• Rúben Silva

Giro d'Italia Route Preview

The opening stage of thr Giro comes already as a hard challenge. The day may have a fight for the stage win and the fight of the overall contenders, but seeing the way some of the overall contenders are riding and the dificulty of the final climb it's likely to see the same sub-plots unroll together.

The prologue is only 8 kilometers long, it will be a short and intense effort, the first 5.9Km will be on the streets of Bologna before a sharp right-hand turn into the Basilica di San Luca climb, 2.1Km at 9.7% average gradient, it is a very inconsistent climb though so the explosive riders and lightweight climbers will have a say in the fastest ascent times.

The first road stage will be one for the sprinters. It isn't completely flat though, there's a somewhat rolling profile to the backend of the stage, the Montalbano climb is 5.8Km long at 6.8% average gradient and comes with only 48Km to the finish, this can play a big part as some of the sprinters may have serious dificulties with such a long effort, that will depend on how the climb is ridden.

There is another categorized climb on the way to the finish that will add more fatigue, but in normal circumstances the climbs should be ridden in a confortable pace which will allow them to get to the finish without any issues.

Heading south for a transition stage, 220 kilometers between Vinci, the birth town of Leonardo da Vinci, and Orbetello. The stage will be much more sprinter friendly than the previous day, the finish relatively untechnical so it's set to be a clash between the leadout trains and their leaders.

The pretty straightforward shape of the route and it's exposure by the sea in the final part can make it dangerous if the wind blows strongly.

Stage 4 will be a rougher challenge, it's a very rolling stage through the Lazio region without any real dificulties but with a very long distance, 235 kilometers and the finish represents well the stage as a bulk.

The final 20 kilometers are very rolling with no real flat parts, and the run-up to Frascati is uphill which will make for a dificult finish, suited for punchy sprinters and the more explosive type of puncheur. The final 2Km have a 4,4% average gradient with a couple of 6/7% sections.

Stage 5 will have the sole circuit finish of the race (discounting stage 16). It's another flat stage with a rolling start which will at this point be very familiar for the riders. But with only 140 kilometers in the route it will be a softer day for the peloton, and the fast run-up to the line will surely make it another one for the fastest riders.

Stage 6 will be the first road stage to make some differences in the road. The main GC contenders should remain unscathed but with the hard finale the attacks and hard pace can create a selection in the bunch, see who are the riders the leaders will have at their best disposal in the mountains, and bonifications can motivate some important attacks aswell as a change of lead likely to happen.

One of the biggest stages of the race with 238 kilometers, with 18Km to go there's the summit of the main climb of the day, 15Km at 4.4% average gradient, it's a very constant climb but will be a long one, too long for many riders, and a 2.6Km climb at 5.4% with 11Km to go. From there on it's relatively flat to the finish and the outcome can be defined by luck and sense of opportunity.

Stage 7 will take the riders to Abruzzo for a hard stage. The finish is known in recent Giro history, mainly in the 2010 where a massive stage caused total chaos in the peloton. With 185 kilometers it won't be a match to that epic day, but the riders will have lots of climbing in the day.

In the latter part of the stage it will be the case, with 6.5Km there's a 2.1Km at 5.6% which is close enough to make decisive attacks, more so if the winner comes from a breakaway. After will come a very fast descent into L'Aquila where the finish will be in a hilltop, with the final kilometer at 7.6% with 11% ramps. It's a puncheurs finale but of course the GC riders will be well aware of the danger of this stage.

And stage 9 will be another flat affair for the sprinters although a more detailed look could say otherwise. The profile looks somewhat gentle due to the low altitude of the final kilometers in relation to the highest point of the stage, but there are some dificult sections in the closing part of the race.

1,1Km at 9% with 77Km to go, 6,8Km at 3.9% with 71Km to go, 3Km at 4,4% with 56Km to go, 1.7Km at 7% with 38Km to go, 4,4Km at 3.3% with 35Km to go, 2.1Km at 4.5% with 24Km to go and 2.7Km at 3.1% with 19Km to go are the noteworthy climbs in what will be a 240 kilometer stage, hard to say the least.

The constant up-and-down of the run-up to Pesaro will keep making it a hard call to control the race, and so more will be a very technical descent that will leave the riders just a mere 3Km to the finish.

Stage 9 presents the first majour challenge for the overall standings. The 34.8 kilometer time-trial is far from flat but is where the specialists will try to take as much advantage as possible.

The first 22Km are flat, from there on the scenario changes completely. The first climb has 6.2% for 5.6Km and then there's a short bump of over a kilometer at 6.4% which will precede a short descent before the final climb to San Marino with 2.6Km at 6.2%. It's a farily hard time-trial, the climbs aren't very constant which will suit the climbers better, the specialists and strong stage-racers will obviously be the best suited for the stage, the gaps that can be made will be a matter of who's got the legs in the day.

After the first rest day comes an easy stage, only 145 kilometers between Ravenna and Modena and the roads will be pan-flat all day long. There isn't much risk of crosswinds except for specific conditions on the day, the finish isn't technical at all except for a short slight pavé section in the center of Modena before the final kilometer.

Into the north of Italy in Piemonte, stage 11 will take the riders to Novi Ligure and as the previous day there won't be any type of dificulty in the profile. Again, depending on the conditions of the day it could be a day blasted by crosswinds but that would take very specific conditions. Besides, the stage is much longer which should give more opportunities for that happening, if not it will be a fairly easy day for the peloton before moving to the mountains.

The transition will be made via a medium mountain stage. It isn't completely right to call it medium mountain as there's a serious climb en route to Pinerolo, the Montoso climb will have the riders ascending an 8.8Km mountain at an average gradient of 9.5%. It's a serious climb where gaps can be made, but the uncertainty over the rivals' climbing legs and the fact that many mountain stages followe will mean this stage will likely not see the contenders make a far-out move, as it comes still 32Km away from the finish

Although, they will be forced to make a brutal effort in the end. The San Maurizio wall summits with only 2Km to go, it is 13% average but 20% maximum during 500 meters on a narrow and cobbled road. This finish was used back in 2016 when Matteo Trentin had a thrilling victory ahead of Moreno Moser and Gianluca Brambilla.

Stage 13 will bring the race's first summit finish of the race. From Pinerolo the race will set towards the Alps and a brutal stage will be the first chance for the first serious blows to be delt between the GC riders on their terrain. The Colle del Lys will make the begining of the stage hard, but it is once they get to Pian del Lupo that the real dificulties come, with 9.4Km at 8.7% only in the categorized part it will be making it a brutal ascent, yet far from the finish.

The summit finish will come in Lago Serrujust below the Colle del Nivolet, the total distance of the ascent is 34Km with 4.8% average gradient but the climb has different sections in itself with some resting periods in the middle of it, but the hardest section is the one that will take the riders to the finish line with 6Km at almost 9%, that after a long drag up to that point it will surely make big gaps and create majour drama between the contenders surely.

Stage 14 will be the first of three queen stages if we can call them that. The route between Saint-Vicent and Courmayeur is brutal to say the least. In only 130 kilometers there's the climb to Verrayes (6.7Km at 7.9%), Verrogne (14.3Km at 7%), Truc D'Arbe (7.7Km at 7.4%), La Salle (2Km at 7.8%) and finally the brutal ascent to the Colle San Carlo with 10.5Km at 9.8%., that summits with 25Km remaining in the stage.

There isn't much to contest in relation to the stage's dificulty, the climbs are steep and long, packed in a very short distance and will come after a tough day's racing. If it wasn't enough for the day there will still be the drag up to Courmayeur, a 5Km long climb at 6% that will lead to a false-flat to the line, which will feel like the hardest of climbs at that point of the stage.

Stage 15 will be very familiar with those who follow Italian cycling, the final section of the race replicates a classical route of Il Lombardia but for one detail that makes a significant difference. The Colma di Sormano will be climbed but not via the Muro di Sormano, made iconic in the Italian monument. That won't make the climb any easy but it will spare the riders of gruelling gradients.

After the Madonna Del Ghisallo/Colma di Sormano combination there's a very technical descent following, an ondulating road to the final cclimb of Civiglio. With 4.2Km at 9.6% it makes for the final challenge of the day in terms of climbing, it will come with just 9Km to go and to the finishing it is mostly descending winding roads.

Stage 16 will be another beastly day in the Alps. Coming after the final rest day, the 226-kilometer long slog through the mountains is one the the Giro's most familiar scenarios and on this day there is no room for a bad performance. The day will be marked by what has been a heavily discussed presence of the Passo Gavia and the Mortirolo in the same stage.

The two climbs will cause absolute havoc in the peloton, with the first going up to over 2600 meters of altitude, climbing 16.5Km at 8%, and the Mortirolo's well-known ramps, with a steep 10.9% throughout the duration of 11900 meters.

As in stage 14 there's a hellish drag to the line in Ponte di Legno, a steep descent down the Mortirolo will leave the riders with a little over 7Km to go where there's a slow drag to the fine averaging 2%, climbing close to 200 meters in height it's far from flat.

Stage 17 will be another big challenge, but "easy" in comparison to what was faced in the previous day. The stage will have some dificulties but is one that should come to a breakaway as the climbers will look to recover in any way possible. There's lots of climbing in the day though with several categorized and uncategorized climbs before the ascent to Anterselva.

The climb will come from a false-flat aproach which will add to it's dificulty, but has 4.5Km at 8.2% which is well enough to make some attacks after a hard stage and race in general. After it's summit there's a technical aproach to the line but in flat gradients.

Stage 18 will be the final opportunity for the sprinters to show what they're made of. If they've resisted so far and are still in the race they will need to take this opportunity, so as to take a win and also rank up points for the Maglia Ciclamino. The stage is suited to a breakaway with most of it's profile in descending roads in general, but the sprinter teams won't want to waste this opportunity in any way.

It's a long stage, 222 kilometers and the finish will be soft on those who can't take the best risks, whatever leadout is left for those team at this point will be crucial. And above all, if still in contention for the jersey, it's fighting to resist the next couple of days.

Stage 19 somehow resembles last year's stage to Prato Nevoso as it antecipates the possibly most important day of the race and has an easier aproach to the final climb (which is long but more shallow gradients, and constant).

The Passo di San Boldo is the main climb that precedes the final one, there are others but they won't have much of an impact on the stage, it will be another stage very suited to a breakaway and in the GC fight it will favour the power climbers, as the gradients don't get very steep and it will be a climb raced at a very steady pace, where the lightweight riders won't have any opportunity, besides that short 10% ramp to make real differences.

And in the Fiemme mountains the race will be decided. The race wasn't shy on mammoth stages and stage 20 is no exception. The race will essentially be a loop throughout the mountains, with the connection between Feltre and Croce D'Aune having the Cima Campo (20Km at 5.8%), the massive Passo Manghen (21.3Km at 7.5%) and the Passo Rolle (19.9Km at 4.6%). Inbetween these climbs there is also uncategorized climbing, and technical descending, only flat roads are almost non-existant.

The penultimate ascent of the Croce D'Aune is 11.2Km long at 5.3% but it's a deceiving gradient, the final 3.2Km of the climb have an 8.3% gradient and a ramp at 16% near the summit making it a brutal climb after what's been a suffocating day.

But it doesn't end there, instead of moving to the finish line the route will take the riders to a descent that will lead to the final (categorized) climb of the race, with 6.9Km at 7.3% this climb is hard but looks so easy comparing to what's been raced previously. By the end of this stage the gaps should be settles and most of the places in the GC confirmed if nothing out of the ordinary happens, but there is still room on the final day for improvement.

And that is, a 17-kilometer time-trial, a hilly one in fact as if the riders hadn't climbed enough. It is very similar to the one raced in 2010, and from the results of that year it's possible to see that there are differences that can be made, but in reality they shouldn't make much of a difference as the differences between the GC riders will certainly be big by this point, and the technical route adding to the climb in the middle will make it more suited to the less specialized.

Stage Importance

14, 16, 20

9, 13, 15, 17, 19

1, 4, 6, 7, 12, 21

2, 3, 8

5, 10, 11, 18

As it is usual in the Giro the dificulties come thick and fast. The opening day should already present some gaps between the favourites, the first week up until stage 9 has a lot of tricky stages but the priority won't be to win time but not to loose essentially. The San Marino time-trial is the first real GC challenge, although the hilly profiles will assist those less strong in them it will always be of a great advantage to mainly Dumoulin/Roglic.

From there on the hard stages just come thick and fast, the race moves into the Alps where it will remain for almost the rest of the Giro, lots of hard stages to make differences but specially stages 14, 16 and 20. Full roller-coaster Alpine stages, with serious mountains in massive succession. It will mean that no slack can be given in terms of form, it is essential to keep form until the final couple of days, there is lots of ground to loose the race.