Hushovd for the sprints, Caucchioli for the mountains and Roche Junior for the history...
It’s been a mixed spring for cycling’s oldest team, Crédit Agricole. On one hand, they’ve had no Classics victory to celebrate, when in 2006 they enjoyed Thor Hushovd’s triumph in Gent-Wevelgem. But on the other, they’ve won nine times so far, as riders like Anthony Charteau, Rémi Pauriol and Angelo Furlan have proven that they’re not just a team based around a big Norwegian. In fact, Thor Hushovd, around whom this Giro team is also partly geared, has not won yet this season. Pietro Caucchioli, a surprise third-place finisher here in 2002, also carries GC hopes for the team.
Hushvod - champ on the Champs Elysées Photo
c. Ben Ross
Victorious on the Champs-Elysées in the Tour last year, Hushovd hasn’t won since the last day of August, something he will be looking to rectify as soon as possible. The Norwegian, a Giro virgin, is up against the likes of experienced corsa rosa campaigners Petacchi and McEwen, as well men like Forster, Brown and Grillo who can come good on their day. The men at his disposal are Julian Dean and Angelo Furlan, both competent sprinters in their own right who will relish the opportunity to shine when Hushovd drops out (he isn’t expected to make it all the way to Milan). Furlan in particular has looked revitalised after years in lower-tier cycling and will be out to perform well in his home race. Already with two victories to his name this season, the Italian’s ambitions may be put on the back burner by having to work for Hushovd for the first ten days.
The team also has options for the mountains, through Pietro Caucchioli. The former Alessio man’s third-place in 2002 remains the zenith of his career, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be repeating that. A top ten finish would be pleasing for Caucchioli and his employers, and this man certainly has the climbing ability to achieve that. Compatriot Francesco Bellotti is also a decent climber, and will be on the prowl for stage wins, as well as a strong overall finish.
There’s also Frenchman Patrice Halgand, now into the autumn of his career. One of the gutsiest riders out there (remember his 2002 Tour win?), the thirty-three year old rode impressively to a much-overlooked fourteenth place in last year’s Giro. The top 20 beckons for him again, and if Caucchioli falters, leadership duties could be passed to the solid Halgand.
Ireland’s only representative is Nicolas Roche, who’s riding his first Grand Tour here. A decent climber, he’s had three top tens in Coupe de France races, earning him a ride in the Giro. Coincidentally, it is twenty years since his dad, Stephen, flaunted team orders and attacked Carrera teammate and 1986 winner Roberto Visentini on the way to victory, incurring the wrath of not only most of his team and the peloton but also the tifosi, who spat and threw rotten meat at Roche. Roche Junior won’t quite be gunning for victory, but will be motivated to ride well, still (of course) looking to gain experience.
For the time-trials and breakaways, there’s powerful Laszlo Bodrogi, while domestique Christophe Kern rounds off the lineup.
101 CAUCCHIOLI Pietro 1975 ITA
102 BELLOTTI Francesco 1979 ITA
103 BODROGI Laszlo 1976 HUN
104 DEAN Julian 1975 NZL
105 FURLAN Angelo 1977 ITA
106 HALGAND Patrice 1974 FRA
107 KERN Christophe 1981 FRA
108 HUSHOVD Thor 1978 NOR
109 ROCHE Nicolas 1984 IRL