Chris Hamilton will be one of three locals riding in the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Team Sunweb.

LOCAL cyclists Jack Haig, Chris Hamilton and Zak Dempster will be among a crop of eight Australians saddling up for this year’s 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy).

The race is the second biggest stage race on the international cycling calendar, shaded by only the Tour de France.

Haig will ride for the Orica-Scott team after a strong run at the Ardennes classic one-day races.

Hamilton has been picked as part of Team Sunweb’s defence of Dutchman Tom Dumoulin’s 2017 title and Zak Dempster makes a return to the grand tour stage with the Israel Cycling Academy outfit.

It will be a Giro debut for all three – Hamilton and Haig have both previously raced at the Tour of Spain, while Dempster completes his set of grand tours having raced both the Tour de France and Tour of Spain previously.

Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef is making no bones about the aspiration of his team in this year’s race.

“We go into the 101st Giro with similar targets to last year; looking for a GC result with Tom,” he said.

“Our Giro squad selection is made based on the characteristics of the course with the right balance between talented climbers and our experienced captains.”

Mitchelton-Scott team director Matt White was also confident, saying “on paper we have a really good team, everyone is arriving into the shape they need to be in at the right time”.

Haig will ride in support of GC hopefuls Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates.

Dempster’s goals will be different altogether. With his ICA team riding through home territory when the race starts in Jerusalem this weekend, it has named two Israeli Grand Tour debutants – Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv.

Supporting them through to the finish and targeting breakaway results will be a big focus for the Tel Aviv-based team.

The 2018 Giro starts on Saturday night and continues until May 27.

– Joel Peterson