It’s time for battle of the brains.  RoadCycling’s Eugene Bonthuys and editor Ed Wright go head-to-head as they predict the favourites for the opening individual time trial in stage 1 of the 2016 Giro d’Italia.

Who to watch:

Eugene says: Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin)

With a very strong history of time trial wins, Dumoulin might be the only real contender to also have a shot at claiming the first pink jersey of the 2016 Giro. Whether he would want it on the first day is another question, with his sights set considerably further down the road. However, with time to be gained over the rest of the contenders, he is likely to give it everything he can. The home start to the Giro might give the Dutchman some added incentive to claim the first maglia rosa.

Ed says:  Marcel Kittel (GIANT-Alpecin)

The German sprinter has made no secret that he has his eyes on the maglia rosa this year; albeit he is still under playing his chances.  In order to do that he will need a good time trial in stage 1.  It’s interesting to note that the organisers have labelled this ‘stage 1’ and not ‘prologue’; maybe this  is the sort of course that could see time gaps open slightly.  He is one of two sprinters I will be interested to watch in the time trial.

Eugene says: Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling)

Hour records do not come easily (just ask Jack Bobridge about that) so a rider with the class to hold the hour record, even if only for a couple of months, certainly knows his way around a TT. Whether Brändle can sneak a win against a quality field is doubtful, but a top five might just be possible.

Ed says:  Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick Step)

The 23 year old from Luxembourg is in an interesting position in that in a team full of stars, this rising star has been able to fly under the radar.  But give him a shot at a quick time trial and he’s a force to be reckoned with.  He was third in the Tour de Romandie individual time trial over 15km and arguably has a bit more punch over the shorter distances than a Cancellara; but we shall see.

Eugene says: Fabian Cancellara (Trek Segafredo)

What is there left to say about Spartacus?  In his final year as a professional rider, this king of time trialling would love to go out with one more leader’s jersey added to his collection. With the maglia rosa still absent from his trophy cabinet, this would be a great prize indeed.  However, a bout of stomach flu just days before the race start could not have been more ill timed, so whether he will be able to recover in time remains to be seen.

Ed says:  Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEDGE)

If there is a sprinter who will upset everybody Apeldoorn and take the pink jersey then it’s going to be Caleb Ewan in my book.  Ewan is one of the most exciting riders to come out of the 2016 season so far.  The Orica GreenEDGE agenda is clear: stage wins for Ewan and the GC for Chaves.  He was second in the prologue time trial of the Herald Sun Tour earlier this year too.

Eugene says: Jack Bobridge (Trek Segafredo)

With a track pedigree like few others, including world championship wins in the individual and team pursuit, Olympic medals, and Commonwealth Games medals, Bobridge remains a force to be reckoned with on a TT bike. The short, intense first stage of the Giro should suit him, and he might be the one to salvage what should have been a glorious day for his team mate Cancellara should illness get the better of Spartacus.

Ed says:  Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

While a flat all out dash against the clock is far from Nibali’s speciality, he’s probably the rider most likely to be able to hold his own against the clock on this course of all the GC contenders.  Expect a big effort from the 2013 champion in the opening stage.  It is unfortunate though that form-wise in time trials we only have his Tirreno-Adriatico time trial to go off.

Eugene says:  Stefan Küng (BMC Racing)

As the 2015 World Champion in the individual pursuit, Küng knows how to suffer. Granted, the opening time trial might be twice the distance of an individual pursuit, but Küng should be able to put his track speed to good use.

Eugene’s top 5: Ed’s top 5:

1

Stefan Küng

1

Tom Dumoulin

2

Fabian Cancellara

2

Bob Jungels

3

Tom Dumoulin

3

Stefan Küng

4

Jack Bobridge

4

Fabian Cancellara

5

Matthias Brandle

5

Caleb Ewan

 

Photo: Sirotti

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