Rome

Giro has 'something for everyone'

Wiggins favourite, Nibali Italy's hope

Giro has 'something for everyone'

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, May 3 - This year's Giro d'Italia, the world's second biggest grand tour and the grittier and tougher brother of the Tour de France, has "something for everyone," organisers said ahead of the start of the 96th edition of the famed round-Italy bike race Saturday. "The route for the race has something for them all, the sprinters, the time-triallers, the climbers," said organiser Gazzetta dello Sport in an editorial. "We think this will ensure this year's Giro is the most challenging and exciting yet," Gazzetta said. British speed king Mark Cavendish of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team will be licking his lips as the three-week Giro, which starts in Naples on Saturday and covers 3,405km before finishing in Brescia on May 26, features seven sprint finishes. Cavendish has won 10 stages in the last four Giros. There will also be five stages over high mountains, including two gruelling climbs on the third-last and penultimate days with finishes at the top of the Val Martello and the much feared Tre Cime di Lavaredo. There will be three time trials - two individual ones, including an uphill one in the 18th stage, and a team time trial as well, which will suit Britain's time-trial Olympic champion and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins. The race will leave Italy and go into France on the 15th stage with a finish at Col du Galibier, which is one of the toughest climbs to feature on the Tour de France. The only sour note on the Giro's eve was the news that two-time champion Ivan Basso has had to pull out because of injury. Basso's Cannondale team said the 35-year-old rider has a cyst caused by saddle sore that stops him from pedalling properly. Basso, who is famed for his climbing abilities, won the Giro in 2006 and 2010, but he was not seen as one of the favourites for the Italian classic stage race. "The injury was really unexpected. I'm truly very sad not to be able to take part," Basso told state broadcaster Rai. "I was ready to face it in the best way and I'm convinced I would have done well. "My morale is in bits. It's the race I love most. But I'll certainly return next year and I'll be even stronger. "The first thing I'll do will be to fix this problem and start again at once to be able to face the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in the best way (later this year). "I'm an athlete who has had difficult moments in the past. I'll manage to overcome this one too," added the rider, whose career was interrupted by a two-year doping ban in 2007. Wiggins is among this year's Giro favourites. The 33-year-old Team Sky rider is hoping to become the first rider to win a Giro and Tour de France in the same year since late Italian cyclist Marco Pantani in 1998. Astana rider Vincenzo 'the shark' Nibali, the 2010 Vuelta champion, is seen as Italy's best hope.

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