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Giro d’Italia Guide

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.

Route summary

In a word: steady. Many long and linear climbs to ski stations and a flat time trial stage, a route tilted toward riders like Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome but there are some stages in ambush territory starting with the three in Sicily. There are few pure sprint stages, several are spiced up by a late hill so the points jersey is likely to go a versatile sprinter rather than a dragstrip demon.

Now on to each stage. Note the annotations where TV = Traguardo Volante or Intermediate Sprint and R = Rifornimento or Feed Zone.

Stage 1 – Friday 4 May
The profile says it all, this is a lumpy opening time trial with long steady drags of 3-4% along big avenues before a sharp kick up to the finish line for the final metres.

Stage 2 – Saturday 5 May
One for the sprinters? It’s flat and here lots of big highways which make the race exposed to any coastal crosswinds and the race passes several windsurfing hotspots. Expect a breakaway to go because the mid-stage climb means the mountains jersey is there for the taking.

Stage 3 – Sunday 6 May

Another one for the sprinters as the peloton crosses the Negev desert. It won’t take 40 days and nights although if the weather is calm time might pass slowly before they finish by the Red Sea in Eilat.

Stage 4 – Tuesday 8 May

After a rest day for the riders and travel for the caravan the race returns to Italy and here’s a lively stage that twists around Sicily’s south-east corner, a test for the legs… and arms given the often dilapidated state of the roads here. The finish is typical of the Giro, of Italy, with a hilltop town featuring a twisting, irregular climb to the finish.

Stage 5 – Wednesday 9 May

A start in Agrigento as a tribute to Luc Leblanc, winner of the 1994 World Championships here? Probably not but a good stage nonetheless with another lively finish featuring a 12% ramp just before the 1km to go point to ruin the hopes of heavyset sprinters and reward the more versatile riders with the points jersey.

Stage 6 – Thursday 10 May

The first summit finish of the Giro appropriately enough on Ascension Day. Last year the race also had its first summit finish atop Etna and you might remember the leaders huddled in echelon formation during the climb. This is a different route up the mountain and a more irregular climb, a few steep sections but plenty of 3-4% moments.

Stage 7 – Friday 11 May

If Praia a Mare is familiar the Giro took a similar route in 2016 but added a much bigger climb 50km from the finish to shake things up, this time the approach is much more straightforward.

Stage 8 – Saturday 12 May

A summit finish but a big ring climb. The Giro came here in 2011 when neo-pro and ex-runner Bart de Clercq soloed away to take a big win… and almost vanished from the results thereafter, excepting a stage win in the Tour of Poland. Otherwise it’s a climb for punchy riders, if he’s in form then Diego Ulissi is the prototype for this sort of finish.

Stage 9 – Sunday 13 May

A long day across the Apennines and a battle for the breakaway to stay clear. The final climb up the bluntly-named “Great Rock of Italy” is a famous place in Italy but has been used sparingly by the Giro and this time the race will commemorate Marco Pantani’s 1998 win, the last time the Giro visited. It’s a long climb and often gentle but the final kilometres tighten up and can allow a GC showdown.

Stage 10 – Tuesday 15 May

The longest stage of the race, all the breakaway specialists and escape artists will have an eye on this stage and after warming up before the start the opening climb should see a move barge clear.

Stage 11 – Wednesday 16 May

Another stage for the breakaways across familiar roads from Tirreno-Adriatico and via the town of Filottrano, once home to Michele Scarponi before the steep uphill finish in Osimo.

Stage 12 – Thursday 17 May

It looks as flat as a piadina but they ride into Imola and take the Tre Monti circuit, used before in the Giro and in host to the 1968 world championships and it’s got 4km at 4% including some early 7-8% to eject a sprinter or two before the finish on the Ferrari motor racing circuit.

Stage 13 – Friday 18 May

A stage across the pianura, the plains, and a rest day for all but a few sprinters and their helpers, some of whom will have booked flights home after this stage.

Stage 14 – Saturday 19 May

There’s plenty of climbing along the way but this stage is all about the final climb of Monte Zoncolan, a climb so hard it is frequently used a reference point, for example “is it as hard as the Zoncolan” ask people when a goat path of a climb appears on the Vuelta route. It’s a crucial stage for the climbers because if they have other opportunities, several of the upcoming summit finishes are gentler and allow riders to draft behind their team’s mountain trains: here it’s everyone for themselves, a private contest of Watts per kilo. Put simply the likes of Fabio Aru, Esteban Chaves, Miguel Angel Lopez et al need to take time on Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome.

Stage 15 – Sunday 20 May

On paper this is the most interesting stage of the Giro. It doesn’t have the high altitude or celebrity climbs but there’s the promise of a roller-coaster finish and all with the dull ache of the Zoncolan from the previous day. But it’s not an ambush if everyone is expecting it and the strong teams will look to control things as much as they can.

Stage 16 – Tuesday 22 May

A decisive stage, 34.2km might be historically short for a time trial in a grand tour but these days it’s plenty to prise apart the overall classification and pure climbers can lose minutes on a course like this with its flat roads. It’s in the mountains but rather than taking a climb it sticks to the Adige valley road.

Stage 17 – Wednesday 23 May

A short stage and a tussle between the breakaway and sprinters teams looks likely. This one is the annual wine stage, presumably to the delight of the press room and caravan, here celebrating the fizzy franciacorta.

Stage 18 – Thursday 24 May

180km in the big ring past plenty of rice fields, vineyards and increasing numbers of hazlenut plantations to satisfy the limitless demand of the nearby Ferrero HQ and its Nutella spread. Then a brutal change with the climb to Prato Nevoso, last used in the Giro in 2000 but used in the Tour de France in 2008 and as a guide to the slope Denis Menchov crashed on a hairpin bend going uphill that day. It’s a long steady climb but if it’s a ski station the road is narrow at times. The steepest parts come early but it’s the length that should do the damage.

Stage 19 – Friday 25 May

Arguably the most picturesque stage as the race heads into the Alps and the even slopes but gravel surface of the Colle delle Finestre – this year’s Cima Coppi – which is far from the finish but should still be selective as there’s not much time to recover before the drag up the valley to Sestriere and then the final climb of the Jafferau which is hard going, 7km and most of it over 10%.

Stage 20 – Saturday 26 May

The final chance to turn the tables and the route offers the terrain to upset things. The Tsecore is a hard climb which – records seem hard to find – is being climbed for the first time and after a steady approach up the valley flicks onto a smaller road with sustained sections of 12-14% followed by a twisting descent back down to the Aosta valley and a climb straight away up the Saint Pantaléon, a steady but hard climb before the gradual finish to Cervina, better know to many in Europe and beyond as the Matterhorn.

Stage 21 – Sunday 27 May

Basta! Whatever you might think about Rome’s mayor she’s brought – should that be bought? – the Giro to the Italian capital, ending the oddity of a grand tour that often sidestepped its capital city. A few laps of Rome await, part urban criterium, part theme park with added cobbles.

The Jerseys

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 newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport which is 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 2,3,7,12,13,17 and 21) 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 4,5,8,10,11) 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: (Stages 1,6,9,14,15,16,18,19 and 20) 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 three: 8-4-1

Blue: the mountains jersey. It is sponsored by Banca Mediolanum, a bank. Points are available on the climbs. There are five categories of climb:

  • 13 fourth category climbs: the first three riders crossing the top of the climb win 3-2 and 1 points respectively
  • Nine third category climbs: the first four riders over the top get 7-4-2-1 points
  • Nine second category climbs: first six riders get 15-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • Eight first category climbs: the first eight riders get 35-18-12-9-6-4-2-1 points
  • CC or Cima Coppi: a special award, the “Coppi Summit” for the highest point of the race. This year it is the Finestre on Stage 19. The first nine win 45-30-20-14-10-6-4-2-1 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 1993, 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 6 – Thursday 10 May: the Etna summit finish
  • Stage 9 – Sunday 13 May: the Gran Sasso d’Italia
  • Stage 14 – Saturday 19 May: Monte Zoncolan
  • Stage 15 – Sunday 20 May: the Sappada mountain stage
  • Stage 16 – Tuesday 21 May: maybe not gripping but the TT will be decisive
  • Stage 18 – Thursday 24 May: the Prato Nevoso summit finish
  • Stage 19 – Friday 25 May: the Finestre and Jafferau
  • Stage 20 – Saturday 26 May: 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.

As ever cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds. 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.

Giro iCal

iCal file

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.