The 2015 Giro d’Italia will take place from May 9 – 31. With fewer summit finishes and time trial stages it offers a varied route with the best saved for last.
Here’s a look at the route, the early contenders and some more thoughts.
- One 17.6km team time trial
- One 59.2km solo time trial
- 6 “summit” finishes of which 4 are in the high mountains
- 7 “sprint stages”
The opening stage is a team time trial run on cycle path. It’s on an old railway line featuring illuminated tunnels and just wide enough to fit a team car and like last summer’s Dauphiné, a way to show off the local infrastructure.
Where The Race Will Be Won
Stage 5 above is the first summit finish. Abetone isn’t a hard climb, steeped in legend rather than steep in gradient, 7.2% over 8km and famous for the apocalyptic stage won by Charly Gaul in the 1950s. Selective but not decisive.
Stage 8 and the climb to Campitello Matese isn’t famous but hopefully that’s but hopefully that’s a matter of time. This is a tricky stage across the Apennines, a grand day for a breakaway before a long uphill finish, 13km at 6.9%.
Stage 14 is a 59.2km the time trial stage is the longest to feature in a stage race since 2009. Coming after two weeks of racing will only make it harder. The route from Treviso to Valdobbiadene takes the race to the foot of the Alps, a big ring course.
Stage 15 goes up the Daone on the way to the Madonna di Campiglio, infamous as the scene of Marco Pantani’s ejection from the race in 1999 and in need of a makeover. The long slopes ensure a battle but they’re not steep, 5-6% most of the way.
Stage 16 needs only 100km to reach Aprica via the Passo del Tonale but then heads out to scale the Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina, the hardest side with 39 hairpin bends. It’s rated as one of the hardest climbs in Italy and chased by a fast descent before the sapping drag back to Aprica.
Stage 19 sees the race head up the Aosta valley to Cervinia, better known as the Matterhorn and a similar but not identical route to the 2012 Giro stage to the same finish, the day where Ryder Hesjedal put time into his rivals, arguably the winning moment of the race.
Stage 20 and the best is saved for last. It’s the Queen Stage with the Cima Coppi point on the Colle delle Finestre. Like Stage 16’s Mortirolo, it’s a stage where the intermediate climb overshadows the ultimate summit finish. The Finestre is 20km long, 10% steep and crucially, a gravel road higher up. The offroad aspect will wow the crowds and make the headlines for cognoscenti the climb is notable for its views, there are few more beautiful places to decide a bike race. After a paved descent the final road to Sestriere is a less than 6% slope, symbolic of the 2015 Giro’s more modest slopes.
Fewer summit finishes, fewer sprint stages, fewer time trials. There’s less climbing in a qualitative and quantitative sense, with fewer mountains to climb and among the summit finishes, some reduced gradients. The long time trial makes for a more balanced overall contest.
The relative lack of big stages isn’t a problem, it’s relative after all compared to previous years or, say, the Vuelta. No other grand tour does intermediate stages so well, Italy’s geography and medieval history lend themselves to wondrous uphill finishes which probably won’t determine the race but will provide action in between the high mountain stages although for the boot-shaped nation the race never gets as far south as the ankle.
It’s a bit early to predict the winner but there’s Alberto Contador vs the rest. The Spaniard has a point to prove after being stripped of the win in 2011 following his CAS-buterol case.
Contador has said he’ll do the Giro-Tour double and it seems the route has been softened to suit him (presumably a payment too) and thereby increase the star attraction of the race. The irony of all this is a flatter route might not suit Fabio Aru. So in promoting the foreign star RCS could dampen the home challenge from the Sardinian who seems to be the real deal, his Vuelta proved the promise of the Giro. Surely Vincenzo Nibali will focus on the Tour, there has been talk of the Giro-Tour double but Astana simply don’t need Nibali for the Giro given Aru’s potential?
Nairo Quintana won’t be back. A reluctant starter this year, 2015 will see him having a clear run at the Tour. What of the others? Joaquim Rodriguez is in the awkward position of being one of the world’s best climbers and stage races, so much that we expect a high GC position. What value another podium or a top-5? What will Team Sky do, send Richie Porte back? This is course perfect for Tejay van Garderen, his excellent time trial skills and recovery powers mean make him well-suited to the route but with Cadel Evans retiring the squad probably can’t afford to let him have July off. Maybe, just maybe it’s ideal for Rigoberto Urán?
Thibaut Pinot has expressed an interest, he loves racing in Italy and even has an Italian tattoo on his arm. Normally the race suits him more than the Tour with its vertiginous climbs, only he’s a Frenchman on a French team and targeting the Giro is tantamount to treachery, especially for a team with a large roster of support riders but, for now, only one capable GC/mountains leader. With this route it’s likely he stays in France, ditto for Pierre Rolland who might not repeat his Italian visit.
All this precludes the Tour de France route for 2015, many will make their decision once this route is clear.
The Giro-Tour double
It’s fashionable to say you can’t do the Giro-Tour double but nobody minds when riders do the Tour-Vuelta combo. This year there were 34 days between the Giro’s end and the Tour’s start, but only 27 between the Tour and Vuelta. It’s the same for 2014: the Giro-Tour double allows an extra week’s rest compared to the Tour-Vuelta doblete.
Now it’s not just about the interval in between, the Vuelta has featured shorter stages which have helped reduce fatigue while the Giro can be more gruelling. All the same, the double has to be possible.
Normally it’s 18 World Tour teams plus four wildcard invitations. Currently we have 17 teams for the World Tour but noises coming out of Switzerland suggest IAM Cycling could make a move for the 18th spot. Whether RCS gets to invite four or five teams, one will go to the winner of the Coppa Italia team prize, the season-long competition in Italy. There are still three rounds to go (Giro dell’Emilia, Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli and Giro della Romagna) and Neri Sottoli lead ahead of Bardiani-CSF.
It’s problematic as Neri Sottoli have few riders capable of animating the Giro in 2015. Their best rider Matteo Rabottini was rumbled for EPO, the team’s third positive in two years, leaving a rump of riders that don’t convince for a grand tour although team manager Luca Scinto is trying to sign riders to fix this. Bardiani-CSF are a certain invite, regular stage winners and scandal-free. Androni-Venezuela are probably due an invite being Italian too. For the last place will MTN-Qhubeka want to ride or will they save all their energy for a Tour de France wildcard? United Healthcare are aiming for a Giro ride and have added Daniele Ratto and Marco Canola for this purpose.
The presentation came live from Milan’s Palazzo del Ghiaccio, the “Ice Palace” and one-time ice rink. A provocative location given the Giro’s propensity for slippery roads and icy mountains? Well just a good venue in Milan but a reminder that the weather’s often a guest in the Giro. It’s why the race has to follow the repetitive format of a loop south and leaving the Alps as late as possible. It suits everyone having the big climbs late but the race’s spot on the calendar means snow is often a worry.