As the exciting season of spring classics and short tours winds down, the Pro Pelaton prepares to compete in the 2010 edition of the Giro d'Italia (The Tour Of Italy), the traditional first of the three tours that each lasts three weeks. The Giro is as close as many of us ever will come to visiting Italy. This race not only provides exciting competition among most of the best riders in the world, but it also produces beautiful cinematography. In addition to the rich vistas of the Italian countryside, ancient ruins and castles, beautiful manors and estates, and grand vistas, every day the race travels through beautiful Italian towns and villages like the one depicted above and copied from the steephill.tv website.
The new American team Radio Shack, present home of Lance Armstrong, will not appear in this year's event. The 2010 Tour of California has been moved to the month of May after all the inclement weather that race suffered last year. California is effectively Radio Shack's home race and all of its best riders have been committed to compete there, so the Giro did not give them an invitation.
Mark Cavendish, one of last season's most successful young riders, also will not appear in this year's Giro. German Andre Greipel (shown at right) likely will be Team Columbia HTC's primary sprinter and Michael Albasini likely will be his team's best threat to compete as the over all winner.
Last year's winner Dennis Menchov's name does not appear in his team Rabobank's most recently posted, proposed start list. Likewise 2008's surprise winner Alberto Contador, who was called away from a beach vacation when his Team Astana was invited to compete at the last minute, will not ride in this year's event. Astana will instead be lead by Alexandre Vinokourov, the Kazakh rider who was expelled from cycling when he was caught cheating during le Tour de France two years ago. Vino apparently is in near mid-season form, fresh off his victory in last week's Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Liquigas will field a very strong team this year which includes Ivan Basso and Daniele Bennati. After winning Flech-Wallone two weeks ago, Reigning World Champion Cadel Evans (left) has said winning the Giro is his big goal for this season. Cadel is riding very well since moving from the Lotto team to team BMC. Team Sky, this year's new British team, will feature Kurt Arvesen and Stephen Cummings. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team) likes to save his best for his home tour la Vuelta a Espana, but he also has a very good chance to win May's Grand Tour.
Many fans are waiting to see whether Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen of Team Katusha has regained his form since his early season injury last year. With Cavendish sitting out the Giro, this might be Robbie's best chance to win a stage or two in a Grand Tour this season. In addition to McEwen, I'll be pulling for American Tyler Farrar (Garmin Transistions) in the sprints, but the sprinters field is just as loaded as it is every year.
Lampre, BBox and Quick Step all are fielding very strong teams. So is Saxo Bank, even though neither of the Schleck brothers (Frank and Andy) nor perennial favorite Jens Voigt will ride for them.
Not many Americans follow professional cycling and most of those who do know little more than the winner of the Tour de France each year. Those of you who are sports starved really should try to follow the Giro this year. It is my favorite of all the races. The scenery is breath taking, the athletes are phenomenal, and the competition exciting. This tour usually travels through weather and over terrain that makes it much more treacherous and unpredictable than the one they race in France each July. Universal Sports will broadcast the Giro this year. If Versus provides coverage, you can catch all the action in HD.