Only a handful of riders now have the ability to win the Giro d''Italia, Philip Gomes takes a quick look at the contenders.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

As the Giro d'Italia comes down to its last days a murky picture is
becoming clearer, with the eventual winner now to be found among a
handful of riders.


In a way the race has become a case of who
will run out of road first, David Arroyo or his pursuers consisting of
Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Vincenzo Nibali.


Not
that the man in third place is totally out of the picture, but Saxo
Bank's Richie Porte is still a largely unproven entity despite his well
calculated riding.


With so many unknowns surrounding Porte it's
probably best to place him outside the more veteran campaigners and hope
that his amazing run continues - with a top ten placing and possession
of the young riders jersey more than anyone would have expected at the
start in Amsterdam.


The rabbit in this run is Arroyo, a man who
is reasonably well credentialed in grand tours, and who with time on his
side appears calm in response to the chase going on behind him.


Like
all the Spaniards Arroyo is happiest when the road points upwards so
with the exception of stage 18 (one for the sprinters) and 21 (15km
TT),
the race ahead suits his abilities.


The only question for
Arroyo is if he and his seven-man Caisse d'Epargne squad can withstand
the assault to come from a fully stocked Liquigas team.


That
Arroyo's lead is under threat is without doubt, and of the five riders
inside five minutes I think he looks the weakest, losing time on
consecutive days but riding well enough to maintain his lead.


Vincenzo
Nibali is seemingly matching Arroyo on form after his terrific win on
stage 14, but he looks the next weakest of any potential race winner.


However
Nibali and Ivan Basso both belong to a team that has emerged as the
strongest in this tour so his future prospects may be somewhat better
than Arroyo's.


With five stages left to go, the second placed
Basso is the rider with the most to lose, and to win. The Italian came
into the Giro looking a bit underdone but his condition has only
improved as the race has gone on.


With a full strength team at
his disposal, very good legs and a selection of stages that should not
trouble him, Basso is clearly the man to beat.


Given their
strength at the top of the table, Liquigas have to be looking at placing
two men on the podium in Verona.


The two riders left in this
quartet are Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre, both riders I figured to be
in the running for the overall and both riders who have the potential to
make up big chunks of time on their rivals.


For Sastre that is
likely to come in one sustained attack on one of the remaining climbs.
His ability to ride to a big gap is known so there is no reason to
suspect it isn't possible.


Sastre also has Xavier Tondo and a
full compliment of Cervelo riders to help in his challenge.


Cadel
Evans' position is the opposite of Sastre's with the Australian having
no real team support (BMC has four riders left). However Evans is very
much used to racing alone, having done so before with Silence-Lotto in
the Tour de France.


With the exception of Basso, Evans looks the
strongest. Again using his grinding style to take time out of his rivals
on the insanely difficult climb to Plan de Corones.


On that
stage Stefano Garzelli may have been the best of the pretenders, but of
the contenders Evans was clearly the best.


So how do I see the
podium evolving from here?


A hard-headed approach says Basso will
win based on the strength of his team alone, and as we all know, having
a team riding strongly in support is utterly important in a grand tour.



Second should go to Arroyo who is likely so see the rest run
out of road given his time gap and climbing ability. Based on his
obvious strength Evans should manage to make the third step on the
podium with Sastre and Nibali following closely.


However, the
heart says there is still lots of time and road for Evans to win his
first grand tour. His aggressive riding is perfectly suited to the
terrain ahead and his consistency on the hardest days also place him in a strong position.