It leaked out the other day but RCS have today given full details of the 2016 Giro d’Italia route. All the stages are online at the Giro website but here’s a closer look at the route, the highlights and the likely contenders.
A theme? The presentation today didn’t really offer a story for the 2016. The pundits on stage were keen to say the Giro can be used to tell the story of Italy but didn’t put a story the route.
- Three time trials, including one mountain stage
- Six likely sprint finishes
- Six stages over 200km in length
- Seven mountain stages including five summit finishes
Route Summary: compared to 2015 this is a race with more time trials and an easier start. 2016 won’t have the breathless opening week we saw this year as the GC contenders went on the attack all the time. Instead it’s a classic route albeit with fewer mountain stages, there are only four high mountain stages. One for the all-round stage race riders? Perhaps but the mid-mountain stages reward the bold too.
The first three stages are in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands opening with a 9.8km time trial on Friday 8 May and then two road stages over the weekend, if you’re not a local this might not set your heart racing but the traffic calming measures on Dutch roads will prove highly stressful for the peloton before the transfer flight to south of Italy.
Stage 6 features the first summit finish of the race. As usual the Giro’s first summit finish is a test of form but is not meant to settle things. Still the climb to the ski resort of Aremogna features some tough 7% ramps to force a selection.
Stage 8 goes to Arezzo and as the profile flashed up it looked bad for a moment with a flat finish: no uphill run into the historic part of town? Fear not the alternative is just as good, instead of the medieval flagstones the race will showcase the sterrata, better known to cycling fans as the strade bianche gravel roads on the climb of the Alpe di Poti.
Stage 9 is the crucial time trial. It celebrates the Chianti wines but vines are not merely a backdrop, the propitious terrain for wine-making means rolling hills and exposed roads. It climbs with 750m of vertical gain but the climbs are steady and on large roads, this is a course for time trial specialists and where some need to put time into the climbers.
Stage 10 is a medium mountain stage with hard climbing later on, revisiting Sestola which featured in 2014 – Pieter Weening won – but with a different route to the finish.
Stage 13 is looks small compared to the high Alpine peaks but there’s still 3,400m of vertical gain and some tricky descents, especially later on. The Cima Porzus is 8km at 10% chased by the climb of Valle, 6km at 8%.
Stage 14 is a marathon mountain stage, literally so as it borrows the route of the Maratona dles Dolomites gran fondo and RCS and the Maratona have worked together to make this happen. Look at the six-pack of the climbs: Pordoi, Sella, Gardena, Campolongo, Giau and Valparola.
Stage 19 sees the Tour d’Italie ride over to France, weather permitting, via the interminable Colle dell’Agnello, aka the Col d’Agnel before the summit finish to Risoul which last featured in the 2014 Tour de France. It’s 12.5km at 6.9% and on a steady, regular road and enough to tease apart the pretenders and contenders.
Stage 20 is the final mountain stage before the procession to Turin. It’s just 134km and starts in France, in fact it’s very reminiscent of the trend in the Tour de France to feature a short and spiky mountain stage as the last chance and should offer action from start to finish.
The Giro has had problems with snow in the mountains before and the 2016 route is almost provoking Mother Nature with a series of high altitude passes, several of which will have to be opened prematurely in order to let the race through. Take the Col d’Agnel on the Franco-Italian border, at 2,744m it’s Europe’s third highest mountain pass and it normally opens in June but will be climbed on 27 May. Risky? Yes but it’s first a question of sending the snow-ploughs up early, then crossing fingers because any Alpine ride in May means hoping for the best but the high altitude raises the risks.
Three solo time trials in one race but is this enough to tempt a stage racer away from the Tour de France? We’ll have to see the Tour route on 20 October which is likely to have two time trials anyway. For the Giro there maybe three stages but it’s just with 61km in total and the third time trial is a pure mountain climb.
There are six stages over 200km and if several present little difficulty beyond the distance it means fatigue adds up like compound interest.
The maglia rosa will be sponsored by ENEL, Italy’s largest energy company and a coup for the race as it lands a giant corporate sponsor to replace the smaller biscuit maker Balocco.
Stage race specialists have to make a choice between the Giro and the Tour and as discussed before this is a problem for RCS are Contador’s struggles in July mean those who want to win the Tour will skip the Giro, leaving the Italian race without a lot of star names. 2015 was already supposed to be more accommodating and “human” but there’s no way to make a grand tour easy. The lack of stars doesn’t make the race less exciting, it’s all about the relative contests between riders and teams and if anything it could bring more surprises.
Will Vincenzo Nibali ride? There’s the small matter of Astana team politics with him and Fabio Aru working out who does what next year regarding captaincy for the Tour de France. It seems Nibali is likely to ride the Giro and Aru the Tour as the Sardinian is in the ascendancy. Either way both are the obvious picks. The Giro’s problem is attracting others away from the Tour de France.
Team Sky have so many riders it’s a question of who is surplus to requirements for July. Will Geraint Thomas go all in for his tilt at a grand tour or perhaps it’s new signing Mikel Landa with Leopold König and Sergio Henao as Plan B options?
There are some riders who could win the Giro if all goes their way but right now the Tour de France looks beyond them. Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran come to mind, especially given their abilities against the clock. Uran is moving to Cannondale-Garmin and would have a whole team dedicated to supporting him in the venture while Porte’s choice is dependent on his aims for the Tour de France and the competing ambitions of Tejay van Garderen and Rohan Dennis. Orica-Greenedge will have to plan for Esteban Chaves and the Yates Brothers. Robert Gesink rode high in the Tour de France and could be tempted by a shot at the Giro podium.
There are locals like Domenico Pozzovivo who will be joined by team mate J-C Péraud while former Ag2r La Mondiale rider Carlos Betancur has the talent but does he have the appetite… to win? Could Thibaut Pinot try? He’s an excellent climber, time trials well, rides better in the cold than the heat and thrives in Italy plus this is a chance to lead a grand tour away from the pressure-cooker environment of July. But he’s French and leads a French team so it looks impossible.