Top 10 GC riders we want to see at the 2024 Giro d’Italia

From Tadej Pogačar to Sepp Kuss and Egan Bernal, the list of potential contenders for the 2024 Giro is star-studded

Clock11:09, Friday 13th October 2023
Making the Italian Classics his own over the past few seasons, it is surely only a matter of time before Tadej Pogačar makes his Giro d'Italia debut

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Making the Italian Classics his own over the past few seasons, it is surely only a matter of time before Tadej Pogačar makes his Giro d'Italia debut

The route announcement for the Giro d'Italia 2024 is just hours away, welcoming in all the excitement and speculation that will ramp up ahead of next year's race. Amongst the hot topics will, of course, be the runners and riders for the fabled maglia rosa come the end of what are sure to be 21 typically tough stages.

Awarded to the leader of the race, the maglia rosa was taken by Primož Roglič of Jumbo-Visma in May, but the Slovenian is unlikely to be back to defend his crown, as the new Bora-Hansgrohe recruit will have all his eyes on the Tour de France in July.

In his absence, the race for the win will not be diminished, as the Giro d'Italia always attract a stellar field of contenders vying for the final podium. Nobody's attendance has yet been confirmed, but here are the top 10 GC riders that we want to see the Giro d'Italia 2024.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

Age: 25

Giro d’Italia pedigree: None

Will he race the Giro? At this point in the year, just on the cusp of the full Giro d'Italia 2024 route announcement, rumours of Pogačar's potential participation begin to surface. There’s usually little substance to the speculation but it keeps the headlines ticking over and the suspense rolling until the inevitable focus on the Tour de France is announced.

On the face of it, nothing has really changed in that sense. Pogačar’s camp have not decided on his plans for next season and much will depend on UAE Team Emirates' team boss Mauro Gianetti and his annual sponsorship meeting in Dubai in November. At that point, Pogačar’s 2024 campaign will begin to take shape but the prospect of him breaking up his typical calendar and focusing on the maglia rosa is certainly an entertaining and enthralling idea.

A Giro start would allow the Slovenian to add to his ever-expanding palmarès, allow him to pick up a Grand Tour that Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) doesn’t have and then give him the freedom to possibly target stage wins at the Tour de France before attacking the Olympics in Paris.

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma)

Age: 29

Giro d’Italia pedigree: Two starts in 2019 and 2023

Will he race the Giro? With Primož Roglič out of the picture, the path towards Kuss having a GC position at Jumbo-Visma at least seems a little clearer. Vingegaard is an obvious candidate for the Tour de France, and while the Dutch squad have a robust secondary with the likes of Steven Kruijswijk
and Wilco Kelderman they really don’t have an out-and-out leader outside of the Dane.

Johannes Staune-Mittet will be a rider to watch in the next 12 months but Vuelta a España winner Kuss has a legitimate claim to lead the team at the Giro in May. Such a move would hint at another three Grand Tours in 2024, assuming he supports Vingegaard in July and then returns to the Vuelta to defend his crown but we won’t know the complete picture at Jumbo-Visma until December when the team’s plans become official.

We did ask Jumbo-Visma if Kuss would lead at the Giro next May. Their response included a winking emoji.

Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Age: 20

Giro d’Italia pedigree: None

Will he race the Giro? With Roglič leading the line at the Tour de France the German squad needs a maglia rosa representative at the Giro, and Uijtdebroeks could well be that candidate. According to our expert reporting the Belgian is currently in discussions with Ineos Grenadiers and Lidl-Trek over a possible 2025 transfer, and what better way for Bora to keep him than by promising leadership at next year’s Giro?

Read more:

The 20-year-old was mightily impressive at the Vuelta a España this summer and has all the credentials of being a Grand Tour star in the coming years. Two three-week races in a single season might be a stretch, but Bora certainly have enough cover and depth to utilise Uijtdebroeks’ potential in May and still provide guaranteed cover around Roglič in the summer.

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)

Age: 26

Giro d’Italia pedigree: Winner in 2021

Will he race the Giro? It’s hard to imagine that Geraint Thomas has re-signed a contract extension on the basis that he’d have to race the Giro d’Italia again, and Ineos are just as unlikely to have persuaded Carlos Rodríguez to turn his back on a lucrative Movistar move and not have the Tour de France on his programme.

Read more: Carlos Rodríguez agrees four-year deal at Ineos Grenadiers

That leaves Ineos Grenadiers with very little in the way of proven Grand Tour leadership. Thymen Arensman makes the most logical sense, especially given that he was sixth in the race in 2023, and will be eager to impress after crashing out of the Vuelta. However, it’s probably Bernal and one other rider who appear the most exciting prospects from the outside. Bernal of course won the Giro d’Italia in 2021, and while his career-threatening injury at the start of the following year has resulted in a slow but steady comeback the Colombian showed no signs of turning his back on his Grand Tour ambitions when he spoke to GCN at the Vuelta.

Read more: Egan Bernal: I still feel like a winner and I really want to win

From a fan point of view, seeing Bernal come back to anywhere near his best at the Giro would be one of the comebacks of the last decade.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)

Age: 24

Giro d’Italia pedigree: None

Will he race the Giro? We’ve seen some inspirational racing from the all-rounder over the last two years at the Tour de France but the youngster isn’t quite on the cusp of a GC breakthrough. With the Paris Olympics likely to form the centrepiece of Pidcock’s career the difficult question arises over how he approaches a goal so close to the Tour finish.

One theory is that the Tour will provide the perfect opportunity and prep for a rider to fly into the Olympics but history is also littered with athletes left exhausted by the Tour experience and running on fumes by the time they slip into their national team skinsuits. An alternative for the Pidcock camp would be to go full throttle at the Giro d’Italia, and ride in tandem with Egan Bernal before scaling back the efforts in June and July and specifically focussing on Paris.

It’s obviously not that simple, and Pidcock has paymasters who provide a salary akin to a Tour leader but the Giro-Olympics programme is certainly not a throwaway suggestion. Stepping back, it could be just what the athlete needs in order to make his next Grand Tour improvement.

Lenny Martinez (Groupama FDJ)

Age: 20

Giro d’Italia pedigree: None

Will he race the Giro? The wiry Frenchman clearly struggled in the second half of the Vuelta a España but there’s few that doubt the rider’s raw talent and ability at this level. With David Gaudu assured of Tour de France leadership thanks to the departure of Arnaud Démare and the retirement of Thibaut Pinot, the French squad needs a focal point for Italy. Marc Madiot’s team don’t have the depth to support two Grand Tour leaders in the space of just a few months but they certainly have a volley of young kids who can use the Giro d’Italia to cut their teeth, and with Martinez, they would have an aspiring three-week leader capable of nudging his way into the top ten overall.

What's more, it would come without the inevitable Tour de France pressure that would follow from the moment Martinez had a strong start to the new season. Chuck in a sprinter, such as Matthew Walls, and suddenly Groupama have a young team that could cause a stir.

Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek)

Age: 23

Giro d’Italia pedigree: One start in 2022

Will he race the Giro? We’ve seen enough of Giulio Ciccone over the last eight years to determine that as talented as he is, he’s not a Grand Tour leader, and with Tao Geoghegan Hart unlikely to be race-ready by May the American team need a focal point for their GC ambitions. Step forward Mattias Skjelmose.

The Dane has a bit more about him than the plucky Juan Pedro López, and at 23, has plenty of growth potential for the coming years. With Jonathan Milan picking up the sprint stages, Lidl-Trek still need an outlet for their stage racing ambitions and Skjelmose fits that bill, especially after his Tour de Suisse heroics this year. A Giro programme might alter his Ardennes form - where he was super consistent this year - but Lidl-Trek has invested in the rider’s future, and he’s ready for GC leadership.

Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla)

Age: 27

Giro d’Italia pedigree: Two starts including seventh overall in 2023

Will he race the Giro? Despite crashing out of the Vuelta a España in August, Dunbar’s debut season at Jayco-AlUla can be considered a success. The Irish rider seized his chance and picked off seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia and chipped in with a couple more top tens in WorldTour stage races. As a foil for Simon Yates’ Tour de France ambitions, it was a success.

There’s no reason to alter the plan in 2024, although the signing of Luke Plapp and the continued development of Chris Hamilton deserve consideration, but Dunbar has earned another shot at Grand Tour leadership. With a year of experience under his belt, he should line up at the Giro with genuine aspirations of a top-five finish.

Andreas Leknessund (dsm-firmenich)

Age: 24

Giro d’Italia pedigree: One start, and eighth overall in 2023

Will he race the Giro? With a move to Uno-X confirmed, Leknessund is a rider worth watching as we head into the off-season. The Norwegian team have a couple of GC options for next year when it comes to Grand Tours but the 24-year-old is the only stage race hunter with experience of leading a Grand Tour having worn the maglia rosa for a handful of days this spring. He does have a Tour de France finish in his palmarès too, but with Tobias Halland Johannessen also on the team’s books for the coming years, the Uno-X management have some important choices to make over the coming months as they align their two stars.

Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost)

Age: 27

Giro d’Italia pedigree: Yet to make his debut

Will he race the Giro? Richard Carapaz is paid too much to target the Giro and was signed to win the Tour, so that’s out of the window, while Hugh Carthy could probably do with changing up his race programme and having a new set of objectives after several Giro d’Italia missions.

The American team isn’t brimming with GC leaders for three-week races but Powless has been knocking on the door for a number of years, and finished just outside the top ten at the Tour de France two years ago. He’s not the finished article, and having a baby in the off-season could leave him only hitting his best form later in the year as he adjusts to fatherhood, but the all-rounder, at some point, deserves a shot at racing a three-week event as a protected rider.

He can climb, has a decent time trial in his locker and it would be fascinating to see him curtail some of his attacking instincts and race at a steadier tempo. It’s a risk because it could alter his ability to target the Classics and some of the early-stage races in the spring, but there’s definitely a window of opportunity that the likes of Jonathan Vaughters and Charly Wegelius have experience in managing.

Watch the 2024 Giro d'Italia route presentation on GCN+ from 17.00 BST on Friday, and keep up with all the latest news an information on our dedicated race page.

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