The 2012 Giro d’Italia is one of the most open editions of the race in recent years, with a host of contenders vying for the 2012 maglia rosa. Wankmeister takes a look at the top picks for the overall win.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Basso is a pale shadow of the once-godlike doper who resurrected his career two years ago after being banned for shipping off blood to Dr. Fuentes in Spain, but who never actually inhaled. It took until the Giro del Trentino in April for him to even finish a race, so weak of leg and feeble of spirit is he without cheating aids. His performances in Romandie suggested little in the way of a return to a solid doping program.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)
Credible in time trials, powerful on the climbs, and stronger than a leather-clad, whip-wielding bitch in a room full of bound and gagged chubby business executives when he’s on the juice, Scarponi has every reason to feel confident that he’s gotten his micro-dosing dialed in to a “tee.” His 2-year doping ban? Done. His 2010 Giro campaign? Fourth. His 2011 campaign? Second + a reverse relegation thanks to Dopeador’s tainted meat. His 2012 prognosis? Katie, bar the door (to the medicine cabinet).
John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
The Frenchman, after finishing a surprise fourth in last year’s race, has a huge point to prove, namely, that a French dude can win a real bike race. Weak against the clock, he will have to count on natural talent, determination, and better medications to improve on 2011. Spanking Rujano, Kreuziger, and Menchov last year meant that someone in Gadret’s camp knows how to handle a syringe.
Jose Rujano (Androni-Venezuela)
Since his doping positive and suspension in 2003 during the Clasico RCS, the 30-year-old Venezuelan has managed to elude every doping tester ever sent his way. In 2010 he outsprinted a team of UCI passport regulators on a hilltop finish near Caracas for his third consecutive “Beat the Testers” purple jersey in the Tour of Venezuela. He got his grand tour career back on track last year with 7th place in the Giro, a performance that required him to juggle several masking agents and a body double while peeing remotely from a catheter attached to his smartphone. Can he win the Giro’s prized “Dirty but Clean” jersey again? We’ll see.
Roman Kreuziger (Astana)
Kreuziger has languished in the chasing group of elite racers, indicative of a third or even fourth-tier doping regimen. Although his close association with Astana and the obvious benefits of working with the filthy, nasty cheater Vinokourov should have led to better results this year, he has failed to fulfill the promise that everyone expected from a talented rider coming out of a dope-happy, Eastern European land of drug cheats like the Czech Republic. If Vino can deliver the “vino,” look for Kreuziger’s blood values to take him all the way to the podium
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
The sad sacks of pro cycling, Garmin’s previous attempts at Giro GC success have all ended exactly where you’d expect to see a bunch of pollyannas end up in this dirty sport full of liars, cheats, drug dealers, felons, and criminal MD’s. Hesjedal has repeatedly shown that, for brief periods, a drug-free athlete can compete with the worst reprobates in the pro peloton. Unfortunately, all of his races so far have been longer than 30 minutes. If any of the Giro mountain stages are shortened down to half an hour or so due to volcanic activity, earthquakes, avalanche or famine, look for Ryder to put in the ride of his life.
Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan)
The biggest check mark in Schleck’s doping column is the expert advice and positive drug test avoidance skills of doping king par excellence Johan Bruyneel. On the down side, Frank has clearly said that he’s not much interested in racing the Giro as it is poor preparation for the doping rigors of the Tour. However, since brother Abandy Schleck has quit so many races this year, indicating serious difficulty with his doping regimen, the Giro may be the only chance the Schlecks have in 2012 to beat the testers and make it to the top step of the podium
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD)
A 2005 edition of Procycling once featured Cunego [doper], Lance Armstrong [doper], and Jan Ullrich [pure as the driven snow] on the cover, with the headline “three’s a crowd.” Fans bought the mag hoping to see these three icons disrobed and fighting over a brace of porn stars, but no. At the time Cunego was seen as the next hero of grand tour doping, having shot to fame with the 2004 Giro title, a year in which even the podium girls were rubbing EPO on their vital parts. A lot has changed since then, and Cunego finds himself unable to use the massive quantities of performance boosting drugs that would put him atop the heap without also getting a positive test. A lackluster ride in last year’s Tour was a reminder that although drugs can’t make a racehorse out of a donkey, their absence can sure make a donkey out of a horse.