Sunday 19 November 2017

Sky's limit for Landa hope and glory

Ireland's Nicolas Roche. Photo: Getty Images
Ireland's Nicolas Roche. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan will be expected to keep their powder dry when they roll down the start ramp for today's first stage of the Giro d'Italia, a 9.8km time trial in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn.

Team Sky's Irish riders are part of the nine-man team working for Spanish team leader Mikel Landa, who will be hoping to improve on last year's third-place finish at the Giro.

Roche, who is starting his 16th Grand Tour, showed he is coming into top form with his second-place finish at last week's Tour de Yorkshire.

The real race for the general classification contenders doesn't start until the uphill finish on Stage 6; the first three stages in the Netherlands will be all about damage limitation. Landa, compatriot Alejandro Valverde and Italian Vincenzo Nibali are the three leading favourites for the year's first three-week tour.

A big question mark hangs over Nibali's form as the 2014 Tour de France champion targets a second Giro title.

The Astana rider has failed to impress since winning the Tour of Oman in February but believes he has the experience to help him claim another Giro title after his success on his last appearance in his home Grand Tour in 2013.

"My advantage compared to other riders is that I have the experience," said Nibali, who will be taking part in his sixth Giro.

Sky have built their team around Landa to help him improve on last year's result when he finished behind Alberto Contador and then team-mate Fabio Aru.

"Our ambition with him is longer term. We think his ability to perform is huge. We would like to start that after four months racing but (the transition) it's a factor. But can he win the tour of Italy? Yes he can," said Sky boss Dave Brailsford.

Today's stage should see Fabian Cancellara come to the fore if he can recover from a stomach virus he suffered yesterday. Cancellara, in his final season, is hoping to claim the pink jersey for the first time in his career.

Giro d'Italia, Live, Eurosport, 1.30pm

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