-FDJ) who will have Miles Scotson working for him, multi-talented Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), local hope Giacomo Nizzolo (Isreal-Premier Tech) and Eritrean sensation Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).
Sprint stages to look out for
The sprinters will be unlikely to get a look in until stage three at this year’s race, the 201km-ride from Kaposvár to Balatonfüred on Sunday May 8.
The race then moves to Sardinia, where stage five’s 174km slog from Catania to Messina on Wednesday May 11 offers a tantalising possibility for the sprint teams, should they get over the category two climb up the Portella Mandrazzi, 100km from the finish.
The race moves to the Italian mainland on Thursday, May 12, where the sprinters will lick their lips again for the relatively flat, 192km-long sixth stage between Palmi and Scalea.
The frankly horrific stage seven, featuring 4,510 metres of climbing in 196km through the southern Appenines, will weed out the weak, but Saturday’s lumpy 153km stage eight around Napoli could interest the sprinters.
May 17th’s 10th stage from Pescara to Jesi is another flattish route, although it does get slightly hilly towards the end, the same of which can not be said for the following days flat ride from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia.
After four hard days in the Alps, stage 18 will also offer a chance to the quick men, although there’s no telling how many will have survived the mountains within the time limit.
Richie Porte likely signing off 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 bib 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-week stage racing all the way back in 2010.
He wore the leaders pink jersey for a spell in that race before eventually finishing seventh, something he referred to as “some of the best memories of my career” in an interview with the INEOS-Grenadier’s website.
Porte will be riding for Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, who won the Giro back in 2019 and finished third in last year’s Tour de France.
While Porte will be unlikely to challenge for the overall race lead, compatriot Jai Hindley will be one of three riders BORA-Hansgrohe will be preferencing.
The 25-year-old will be out to better his second place overall in 2020, when the West Australian came from the clouds to stun the pro peloton, falling 39 agonising seconds short of what would have been a stunning victory.
He will have competition from 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 deciding who the team will back.
The other four Aussies, Hamilton, Hepburn, Howson and Callum Scotson will be working hard for British rider Simon Yates.
How do I watch the Giro d’Italia?
The 2022 Giro d’Italia will be available to watch on SBS, with full stage coverage on SBS On Demand nightly, with the main channel coverage starting later.
The Giro starts on Friday, May 6 and finishes on Sunday, May 29.