Focused Nibali good value to claim third Giro d'Italia title
Modolo can get off to a flyer
It is said that the Giro d'Italia is 'the toughest race in the most beautiful place'.
And as the peloton prepare to embark on the 100th edition of the race in Sardinia on Friday, it is clear the organisers plan to celebrate the Giro's centenary by showcasing the best of Italy.
After three stages in Sardinia, the race hops over to Sicily for a brace of stages including a summit finish atop Mount Etna before heading to the mainland to tackle Giro mainstays such as the Stelvio Pass along the 3,600km jaunt to Milan.
With Chris Froome again prioritising the Tour de France, all eyes will be on Nairo Quintana as he bids for a second Giro title and third Grand Tour crown.
He is a short-priced favourite but as last year's edition highlighted, it's wise to expect the unexpected from the Giro and this will be far from a procession for the Colombian.
Defending champion Vicenzo Nibali has won only the Tour of Croatia this season but the Italian will undoubtedly be motivated to retain his title.
A four-time Grand Tour victor, Nibali is usually at his strongest when it matters most - in the third week - as demonstrated by his Lazarus-style comeback in 2016.
Trailing Steven Kruijswijk by nearly five minutes after stage 18, the Shark of Messina devoured his rivals in the last two mountainous stages in ruthless style to claim a scarcely believable victory by 52 seconds from Esteban Chaves.
Unlike market rival Quintana, who is attempting a Giro-Tour double, the Italian has focused all his efforts on a third Maglia Rosa and his new team Bahrain-Merida have obliged with a squad full of climbers to support his aim.
Quintana is an outstanding rider but 6-1 about a seasoned GC contender is too big to ignore.
Dutch climber Kruijswijk will hope to make amends after his near-miss last year while Team Sky are double-handed with Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa nominated as co-leaders.
Ilnur Zakarin looks underrated at 80-1 to be crowned King of the Mountains.
The Russian climber has targeted a top-five GC finish so will have to show up well on his favoured mountain stages if he is to do so.
The mountain-top finishes give him that opportunity and even if he falls out of contention in the general classification he may target this as a consolation prize.
Stage one is all about the speedsters with Fernando Gaviria and Andre Greipel vying for favouritism.
In the absence of Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish they are the class acts among the sprinters. However, they are short enough and a chance is taken on home hope Sacha Modolo.
Modolo warmed up for the Giro with two stage wins at the Tour of Croatia and is a live 12-1 chance. He should also be backed in Paddy Power's stage match-bet market against compatriot Giacomo Nizzolo who has raced just once this year due to knee tendonitis and may not be at peak fitness early on.
V Nibali to win Giro d'Italia
2pts each-way 6-1 general
I Zakarin to win Kings of the Mountains
0.5pt each-way 80-1 Sky Bet
S Modolo to win stage one
1pt each-way 12-1 bet365
S Modolo to beat G Nizzolo on stage one
3pts 8-11 Paddy Power