Biniam Girmay on stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia.

Ciclamino battle: Cavendish, Van der Poel, and Girmay are all in the mix for points

The points classification is starting to take shape, only a few stages into the 2022 Giro d'Italia.

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Three stages into the 2022 Giro d’Italia, the GC picture remains very much unsettled – but the fight for the maglia ciclamino is starting to come into focus. Fans of the points classification battles will be happy to see just how many big names are involved.

As of Monday, as the Giro peloton enjoyed a rest day following three days in Hungary, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) leads the points classification on 62 points. With Van der Poel wearing the race leader’s pink jersey, second-placed Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) is currently wearing the maglia ciclamino itself, with 55 points to his name. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) is on 53 points, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is on 44, and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) is on 32.

The competition is still very much up in the air among those riders and a handful of others – but the first few stages have already given us plenty of information to help determine which riders are legitimate contenders and which riders may be mere pretenders for the ciclamino throne.

Cavendish currently enjoys the shortest odds to take the title, and that makes plenty of sense, considering just how strong he looked on Sunday’s stage 3. Despite launching from quite a ways out, he still managed to win the stage, and one can only assume that his speed and the lead-out prowess of Michael Mørkøv and Co. will continue to translate to success. Until we see otherwise, Cavendish looks like the best sprinter in the Giro.

The biggest question for Cavendish is whether he will stay in the race through to the final stage.

That’s the reason, by the way, that Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) is not a heavier favorite to take the points classification. The versatile Australian would be an obvious pick for the jersey had he not already said that he was not planning to finish the race. Things are bit more complicated in Cavendish’s case; he hasn’t actually said that he’s going to bail on the Giro the way that Ewan has. That said, the mountain stages in the second half of the race will not be an easy challenge for the sprinters to tackle.

If Cavendish thinks that selection for the Quick-Step Tour roster is a possibility, he could very well leave the Giro before the final stage. At this point, speculation on his departure is just that. It feels like a coin flip right now. If he’s doing well in the race and in the points classification a week from now, though, he’s likely to see even shorter odds to take the jersey.

Van der Poel is another rider whose uncertain plans for the remainder of the race make him a bit of a question mark. If he wants to race the full Giro, he has a fine chance at the maglia ciclamino, considering his versatility, but he also rode in support of Jakub Mareczko on stage 3. That didn’t leave Van der Poel in the ideal position to accrue points there, although he did finish a respectable 17th on the day. Van der Poel may not have quite the finishing kick that his longtime rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) brings to the table, but he is plenty quick and more than capable of nabbing points on transitional stages if he decides to go for the jersey. We’ll have to see how things play out in the coming stages.

Most of the rest of the contenders for the maglia ciclamino seem a bit more likely to see the race through if they find themselves near the top of the leaderboard as things progress. Démare is one of those riders. He rode to second on stage 3, and if that result was any indication of the sprinting hierarchy in this Giro, it stands to reason that he’ll be atop the points classification if Cavendish drops out of the race.

Gaviria, third on stage 3, could give Démare a run for his money in the bunch kicks to come, and he has, of course, won a Giro points title before, back in 2017. At his best – and injuries and illness have kept him below that the past several years – he is one of the fastest riders in the world.

Giacomo Nizzolo is the other pure(ish) sprinter who seems most likely to be in the mix for the points jersey. He has won it twice in his career, and although he has not finished a Grand Tour in quite some time, he seems likely to at least try to make it through the race, particularly if he’s in contention for his third career maglia ciclamino. He’s a pretty consistent racer, and although wins have been pretty hard to come by throughout his career, consistency is hugely important in the points classification.

Démare, Gaviria, and Nizzolo have all been involved in the intermediate sprints so far in the Giro, offering some indication as to their intentions. Each of those three riders, however, could struggle on at least a few of the hillier days that could drop the heavier riders.

Take stages 5, 8, 10, and 12, for instance. All have enough challenges to put some of the purer speedsters out the back. That could leave the door open for Girmay a chance to make more history in this race.

To this writer, the Eritrean up-and-comer looks like the best pick for the maglia ciclamino right now, all things considered. Sure, this is his first Grand Tour, but Girmay and his team have clearly thought about the points title already – he showed up to Monday’s stage 3 wearing a ciclamino helmet, after all.

Truth be told, Girmay’s track record is short enough that it’s really hard to say what he’ll do over the course of three weeks, but his results during the Giro’s sojourn in Hungary are extremely promising. The uphill gradient in the final few kilometers of the opening stage was nothing to sneeze at, and yet Girmay outdid everyone except Van der Poel. Nonetheless, in a more traditional bunch kick on stage 3, he still managed a fourth-place finish, arriving at the line well ahead of the Dutch race leader.

Girmay’s versatility may give him the advantage over the likes of Démare, Gaviria, and Nizzolo in much the same way that Peter Sagan was able to secure the green jersey year in and year out at the Tour despite the sprint supremacy of the likes of Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, and André Greipel. If Cavendish, Van der Poel, or even Ewan decide to stay in the Giro, the maglia ciclamino will be a taller order for Girmay – a Grand Tour debutant – but he’ll be a contender just the same.

We should know more in the next few days. Even on the stages where the sprinters won’t have a chance to factor in the finale – on Tuesday’s stage 4 to Etna, for instance – the intermediates will give us hints about which riders are targeting the points title and are in form.

The sprint stages, of course, will be the most impactful in determining who wears the maglia ciclamino, and there are plenty of those on tap in the next week. The ciclamino battle is a long way from over.

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