Five contenders for Froome at Giro d'Italia
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome may be the favourite to claim Giro d'Italia glory this year but the Briton has plenty of competition.
Ahead of Friday's start in Jerusalem, AFP looks at five possible contenders to upset Froome's hopes of winning a third straight Grand Tour.
Tom Dumoulin (NED) Sunweb
Until last year the Dutchman was a time-trial specialist who happened to have had a couple of impressive finishes in stage races. He had led the 2015 Vuelta a Espana with two stages left only to crack on the final mountain difficulty and finish sixth overall. Something similar was expected last year when he took the Giro pink jersey by winning the 10th-stage time-trial. But despite an embarrassing episode when he need to jump off his bike by the side of the road to answer a desperate call of nature, he held on this time in the high mountains and won the final stage time-trial to eclipse Colombia's Nairo Quintana. A similar rider to Froome in size and strengths, he will be looking to lay down a marker on Friday in the opening time-trial.
Fabio Aru (ITA) UAE
The Italian was the man who eventually ground down Dumoulin in the high mountains in the 2015 Vuelta and is the only other Grand Tour winner in the field other than the Dutchman and Froome. He makes his return to the Giro after two years of targeting the Tour de France, which he led for a while last year before fading to fifth. His last two Giro appearances saw him finish third and then second and the whole country will be cheering him on to make the final step this year. The Sardinian can be audacious and rides off the cuff but can be found wanting tactically at times, which could prove his downfall. But what is certain is that he won't wait to see what others do -- Aru will be on the attack.
Thibaut Pinot (FRA) Groupama-FDJ
France's latest great hope when he finished third in the 2014 Tour de France, Pinot seemed to lose his way after that. He finished 16th at the next Tour and then failed to finish in 2016, leading him to focus on the Giro last year. A solid fourth-placed finish quenched his enthusiasm for the Italian race and he is back this year with even loftier ambitions having won the Tour of the Alps last month. "I feel more comfortable" at the Giro than the Tour, Pinot says.
Esteban Chaves (COL) Mitchelton-Scott
If it's not Chaves representing Colombia at the top end of the Giro, then it will be Miguel Angel Lopez, but what is certain is that the South American country will have someone in the higher reaches. Colombia has developed into one of cycling's major talent producers and they mostly tend to be great climbers. This year's Giro has six summit finishes meaning it is one for the climbers. Few ascend better than Lopez but he is just 24 and may find the competition tough, despite finishing eighth at last year's Vuelta. Chavez had an off 2017 but he was second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta in 2016 and alongside British team-mate Simon Yates will be at a tactical advantage as their rivals will have to keep an eye on both.
Michael Woods (CAN) Cannondale
It's a long shot but the late-developing Woods is making moves, and fast this year. He only turned professional in 2016 having played ice hockey and been a talented track athlete in his youth. A seventh-placed finish in last year's Vuelta, only his second ever Grand Tour, showed his potential. He was then second at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic last month, which he described as the "best result of my career". He probably won't win the Giro but if he keeps improving the way he has been, he could shock a few people.
© 2018 AFP