A picture shows the peloton during the 12th stage of the 94th Tour of Italy, run from Castelfidardo to Ravenna on May 19, 2011. Contador retained the pink jersey after the 12th stage of the Giro. (LUK BENIES/AFP/Getty Images)

Milan, April 30 2012 – A total of 198 riders, from 22 different countries, are set to ride the 2012 Giro d’Italia, which begins on Saturday May 5, with a individual time trial in Herning, Denmark.

Italian and international riders will battle for overall success and the winner’s final maglia rosa. 2011 winner Michele Scarponi leads the Lampre-ISD team with Damiano Cunego, while 2010 winner Ivan Basso leads the Liquigas-Cannondale team. The Czech Republic’s Roman Kreuziger (Astana) leads the international challenge, along with Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) of Spain, John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) of France, Frank Schleck (RadioShack Nissan Trek) of Luxembourg. Schleck is surely an overall contender after his third place in the 2011 Tour de France, Jose Rujano (Androni) from Venezuela and Canadian of Garmin – Barracuda Ryder Hesjedal.

The Giro d’Italia always inspires new young riders and gives them a chance to showcase their talent. Three names to watch out for at this year’s Giro d’Italia are the USA’s Peter Stetina (Garmin- Barracuda), Belgium’s Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) and Italy’s Manuele Boaro (Team Saxo Bank). Talented young time trialists Jack Bobridge (GreenEdge Cycling Team) of Australia, Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team) of the USA and Geraint Thomas (Sky Procycling) of Wales could cause a surprise in the opening time trial in Herning.

The fastest sprinters in the world will clash in this year’s Giro d’Italia, with current world champion Mark Cavendish of Great Britain leading the long list of sprinters in the race. Cavendish will be challenged by Norway’s Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team), the USA’s Tyler Farrar (Garmin- Barracuda), Argentina’s JJ Haedo (Team Saxo Bank), Australians Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Matt Goss (GreenEdge Cycling Team), Belgium’s Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol), Theo Bos (Rabobank) of the Netherlands and Arnaud Demare (FDJ-Big Mat) of France. The Italian sprinters will be looking for success on home roads, with Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma – Quick Step), Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia), Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Daniele Bennati (Radioshack Nissan Trek) flying the flag for Italy at the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Other big-name riders looking for stage victories and perhaps a few days in the race leader’s iconic maglia rosa include Diego Ulissi (Lampre ISD), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team), Enrico Battaglin (Colnago-CSF Inox) Eros Capecchi (Liquigas Cannondale) and Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM).

Race director Mauro Vegni said: “I think we’ve got a high-quality field for this year’s Giro d’Italia. The presence of Frank Schleck will intensify the battle for overall victory and raise the profile of the Giro d’Italia even more. Mark Cavendish’s name stands out in the long list of sprinters at the Giro d’Italia but he’ll have a lot of competition from the likes of Hushovd, Farrar, Guardini and all the other fast finishers.”

“We’re especially pleased about the huge number of talented young riders at this year’s Giro d’Italia. They’ll have a great opportunity to take on some of the biggest names in the sport and show what they can do on a world stage.”

Race number 108 will not be issued at the Giro d’Italia to remember Wouter Weylandt.