Giro Betting 2013: Wiggins should have measure of Nibali

Giro Italia

Having tipped Ryder Hesjedal at 60.0 to win last year's Giro, we asked Jack Houghton to preview this year's race.


Watching ITV News earlier in the week, I was astonished to see this year's Giro D'Italia mentioned in the headlines. But then that's what's happening to cycling these days, and when Bradley Wiggins, the first British Tour de France winner, makes an oblique allusion to an idea that he might not play a support role in this year's renewal, then the media responds with fervour.

For those who haven't followed the story, in November of last year, after the Giro course was known and seemed ready-made for Wiggins, Dave Brailsford all-but confirmed that it would be Chris Froome who headed the Team Sky challenge in France in 2013, with Wiggins targeting the earlier Italian equivalent. And that seemed to be the party-line. Then, earlier this week, Wiggins dropped into the end of an interview, "That's been the aim all year really, Giro and Tour double."


Hence the headlines. Froome has responded with an intriguing official statement saying, among other things, "At no time has the leadership of the Tour team been in question", adding yet more fuel to the media fire, but, as yet, no one from Team Sky's management has commented. And why would they? Froome may well be their number one as things stand, but a lot can happen in seven weeks, and if Froome's numbers start to wane, and Wiggins dominates the Giro, then, naturally, pecking-orders may change.


That's hardly news, though, (arguably, the bigger Giro news this week was the withdrawal of Ivan Basso, but that didn't make the ITV news...) which makes me think the whole episode might be nothing more than a (very clever) PR stunt. If it is, it's certainly worked, provided, as Ralph Ellis points out, that it doesn't distract riders' attention from where it needs to be: the road. Maybe that's why Wiggins has refused to comment further. His attention is on the Giro now, he says, and that's where our attention should be too.


As argued last week, although there are doubts about the form of Wiggins, the available 2.20 looks like value, especially when considering that his odds will likely tumble after team and individual time trials in the first eight days should see him build a healthy lead over Nibali (3.20). More cautious punters should be able to trade out of their bets for a profit at that point.


Those backing Nibali are relying on two things. First, that he can put time into Wiggins on the inclines, especially the seven mountain-top finishes. Second, that Nibali is able to place in enough of those stages to pick up time bonuses over Wiggins (in every stage in this year's Giro, the first three will receive a bonus of 20secs, 12secs and 8secs respectively in the overall classification).


In two years of trying, though, Nibali has only managed to put significant time into Wiggins once, and that was when the Brit had technical problems on the final climb of this year's Trentino. Given Team Sky's metronomic approach to Grand Tour stages - where they set the pace so high that a significant attack is inconceivable - it's hard to see why Nibali should fare any better this time around: Froome may not be there as Wiggins' wing-man, but the likes of Henao, Siutsou and Urán are able substitutes.


As for stage wins, Wiggins' training focus this year has been on improving his explosive power during climbs, so who's to say he won't be riding for the odd mountain-top stage win himself? And when he's not, there will plenty of other riders in the peloton - Sanchez, Gesink, Pirazzi and Santambrogio, as well as the aforementioned Sky team - who will make life difficult for Nibali.


To my mind, Wiggins faces an easier task than he did in France last year, and he says his numbers are even better now. So why should we doubt him?


Elsewhere in the Giro, Stefano Pirazzi, who was second in last year's mountain classification, is value at any price over 7.00 to go one better this year; and Wilco Kelderman, who makes his Grand Tour debut for the new-look Blanco team (previously Rabobank) as support rider for Robert Gesink, is worth backing at any price over 8.00 for the young rider classification.


As for the points classification, it's one to swerve until the Giro gets underway. Broadly speaking, there are seven stages up for grabs for sprinters, seven for climbers, and seven others. Add to that the points available for intermediate stage sprints and you have a very complex picture that will only become clearer when rider intentions are made evident in the early exchanges.


One thing for sure is that Mark Cavendish will be gunning for a win in the opening sprint stage in Naples on Saturday.


(Source: Betfair)




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