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Giro d'Italia: Nibali, Quintana, Thomas and other overall contenders look ahead to race

Overall contenders share their thoughts ahead of tomorrow's Big Start on Sardinia...

The leading contenders for the overall title at the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia, which starts on Sardinia tomorrow, have given their thoughts on this year's race ahead of this evening's team presentation in Alghero. Here's what they had to say.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida, the defending champion)

Vincenzo Nibali Giro d'Italia 2017 press conference (picture credit  LaPresse - D'Alberto, Ferrari).jpg

I feel pretty good. The climate here in Sardinia is exceptional. I’m looking forward to starting the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia.

My expectations are public knowledge: I want to make the final podium.

It’s not easy to be on the highest step of the podium, so if it’s not possible to win the Giro again, I’ll fight for second or third place to honour the race. We’ve worked as a team to be here in the best condition possible. I have a lot of respect for my adversaries.

It’ll be a long challenge with a lot of unknowns. [Event director] Mauro Vegni has made the route even more difficult than in previous years. He also gave me the pleasure of two stages in my homeland [Sicily].

There’ll even be a city circuit in my town [Messina]. It makes me happy for myself, for my fans, for my family. It’s not the first time the Giro has been to Sicily but it has a special taste this time around.

Stage 4 to Mount Etna has a 4000m difference in altitude and it’ll follow nervous stages in Sardinia. It’ll be the first direct opposition to my rivals. We’ll see on the Etna how I am and how they are. It’s a different ascent compared to six years ago.

This way is harder and it comes after a rest day. My approach of the Giro is cautious. I hope to be consistent.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar, winner of the 2014 Giro and the 2016 Vuelta a Espana)

I don’t know if it’s possible to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year. It’s the first time I've tried. First I have to win the Giro. I have fond memories of my first participation because I won. I couldn’t miss this special edition: it’s the 100th Giro, it’s historic.

There are more top teams than usual, which changes the dynamic of the race, and there are more GC riders in contention. On day four at the Etna, we’ll already have a clearer picture of the protagonists. The decisive week will be the last one though, and I hope for the best possible result.

Geraint Thomas, Team Sky (who is co-leader in a Grand Tour for the first time, alongside Mikel Landa)

Geraint Thomas Giro d'Italia 2017 press conference (picture credit  LaPresse - D'Alberto, Ferrari).jpg

It’s obviously one of the biggest challenges of my career to lead Team Sky in a Grand Tour. It’s been pretty sweet so far, but so much can happen; we’ve got a strong team, and I’m looking forward to it.

The fact that it’s the 100th edition is not much of a factor, there’s history, and it has influenced the choice, but when it comes to racing, we just take the race and take any chance to do well. The level of the field is very high, so is the course.

Time is not running out. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done, but age is just a number. I feel I have a lot of time ahead of me. Track racing hasn’t taken too much from me. I’m ready for more years on the bike.

Quintana and Nibali have won this race before. They stand up.

Myself and Landa have a chance but we’re not at that level, we’re not the favourites – so we’ll race in a different way than we usually do at the Tour de France.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ, who was on the Tour de France podium in 2014 when he finished third)

Thibaut Pinot Giro d'Italia 2017 press conference (picture credit  LaPresse - D'Alberto, Ferrari).jpg

I’ve had a few difficult days after the Tour of the Alps. Emotionally, I’ve been down for a couple of days because of the tragic death of Michele Scarponi, someone I appreciated a lot.

I’ve also had troubles for training due to the bad weather. This is my first participation in the Giro d’Italia. Maybe I’ll need a few before I can win the overall.

I come here after two failures on GC at the Tour de France but regardless of what happened in July last year, I already had decided to take part in the 100th Giro one and half years ago.

My biggest opponent is myself. I can always have a bad day.

I know my rivals, I’ve raced them for a few years now.

The climate shouldn’t be a problem for me, except if the temperature raises to 50 degrees.

I hope to not crash or fall sick, and to get the best possible result in Milan.

Everyone says Quintana is the favourite. Behind him, we’re about ten riders pretty much at the same level.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb, who spent six days in the race lead in 2016)

Tom Dumoulin Giro d'Italia 2016 Stage 5 celebration (PHOTO CREDIT ANSA - PERI - DI MEO - ZENNARO).jpg

I’m here to do really well on GC. Winning the Giro is normally out of reach. To do so, I’d need to be in my best shape ever and also have all possible luck.

Nairo Quintana is the favourite. In the past years and last month, he’s been showing that even at 90 per cent of his capacities, he’s playing for the win.

Riders like Steven Kruijswijk and myself, at 95 per cent we can’t compete for the win.

Vincenzo Nibali is always dangerous. Last year I didn’t expect him to win the Giro and he did.

My preparation went well. We have a strong team, we’re mentally and physically fresh for three weeks.

I only rode for GC once, at the Vuelta a España two years ago. Uphill I was just limiting the losses.  Since then, I’m calmer and I’ve made some improvements uphill.

The first half of the Giro is not super difficult. I don’t think the differences on GC will be big after Etna and the Blockhaus.

The stage that includes Stelvio and Mortirolo is the hardest but any of the stages in the last week can’t be underestimated.

> Giro d'Italia 2017: Our stage-by-stage preview of the 100th edition

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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