Riders to Watch at the 2024 Giro d’Italia

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2024 Giro d’Italia Riders to WatchTim de Waele - Getty Images

The 107th edition of the Giro d’Italia begins on Saturday near Tornio with a hilly road race that will determine the first rider to pull on the Maglia Rosa as the leader of the Giro’s General Classification.

This year’s race has an interesting start list. It’s headlined by one overwhelming favorite, several riders hoping to join him on the podium, lots of sprinters, a couple of veteran stage hunters looking to pad their resumes, and two young Americans making their grand tour debuts.

Here’s a look at thirteen riders to watch at the 2024 Giro d’Italia.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more overwhelming grand tour favorite than Pogačar. The 25-year-old has never raced the Giro, but that won’t stop him from most likely winning it.

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ERIC LALMAND - Getty Images

The two-time Tour de France champion has had a perfect season so far, mixing specific race targets with training camps so that he’s ready and fresh. So far the plan has worked like a charm: the Slovenian has raced just ten times this season, but has an incredible seven wins—including victories in Strade Bianche, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (where he won four of the race’s seven stages), and Liège-Bastogne-Liège—and he’s only finished lower than third twice.

With a strong team of proven grand tour domestiques, including several of his favorite Tour de France lieutenants, and a course that suits all of his strengths—including a very Pog-friendly Grande Partenza (what Italians call the Giro’s opening weekend)—the only question we have is: How soon will he put the race out of reach?

Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers)

Thomas was one day away from winning last year’s Giro d’Italia, an impressive feat for a 36-year-old who’s still a grand tour contender despite racing against guys more than a decade younger than he is. But despite last year’s defeat, he’s returning this year to try and finally win a race that’s been eluding him since most of his biggest rivals were juniors.

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Dario Belingheri - Getty Images

Defeating Pogačar will be tough, but the course—especially its two time trials—plays to Thomas’ strengths, and he has a deep and talented team supporting him. Our gut says that second overall is the best he can hope for, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned this season it’s that bad luck can strike anyone at any time. Should something happen to Pog (we’re not wishing for that to happen), the soon-to-be 38-year-old will immediately become the race favorite.

And in case you’re wondering, if he wins, he’ll be the second-oldest grand tour champion in cycling history.

Cian Uijtdebroeks (Visma-Lease a Bike)

This young Belgian made (hard-to-pronounce) headlines last December when it was prematurely announced that he was breaking his contract with BORA-hansgrohe (who had recently signed Primoz Roglič away from Jumbo-Visma) to join the Dutch superteam (now called Visma-Lease a Bike).

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Uijtdebroeks, who just turned 21, was the winner of the Tour de l‘Avenir in 2022 and is widely considered to be a future grand tour contender. And without Belgium’s Wout van Aert, who’s skipping the Giro due to injuries he sustained in a crash at a race in Belgium a few weeks ago, Uijtdebroeks becomes the focus of the team’s Giro GC plans. A podium finish and the white jersey as the Giro’s Best Young Rider are well within his reach. Securing both would rub some salt in the wounds created by his not-so-smooth transfer.

Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale),

The Australian has had a rough time since finishing fourth overall and winning a stage at the 2021 Tour de France—mainly due to crashes. So now he’s heading back to the Giro, where he cut his teeth as a grand tour rider and even won a mountain stage in 2020.

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Tim de Waele - Getty Images

His 2024 season has been great so far: he won his first race of the year, then finished second at the UAE Tour, fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico, and second at the recent Tour of the Alps, an important pre-Giro stage race. A podium finish and stage victory are well within reach for the 28-year-old, results that would rebuild his confidence and rejuvenate his career.

Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL)

A former Tour de France podium finisher, Bardet has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance since leaving his former French team for the Dutch Team dsm-firmenich PostNL squad. This move gave him his first chance to race the Giro in 2021 where he finished seventh.

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ERIC LALMAND - Getty Images

After finishing second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, the 33-year-old is in form and motivated. We wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up challenging for a spot on the final podium, but we suspect he’ll be more of a stage hunter. The Giro is the only grand tour in which he hasn’t won a stage, and he would certainly love to complete a hat trick of grand tour stage victories before retiring.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step)

Alaphilippe was once one of the three or four most exciting riders in the sport—a swashbuckling opportunist who was always a threat in one-day Monuments and grand tour stages. But a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2022 left him with a broken shoulder, two broken ribs, and a collapsed lung. He hasn’t been the same since.

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Dario Belingheri - Getty Images

After another tough spring, the 31-year-old is now riding his first Giro in the hopes of getting back to his winning ways (he hasn’t won anything since last June). And time is of the essence: the Frenchman’s contract with Soudal-Quick Step is up at the end of the season, and he’s rumored to be negotiating with a couple of French squads (with Quick Step still open to the possibility of keeping him). A stage win or two would help drive up the asking price for a guy who was once one of the most sought-after riders in the world.

Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech)

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The Canadian finally got his first Tour de France stage victory last year when he won the first stage to finish atop the Puy de Dôme in 35 years. Now he’s heading to the Giro in the hopes of scoring a complete set of grand tour stage wins. His team is filled with stage hunters and opportunists, so he’ll certainly have several chances to play his hand. The 37-year-old former world-class distance runner will likely be targeting some of the Giro’s longer mountain stages and, therefore, won’t be worried about losing time during the first week (and in the time trials) so that the GC contenders leave him alone to chase stages in the second and third week.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

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Quintana won the Giro in 2014, a year after bursting onto the scene with a podium finish at the 2013 Tour de France. But the 34-year-old hasn’t raced since finishing sixth overall in the 2022 Tour and then having his results disqualified after testing positive for tramadol, a painkiller that’s banned by the UCI (but not banned by WADA). He’s now back in the WorldTour with Movistar, the team with whom he recorded best results. But his return has not been a popular one, and it will be interesting to see how he’s treated by riders and fans. He says he’s racing for stage wins (not the General Classification) and would justify Movistar’s risky investment if he gets one.

Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek)

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Tim de Waele - Getty Images

Milan was one of the biggest surprises of last year’s Giro. Racing for Bahrain-Victorious, the Italian won a stage and the ciclamino jersey as the winner of the Giro’s Points Classification. He then signed with Lidl-Trek, where one would assume he’s getting more money and more opportunities to ride for himself. Now he’s heading back to his home grand tour and hoping to build on last year’s success—albeit against much tougher competition. Multiple stage wins and another ciclamino jersey are good goals for the 23-year-old, and he has a team filled with fast finishers to help him.

Fabio Jakobsen (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL)

Jakobsen transferred to DSM this past off-season after several years with Soudal-Quick Step, where he blossomed from an up-and-comer into a proven grand tour field sprinter (despite a horrible crash in the 2020 Tour of Poland that put him in a medically-induced coma).

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THOMAS SAMSON - Getty Images

But in 2024 Quick-Step is all-in on Remco Evenepoel’s GC chances at the Tour de France, and there wasn’t room on the Tour squad for both a sprinter and a GC contender, so Jakobsen left. So far, the 27-year-old has won just one race this year, but a couple of victories at the Giro would certainly make his new team happy and cement his place on their roster for the Tour.

Caleb Ewan (Jayco AlUla)

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Tim de Waele - Getty Images

Ewan started his career with Orica-GreenEdge, winning stages in all three grand tours before accepting a lucrative offer from Lotto-Soudal (now Lotto-Dstny) prior to the 2019 season. But after a bitter divorce ended the Australian’s five-year tenure with the Belgian team, he’s now back home, with Jayco AlUla, the current iteration of the Orica program with which he cut his teeth. His season hasn’t been the greatest so far—he’s won just two races. But assuming he’s recovered from the health issues that ruined his spring, he’s primed to get back on track with a stage win or two.

Magnus Sheffield (INEOS Grenadiers) and Luke Lamperti (Soudal-Quick Step)

This year’s Giro will mark the grand tour debut for Sheffield and Lamperti, two young Americans who have turned lots of heads so far in their careers. Despite being just 22 years old, Sheffield is a third-year pro who’s already won some important races. Now, he gets a shot at his first grand tour, where he’ll be a contender in the Giro’s two individual time trials.

Lamperti is a rookie at Soudal-Quick Step, and while he hasn’t won his first race–yet–he’s proven himself to be a fast finisher and a valuable teammate. At the Giro, his first goal will be helping Belgium’s Tim Merlier win a few stages, but we won’t be surprised to see the 21-year-old win one of the race’s trickier uphill sprint finishes.

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