Nibali, Evenepoel among Giro favorites after injury returns

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MILAN — Two of the contenders for this year’s Giro d’Italia title are returning from injury and they are very much at opposite ends of their cycling careers.

Two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali was given the all-clear on Monday to compete following a training crash last month. At the age of 36, it is likely to be his last chance of a third Giro crown.

In contrast, 21-year-old Remco Evenepoel will be riding in his first Grand Tour and hasn’t raced in nine months after a bad crash in last year’s Tour of Lombardy.

The 104th edition of the Giro runs from May 8-30 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,479.9 kilometers (2,162.3 miles) between the start in Torino and the finish in Milan.

Here are some key things to know about the race:


Evenepoel is widely regarded as one of the most promising talents of his generation and the Belgian was talked about as a favorite for last year’s Giro, which was postponed until October because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Evenepoel hasn’t raced since August after a crash which saw the youngster hit a bridge wall and go over it into a ravine, leaving the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider with a fractured pelvis and a damaged right lung.

“I think you cannot prepare 100% for a race without racing but that is the risk that we took,” Evenepoel said Wednesday. “I’m just happy to be at the start finally again almost 10 months after the crash.

“So it’s almost one year without racing so my goal here is just to do well in the bunch again, (have) a lot of fun with the guys because I’ve missed racing for too long.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Nibali is looking to become the oldest winner of the Giro.

In possibly his last season of racing, Nibali did not want to miss his home Grand Tour despite undergoing surgery on his wrist just three weeks ago.

“It was a race against time and I’m very happy that I’ve won it,” said the 2013 and 2016 winner. “Since the day of the crash, April 14, I’ve done nothing but think about recovering in order to be at the Giro.

“I don’t have the top condition, which I had hoped to achieve without the crash, and I’ll also need a lot of caution pedaling in the peloton. But now, finally, I can only think about the competition that, now more than ever, will be to experience day by day.”


In the absence of last year’s winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, Egan Bernal will spearhead a strong Ineos Grenadiers team. However, his form is unclear after a back injury which forced him to abandon his Tour de France defense last year.

Another top favorite is Tour of the Alps champion Simon Yates, who led the race for 13 days in 2018, the same year he won the Spanish Vuelta. Yates had to abandon last year’s Giro after testing positive for COVID-19.

Evenepoel’s teammate Joao Almeida was one of the revelations of last year’s Giro, which he led for 15 days. He is is likely to challenge again this year, along with last year’s runner-up Jai Hindley, who was pipped by just 39 seconds by Geoghegan Hart.


The 2021 Giro will include just two time trials, at either end of an arduous route from Turin to Milan that also crosses briefly into Slovenia and Switzerland.

There are six stages for the sprinters in the three weeks of racing that also features six mountain finishes, seven other hilly stages, and almost 47,000 meters of climbing.

The general classification will get its first real shake-up on stage 14 with the steepest finish of the race, with the climb up the Monte Zoncolan ending in double digit gradients.

That comes just two days before the Giro’s toughest leg, the so-called queen stage, which includes nearly 6,000 meters of climbing over the Passo Fedaia, the Passo Pordoi and the Passo Giau in the Dolomites before the descent to the finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo. At 2,239 meters, the Passo Pordoi is also the race’s highest point.

After the final rest day, there are three more mountain stages including the penultimate leg, which has also been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars. The race’s longest route comes on stage 18: 231 kilometers from Rovereto to Stradella.

Primoz Roglic triumphs at Tirreno-Adriatico for winning return from injury

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Primož Roglič made a winning return to cycling as he triumphed at the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico for a fourth Slovenian victory in five editions at “The Race of the Two Seas.”

It was Roglič’s first race of the season after the Jumbo-Visma rider underwent shoulder surgery last year.

“It’s just nice to come back to racing this way. I really enjoyed the whole week,” Roglič said. “My teammates were super strong.

“One week ago I was just expecting to suffer. It’s even better to win when it’s unexpected. It feels good ahead of the Giro d’Italia too.”

After winning the previous three stages to build up a significant advantage, Roglič protected his lead and finished safely in the peloton during Stage 7 to end the week-long race 18 seconds ahead of João Almeida of Portugal and 23 seconds ahead of British cyclist Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Roglič won the Tirreno in 2019. Fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar won the two previous editions but the two-time defending champion was competing at the Paris-Nice race which he won.

Belgian cyclist Jasper Philipsen won a bunch sprint to take the stage win. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider edged out Dylan Groenewegen and Alberto Dainese.

It was Philipsen’s second sprint victory at this year’s Tirreno, setting him up as one of the favorites for next weekend’s Milan-San Remo race.

“I was dying in the end, my legs felt really painful, but I’m happy that I could keep it to the finish,” Philipsen said.

“The sprint stage is always different from a classic like San Remo but of course we have some confidence. We have a strong team I think. So now it’s good to take some time off, recover a little bit and try to be on top level.”

There was an early breakaway in the 154-kilometer (96-mile) route that started and finished in San Benedetto del Tronto but the eight riders were caught with just over 3 kilometers (2 miles) remaining.

Pogacar tops Gaudu, Vingegaard to win Paris-Nice


NICE, France — An impressive Tadej Pogacar clinched the final stage with a solo escape to win the week-long Paris-Nice.

David Gaudu finished second overall, 53 seconds behind Pogacar, while Jonas Vingegaard was third at 1 minute, 39 seconds back.

Pogacar attacked during the climb of Col d’Eze with 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) to go, finishing the eighth stage 33 seconds ahead of a small group made up of Vingegaard, Gaudu, Simon Yates and Matteo Jorgenson.

The Slovenian rider completed the 118-kilometer trek around Nice in 2 hours, 51 minutes, 2 seconds, crossing the finish line with both arms raised before taking a bow in front of the crowd and clapping his hands.

Pogacar now has a slight mental edge over Vingegaard, also outclassing him last October to win the Tour of Lombardy.

The duel between Pogacar and Vingegaard has become one of the biggest rivalries in cycling. Vingegaard finished second behind Pogacar in the 2021 Tour de France. But the Danish rider managed to beat Pogacar in the 2022 Tour de France for his first major title.

Vingegaard still has time to hit peak form. The Tour de France starts July 1.

Pogacar is the current leader in the UCI men’s road racing world rankings.

Pogacar and Vingegaard both started the season well. Last month in Spain, Pogacar won the Tour of Andalucia while Vingegaard won the O Gran Camino. Pogacar took the yellow jersey by winning the fourth stage. He dumped Vingegaard in the climb of La Loge des Gardes. Only Gaudu could stay on Pogacar’s wheel.

The two-time Tour de France winner extended his overall lead by taking Stage 7, beating Gaudu and Vingegaard in a small sprint atop Col de la Couillole.

French rider Gaudu finished fourth overall in the 2022 Tour de France but failed to finish in the past two editions of Paris-Nice.

The next race on the UCI World Tour is the Milan-San Remo classic on March 18.