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5 brilliant cyclists to look out for in the Giro d’Italia’

The first of the three Grand Tour cycling events to take place each year, the Giro d'Italia is younger and less prestigious than the Tour de France but has occasionally rivalled it for popularity and has always been ahead of the Vuelta a Espana. To be in with a chance of winning, excellent climbing skills are essential but it's also important to excel at time trials.

Held during the latter part of May and early part of June over the course of 21 days and two rest days, the route of the Giro changes each year but the actual format of the race remains the same, including a stage that takes places through the mountains of the Alps. Here are leading contenders for this year's event.

Group of blurred cyclists on the road

Vincenzo Nibali

Dubbed 'il Squalo di Messina' - the Shark of Messina - due to the fact that you don't see him until he attacks, Vincenzo Nibali is one of the top prospects in the 2016 event. His 2015 season was a poor one by his usual standards but he ended on a high by taking first place in the final World Tour races of the year, the Il Lombardia, giving him his biggest ever single-day race win.

At the start of the year Nibali announced his intention to focus his efforts on the 2016 Giro and then miss out on the Tour de France in order to focus on the Olympics. As it's rare for riders to compete in more than one Grand Tour and almost unheard of for a cyclist to compete in all three, Nibali is unlikely to be alone in this decision. However, the threat of poor weather leading to the mountain stages of the Giro being cancelled this year has led Nibali, who is especially known for his climbing and descending skills, and some riders to consider skipping the Giro and riding the Tour de France instead.

Rafal Majka

By the tender age of 25 the young Pole is already considered to be one of the greatest cycling talents of all time with a slim frame that makes him a strong, natural climber in mountainous terrain. He first came to prominence during the 2014 Tour de France when two solo stage wins saw him crowned King of the Mountains.

Having placed 7th in the Giro in 2013 and improved this by one place to 6th in 2014, he skipped the 2015 event to focus on the Tour de France, placing 28th. Later that year, he achieved his first Grand Tour podium win, placing third in the Vuelta. In interviews given after the Vuelta, Majka has made it clear that he will not accept anything less than a podium finish at the Giro and has adjusted his training routine in order to maximise his chances of success.

Mikel Landa

Following a breakthrough 2015 season during which he established himself as one of the best climbers in the sport, largely due to two impressive stage victories at the Giro and one at the Vuelta a Espana, Mikel Landa transferred from Astana to Team Sky at the start of the year. He now hopes to lead the British squad to their first ever Giro d'Italia title in May. While Team Sky believe he has the potential to win Grand Tours, Landa himself admits that, while he will perform well during the five summit finishes of the Giro, he will have to work hard to improve his performance during the three time trails of the race which cover more than 50km of mostly flat terrain.

Landa plans to lose as little as possible during time trials so that he can make up any losses during the mountain stages and still be in with a chance of winning. In previous years, Landa has been forced to sacrifice his own ambitions for those of Astana leader Fabio Aru but thanks to the transfer to Team Sky, there will, in theory, be nothing to prevent him from going all the way.

Tom Dumoulin

When Tom Dumoulin emerged as the surprise leader of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana after 19 stages, fans back in his native Netherlands went completely crazy. All the talk was of the Tour de France and whether the Dutch could have found someone capable of giving them their first victory since Joop Zoetemelk won the race back in 1980. Unlike most other cyclists competing at the top level, Dumoulin is a relative newcomer to the sport.

Having planned to study medicine and train as a doctor, he turned to cycle racing to pass the time while waiting for a place at medical school. He entered the Grand Prix of Portugal and, despite never having ridden a time trial bicycle before, he won the opening trial of the race before going on to win the whole event. At the Giro, Dumoulin is expected to aim to take the pink jersey in the opening time trial - as Bradley Wiggins did back in 2010 - and then complete the course but then back off in order to give himself time to prepare for the Olympic time trial which takes place on the 10th of August.

Rigoberto Uran

Having switched from Etixx-Quick Stepp to Cannondale-Garmin, the Colombian cyclist is displaying a new-found confidence that many believe will propel him all the way to the front of the Giro d-Italia. Having placed second overall at the Giro on two previous occasions, Uran himself has stated that victory at the event is his top goal for the first half of the 2016 season.

Since he turned professional a decade ago, Uran has more experience than many of his Cannondale team mates and is expected to inject a strong dose of veteran depth into the whole squad. Uran announced at the start of the year that he had already begun training preparations and was choosing his equipment and developing an early-season racing plan that would enable the entire team to put in a winning performance. Having already announced that, much like Vincenzo Nibali, he plans to skip the Tour de France, Uran is free to go all out during the Giro and will then compete in the Tour of Poland before the summer Olympics.