Two-time Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador has backed Simon Yates and Egan Bernal to duke it out in Italy for this year’s crown.
Contador, who will a pundit for Eurosport and GCN throughout the 2021 Giro, says that Yates is the only rider to have currently shown peak Grand Tour form, but believes Bernal is also ready to return to his best following a back injury.
And the Spaniard is also looking forward to watching talented Belgian Remco Evenepoel ride in his first Grand Tour.
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"It's difficult to choose just one favourite because of so much uncertainty,” Contador told Eurosport. "For now the only rider who has shown 100% that he is in good shape is Yates after a great ride in the Tour of the Alps. Then we can say that Mikel Landa's start to the season has been good, although the level has not been so outstanding.
I would definitely not forget Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel. We know that Evenepoel is capable of absolutely everything, although he hasn't competed since Lombardy due to physical problems. And on the other hand, Bernal already knows what it is to win the Tour de France and having overcome the physical problems he had I think he is one of the favourites.
Evenepoel will ride for the dominant Deceuninck – Quick-Step in Italy, while Bernal will lead a strong Ineos Grenadiers team. But Contador believes that the Giro, more than the Tour de France or La Vuelta, is a race for the individual – something that may play into the hands of the all-rounder Yates.
“The Giro d'Italia is the perfect race to shine individually and to forget more about the role of the whole team,” he said. “Of the three Grand Tours, it is the ideal opportunity to get a great performance from individual riders.”
One aspect of the Giro that will be different this year is the absence of fans on the race’s biggest climbs, with crowds to be discouraged (as they were in 2020) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yet while that may alter the spectacle, Contador doesn’t believe it will hurt the quality of the racing.
"I don't think the lack of spectators in general will affect the peloton too much,” he said. “It's something that athletes are getting used to and we see it in many other races on the calendar.
“The Giro d'Italia traditionally has a big number of fans. But we are talking about great professionals who adapt to any circumstances and the lack of people at the stages is now much more normal than six months ago.
“It's rare to see a Giro d'Italia like this, but I don't think it's the factor that will decide who will be the winner this year.”
The Giro d’Italia begins on Saturday 8 May with a short time trial in Turin.
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