Here’s a simple and accessible Giro d’Italia guide. There’s a concise preview of every stage below as well as explainers on the rules for the mountains and points competitions; TV guide and more.
The Giro is always backloaded with mountain stages at the end but this time it’s even more pronounced with an opening phase to delight the sprinters and little climbing until well into the second week. Then the second half over-compensates with a lot of vertical gain, there’s more climbing in this year’s Giro than last year but the summit finishes vary, some are even big ring climbs and the hardest climbing is often mid-stage but there are still some tough, selective finishes. There are three time trials with a total of 59.8km, more than any other race this year, and they’ve all got significant climbs to advantage the GC contenders over the TT specialists.
Now on to each stage. Note the annotations where TV = Traguardo Volante or Intermediate Sprint and R = Rifornimento or Feed Zone.
Stage 1 – Saturday 11 May
An 8km time trial with two parts, first a fast section through the streets of Bologna and then a hill climb to the San Luca basilica, a 1.8km ascent that averages 10.8% and has sustained ramps at 14% and then 16%. Openers like this can help with the hierarchy, this will be a solid test of fitness for the weeks to come.
Stage 2 – Sunday 12 May
The race traverses the Apennines but this one for the sprinters. The two late climbs will encourage a bit of action for the final 50km as riders jostle for the mountains competition because win at Montalbano and you can hope to keep the jersey for several days. On inspection Montalbano is a 6km climb at 5.8%.
Stage 3 – Monday 13 May
Another one for the sprinters as the race heads south.
Stage 4 – Tuesday 14 May
It wasn’t long ago that the Giro signed a contract to finish in Rome but whether it was last year’s flagstone fiasco or the something internal to the Rome mayoralty which, to be generous, has it challenges, it’s gone and today marks the closest the Giro gets to the capital with a finish in Frascati, home of the DOC wine and like a good vintage there’s a nice finish here with an uphill run through the streets of the town.
Stage 5 – Wednesday 15 May
One for the sprinters and a day where you probably shouldn’t set aside hours of viewing but it’s a quick 140km ride.
Stage 6 – Thursday 16 May
A long day in the saddle at 238km and if the finish has some climbing the main ascent is 15km at a steady 4-5% for the most part and the finish is a gentle uphill slope.
Stage 7 – Friday 17 May
After a brief spin past beaches and numerous gelatiere, the race heads inland. The Svolte de Popoli climb is famous for local motorsport and then there’s a lively finish in L’Aquila with sharp ramps.
Stage 8 – Saturday 18 May
Another long day but just maybe the small climbs the final third help to break things up. The roads should be familiar to some in the peloton it’s the same coastal road from Gabbice to Pesaro used in 2013 when Alex Dowsett was the surprise TT winner ahead of Bradley Wiggins.
Stage 9 – Sunday 19 May
A crucial time trial, 34.8km and with some sustained climbing and a total of 900m of vertical gain as the race goes into the microstate of San Marino.
Stage 10 – Tuesday 21 May
Flat and mercifully just 145km but a gourmet’s delight as the stage runs near to the homeland of many of Italian cooking’s central ingredients.
Stage 11 – Wednesday 22 May
Another chance for the sprinters as the race heads to Novi Ligure, an industrial town that has a cycling museum and links to Fausto Coppi, who as a boy, would deliver groceries on a bike across the region.
Stage 12 – Thursday 23 May
The theme of the Cuneo-Pinerolo stage is Fausto Coppi’s 1949 raid between the two towns although that happened in the Alps, this stage crosses the plains for the most part before the sharp climb to the tiny ski station of Montoso and 9km at 9.5% and most of it over 10% with some sustained 12-14% sections, a selective climb chased by a twisty descent and 20km across the plains to the finish before Pinerolo and if the profile looks flat, watch out for the tricky 20% cobbled “wall” that was used before in 2016.
Stage 13 – Friday 24 May
The first “summit” finish. First a familiar road in the Colle del Lys, used in last May’s Giro when it was climbed at warp speed in the other direction on the way to the Finestre, this time it’s the steeper side but there’s a long time to recover and regroup before the Pian del Lupo, “wolf field” and a surprise or two with 9.4km at 8.7% and long ramps above 10% before the top where the slope levels out and then a reciprocal, twisty descent to Orco valley, once famous for gold panning, and now finally on the map for the Giro. This blog’s Roads to Rides series features roads used in races around the world with the exception of the Colle del Nivolet, added because it’s an amazing road but has yet to be used in a pro race until here. Only they don’t go all the way to the top of the pass, just to the Serrù dam which is plenty at 2,250m above sea level.
Stage 14 – Saturday 25 May
The Giro borrows from the trend to short stages with just 131km as they head up the Aosta valley, halfpiping via the lower slopes of the Col de San Pantaleon to Verrayes, then the loop via Verrogne then back up the other side of the valley around Combes before tackling the Colle San Carlo, a rarely used climb in the Giro but familiar to many in the peloton from regular use in the U23 Giro della Valle d’Aosta. It’s a sustained steep climb, the slope bites from the start and then it just gets steeper with long sections above 10% before dropping down to pick up the Col du Petit Saint Bernard’s hairpin heaven descent down to the Aosta valley and then a ride up the valley to Courmayeur for the flattish finish.
Stage 15 – Sunday 26 May
Does the finish look familiar? It’s a copycat stage of Il Lombardia via the Madonna del Ghisallo, Sormano (but the main road, not the wall) and then Civiglio, all together a good day for the breakaway.
Stage 16 – Tuesday 28 May
A revised stage because of the snow, gone is the Passo Gavia. It’s still a hard day but not as mythical and if the Mortirolo is hard there’s 30km to the finish.
Stage 17 – Wednesday 29 May
A day for the breakaway, the stage is Alpine but a pause between the high mountains and despite the profile, no summit finish really as it’s uphill but not up a sustained mountain pass.
Stage 18 – Thursday 30 May
A quasi rest day for some and a last chance for the sprinters.
Stage 19 – Friday 31 May
A mountain stage of sorts, first trip through the Passo San Boldo. Your normally go over most mountain passes but the San Boldo is a collection of hairpin tunnels, a hastily-built road to allow supplies to reach the front late during WW1 and locals, including women and children, were pressed into working day and night to build this. The comes the finish to San Martino, is it a summit finish? It’s the lower half of the Passo Rolle and for the most part a steady 6% slope which suits strong teams rather than flyweight climbers.
Stage 20 – Saturday 1 June
194km and a Dolomite roller-coaster with relentless climbing including a final ascent of 7km at 7%. The Passo Manghen is the new Cima Coppi after Stage 16 was revised.
Stage 21 – Sunday 2 June
The race ends with a 17km time trial to Verona (not 15.6km as the profile says), a hill in the middle and a route used in the Giro time trials before as well as the World Championships before the finish in the Roman amphitheatre.
There are four jerseys in the race: pink, cyclamen, blue and white.
Pink: the most famous one, the maglia rosa, it is awarded to the rider with the shortest overall time for all the stages added together. As such, they have covered the course faster than anyone else. It is pink because the race has always been organised by La Gazzetta Dello Sport, a newspaper printed on bright pink paper. It is sponsored by Enel, an energy company.
There are time bonuses available on all the stages except the time trials:
- 10-6-4 seconds for the first three riders respectively on each stage
- 3-2-1 seconds are available for the first three riders at the second of two intermediate “TV” sprints on each of the road stages
Cyclamen: the points competition. Riders pick up points at the intermediate sprints, the traguardi volanti marked as “TV” on the profiles above and at the finish line. The allocation of points depends on the stage in question, they are categorised with the typical sprint stages offering more points in a bid to place the purple-toned jersey on the shoulders of a sprinter who is handy with mental arithmetic. The maglia ciclamino is sponsored by Segafredo Zanetti, a brand of coffee.
- Category A+B stages (Stages 3,4,5,10,11,18) offer points for the first 15 riders at the finish: 50-35-25-18-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. For the TV there are points for the first eight: 20-12-8-6-4-3-2-1
- Category C stages: (Stages 2,6,7,8,12) offer points for the first 10: 25-18-12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. For the TV there are points for the first five: 10-6-3-2-1
- Category D+E: (Stages 1,9,13,14,15,16,17,19,20,21) offer points for the first 10: 15-12-9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.
- For the TV there are points for the first eight: 12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1
Blue: the mountains jersey. It is sponsored by Banca Mediolanum, a bank. Points are available atop the climbs and for 2019 the scale has been adjusted in favour of first rider over the climbs. There are five categories of climb:
- 10 fourth category climbs: the first three riders crossing the top of the climb win 3-2 and 1 points respectively
- 8 third category climbs: the first four riders over the top get 9-4-2-1 points
- 12 second category climbs: first six riders get 18-8-6-4-2-1 points
- 8 first category climbs: the first eight riders get 40-18-12-9-6-4-2-1 points
- CC or Cima Coppi: a special award, the “Coppi Summit” for the highest point of the race. This year it is the Passo Gavia on Stage 16. The first nine win 50-30-20-14-10-6-4-2-1 points
White: for the best young rider, this is awarded on the same basis as the pink jersey, except the rider must be born after 1 January 1994, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Euro Spin, a discount supermarket.
Obviously a rider can’t wear two jerseys at once, they’d get too hot. So if a rider leads several classifications, they take the most prestigious jersey for themselves and the number two ranked rider in the other competition gets to wear the other jersey. For example if a rider has both the pink jersey and the blue mountains jersey they’ll wear pink whilst whoever is second in the mountains jersey will sport blue jersey. In case you’re wondering the official hierarchy is pink > points > mountains > white.
There are also a host of daily prizes which keep the podium ceremonies going for some time like the Super Team, Winning Team, Fairplay, Breakaway and more.
The unmissable stages
Anything can happen during the Giro but there are some stages that matter more than others.
- Stage 7 – Friday 17 May: the L’Aquila finish, a mini classic
- Stage 9 – Sunday 19 May: the San Marino time trial, maybe not great TV but decisive
- Stage 12 – Thursday 23 May: the first mountain pass
- Stage 13 – Friday 24 May: the first summit finish and the cobbled wall in the finish
- Stage 14 – Saturday 25 May: a big mountain stage in the Aosta valley
- Stage 15 – Sunday 26 May: the Lombardia classic as a stage, all the breakaway specialists will go for it
- Stage 16 – : the Alps with the Gavia and Mortirolo
- Stage 20 – Saturday 1 June: the final mountain stage
Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe plus Australia and New Zealand. It’s on L’Equipe TV in France and streaming via Fubo in the US and Dazn in Japan.
Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra coverage, it’s on TV and radio in Italy and the geo-restricted website RAI.it. The timing varies but as a rule the live coverage begins at 2.45pm CET and the finish is expected for around 5.15pm CET each day.
Click or save the ics / iCal / iCalendar file and you can import it into your electronic diary. One or two clicks and it’s on your iPhone / Outlook etc and for more info on how to put it in your diary, sync with Google etc, see the dedicated Giro ical page.