Tadej Pogačar at Strade Bianche.

Preview: Can anyone stand up to Pogačar at the Giro d’Italia?

A closer look at the stars and the storylines of the Giro startlist.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 03.05.2024 More from Dane +

Men’s Grand Tour racing will get underway on Saturday as the 2024 Giro d’Italia rolls out from Turin. The route has a little something for everyone across 21 stages, and “everyone” at this race includes some big names who are set to entertain us over the next three weeks.

When it comes to the GC battle, all eyes will be on a Giro debutant. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) is far and away the heavy favorite to take the maglia rosa and lay the groundwork for a possible Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double. That said, last year’s runner-up Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and a bevy of outsiders will also be in attendance, hoping to beat the odds and challenge the Slovenian superstar.

Beyond the GC contenders, the Giro startlist also features plenty of stage-hunting stars, from sprint talents like Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) and Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) to time trialing heavyweights like Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).

Here is your in-depth look at the start list for the 2024 Giro d’Italia.

The GC star ratings

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Tadej Pogačar
⭐⭐⭐⭐: Geraint Thomas
⭐⭐⭐: Cian Uijtdebroeks, Romain Bardet
⭐⭐: Antonio Tiberi, Thymen Arensman, Daniel Martínez, Ben O’Connor
⭐: Damiano Caruso, Florian Lipowitz, Einer Rubio, Alexey Lutsenko, Juan Pedro López, Eddie Dunbar, Luke Plapp, Rafał Majka

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The storylines


Will Tadej Pogačar be all in for the win?

You’ll often hear sports commentators talk about how an athlete won because they “wanted it more” even when that is probably not true most of the time – but it really feels like an apt way to view Tadej Pogačar’s chances at this Giro. Of the big GC contenders on the startlist, he is the best time trialist and the best climber, he has a strong team, and he’s not likely to have any issues with the gravel.

Tadej Pogačar gives a thumbs up from sign-on before Milan-San Remo 2024.
It’s easy to have fun when you’re a podium contender at every race.

We’d love to hype up everyone else’s chances to build a more interesting narrative for the Giro, but if Pogačar really goes all-in to win this race, his biggest challenge is probably just staying upright and healthy across three weeks.

Of course, that’s not a given, especially in Italy in May and in a race that will take riders down several high-mountain descents. What’s more, Pogačar may be trying to balance his Giro ambitions with his hopes of winning the Tour de France, which seems so much more likely than it did a month ago after Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) crashed at the Itzulia Basque Country.

Maybe Pogačar will get caught napping by an enterprising long-range attacker, or maybe he’ll decide not to go deep when it really matters. In short, Pogačar might not win the Giro – but he’s the clear favorite to do so.

Does Geraint Thomas have another Grand Tour challenge in him?

Former Tour winner and last year’s Giro runner-up Geraint Thomas is the distant second favorite for the Giro, but the oddsmakers also like him significantly more than any of the other outsiders. Thomas might be 37 now and his form may be a bit of a question mark, but lest we forget, he was oh-so-close to winning the race last year. He was coming off of a similarly anonymous early season then too.

It’s fair to say that Thomas knows how to peak at the right time, so his lack of recent results might not mean anything.

Geraint Thomas at the Tour of the Alps.
Geraint Thomas rode a quiet Tour of the Alps, but that didn’t stop him from doing well in last year’s Giro.

If Thomas is at or near his best for the Giro, he should climb better than most of the GC contenders and time trial better than almost any of them, with the exception of Pogačar. Crashes and injuries have been an issue for Thomas in the past, but he has also gotten through plenty of Grand Tours safe and sound, having registered four career Grand Tour podiums in his career.

If Pogačar doesn’t live up to the billing for whatever reason, the veteran Thomas is in pole position to step up.

Who else will step up to contend for the podium?

Behind Pogačar and Thomas, this is a wide-open race. Visma-Lease a Bike’s big offseason signing Cian Uijtdebroeks, DSM Firmenich-PostNL’s Romain Bardet, Ben O’Connor of Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale, Geraint Thomas’s lieutenant Thymen Arensman (Ineos Grenadiers), Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious), and Daniel Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) all sit in the next tier of outsiders.

For some of those names, the thought of landing on a Grand Tour podium might seem like a tall order, but somebody has to finish third in this race, if not second or perhaps even first if things get really crazy!

Cian Uijtdebroeks at the Volta a Catalunya.
Is Cian Uijtdebroeks ready to live up to the hype?

On the bright side, the longshot hopefuls will likely be given a much longer leash if they are willing to take some risks. The abundance of stages with tough-but-not-too-tough climbs will be another boon for anyone planning a long-range attack. For the sake of entertainment, hopefully the riders take advantage of those circumstances and give us some exciting racing over the next few weeks.

Who will rule the roost out of a stacked sprint field?

The list of sprint specialists set to take on the Giro is impressive, and none of the headliners will start with a clear edge, which should make for some interesting battles over the next few weeks.

Jonathan Milan at Tirreno-Adiatico.
Jonathan Milan already has two wins in Italy this year.

Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek), Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike), and Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) have been the most successful stage race sprinters of the 2024 campaign so far, and all of them will be in attendance at the Giro. The next tier of sprint hopefuls includes Caleb Ewan (Jayco AlUla), Fabio Jakobsen (DSM Firmenich-PostNL), Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Laurence Pithie (Groupama FDJ), and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty), and truth be told, there are enough sprint stages on the route this year for several of the aforementioned riders to snag a win. Then again, we often see a dominant sprinter emerge over the course of a Grand Tour.

The way we see things, Milan looks as likely as anyone to slot into that role, riding his home Grand Tour with the support of a strong Lidl-Trek squad.

Which under-the-radar rider will emerge in Italy?

The Giro has a way of shining a spotlight on emerging talents, like Derek Gee, who stole the show on so many breakaway days last year without actually winning a stage. Let’s see if we can come up with a few up-and-comers who could shine on the roads of Italy in 2024.

David Piganzoli at the Tour of Antalya.
David Piganzoli will make his Grand Tour debut at the Giro.

Polti-Kometa’s Davide Piganzoli is less than a year removed from a podium performance at the Tour de l’Avenir, and he won the UCI 2.1-rated Tour of Antalya in February. He is an all-around talent who could shine on the breakaway stages in the mountains.

You might also see Bastien Tronchon (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) in the breakaways. The runner-up at the Clásica Jaén seems like a strong outsider for the gravel on stage 6.

Then there’s Lorenzo Milesi (Movistar), the reigning under-23 world time trial champ who has been a promising prospect for a few years now. He has had a quiet start to 2024, but his Giro debut will be his first Grand Tour with his new team after a year at DSM. There is enough talent there for him to break out sooner or later.

Follow the links for a detailed stage-by-stage breakdown of the 2024 Giro d’Italia route and to take your Giro viewing to the next level with our Fantasy Competition!

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