The Inner Ring Instead I will focus on the Contenders...
Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan)
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD)
Ive mentioned him already in his support role for Michele Scarponi but Cunego is a GC contender in his own right. A previous Giro winner and a very strong climber Damiano is capable of putting in a big performance and landing on the podium this year. This year alone he has finished 2nd in the Giro del Trentino, 4th in the Basque Country and 6th in Catalunya putting him in arguably better form that lampre-ISD team leader Scarponi.
John Gadret (Ag2r-la Mondiale)
Ag2r are the only WorldTour team without a victory in 2012 so will be looking to change that before the sponsors become restless. With Nicholas Roche on Tour duty the Giro is left to team leader John Gadret who finished third here last year. He's 32 now and that Grand Tour victory has alluded him. We haven't seen much of him this year and he hasn't placed in any race yet so there is nothing to judge his form on. He's a slim outside bet.
Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Bardiani)
Pozzovivo is a man on fire. We watched as the 30 year old Italian terrorised the field in the Dolomite mountains at the Giro del Trentino to take the overall and King of The Mountains jersey. Pound for Pound this man is probably one of the greatest climbers in the world this year so expect to see plenty of him in the final week. His downfall however is his size, at 53kilos and 5 ft 5 in tall Pozzovivo has always struggled to keep up with the leaders on the flat or in arduous conditions. If it's windy at during the first three days in Denmark and Domenico isn't well protected by his team, he could be blown out of the race.
Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
The Spaniard will line up at the start hoping to build on his relative success of last year where he finished 10th in both the Giro and the Vuelta a Espana. As Euskaltel team leader the pressure may be on to go for stage wins and the overall to secure valuable extra UCI ranking points and airtime to secure the future of the team, especially with the loss of Igor Anton to a broken collarbone. A good climber but lacking in experience, I wouldn't rule him out of a podium place.
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
Garmin's contender and a favourite of mine is Ryder Hesjedal. Long been there or thereabouts he's never quite managed to find the legs to make a GT podium. A top ten finish at the Tour de France in 2010 and a top 20 in 2011 Hesjedal looks to be in decent form this time around for the Giro. He was up there on nearly every day of the recent Tour of Romandie and placed well at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, I really hope he can do well.
Giovanni Visconti (Movistar)
The former Italian national road race champion is more of a puncheur than a mountain specialist but on home turf here in the Giro he looks to be leading the Movistar team. The Giro always seems to bring the best out of the Italians, Visconti is an outsider.
Thomas De Gendt (Vaconsoleil)
Falling into the puncheur category rather than a mountain specialist, much like Visconti, the Belgian rider famously finished 19th on the Alpe d'Huez with a collarbone fracture last year so he does have climbing legs. He may be riding in support of Matteo Carrara who will no doubt lead the team as an Italian, but looking at form I would favour De Gendt as the rider to perform.
Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky)
Though the Sky team is heavily weighted in the support for Mark Cavendish department for this years Giro the late addition to the team Uran could be a threat to the GC come the final week. The young Colombian can certainly climb but we are yet to see what he can do when let lose from his role in supporting Sky's bigger names in the mountains. There is support for him also in the form of Sergio Henao, Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh (who starts the Giro having race a whopping 7km on the road this year).
There are plenty of names that could be thrown in the mix, others who's form is a relative unknown and may pop up to surprise us and some who no doubt we will not have even heard of until they put their faces in the wind in Italy. What's also clear is that many a WorldTour team is lining up at the Giro with completely different ambitions to that of the General Classification. Teams such as Orico-Greenedge and Rabobank will be there purely for stage victories. Other team's will turn up without a 'real' general classification rider of any pedigree and will hope to invent one along the way or simply just hope for the best to get something out of what they have. Its not necessarily the fault of the teams, a condition of holding a WorldTour licence is that teams participate in all three Grand Tours. As I said at the start of this post though, there's plenty here to get excited about, many of the unknowns surrounding this years Giro will be what creates a great and more importantly, competitive race.