The 2018 Giro d’Italia Route

All roads lead to Rome and the route of the 2018 Giro d’Italia was presented late last year with a course going from Israel to the Italian capital. Here are some notes on the course.

Giro stage profiles

The race starts on a Friday in Jerusalem with a 9.7km time trial, 1,700m too long for a prologue so it’s Stage 1 and on a rolling course that is either and an early chance for the GC contenders to start establishing a temporary pecking order. Stages 2 and 3 are two likely sprint finishes where the aim will be to beam back images of the scenery but watch for the wind given the interaction of the Mediterranean, the mountains and the blazing sunshine.

The race then has a logistical challenge to reach Sicily where the Giro will spend three days with progressively harder finishes. Stage 4 and the finish in Caltagirone should eject some of the less versatile sprinters. Stage 5 to Santa Ninfa is for the puncheurs.

On the Thursday Stage 6 sees the race returns to Mount Etna but if this sounds familiar, they climb a different road. The race finishes at the astronomical observatory and hopefully this time we’ll glimpse the stars of the 2018 Giro because the final kilometres average 8% so we’re unlikely to see the same high altitude echelon formation.

Stage 7 sees the race on the Italian mainland for the sprinters… who can cope with the late climb which should spice things up. If the name of Praia a Mare is familiar it’s because it featured in 2016 when Diego Ulissi won a lively stage finish, this is a gentler finish but still sees the race dart inland to stir things up, Milan-Sanremo style.

Stage 8 is another summit finish and a return to Montevergine di Mercogliano but this is a long and gentle climb, the kind where drafting others helps a lot and it suits the rider who can snipe the win from a 20-30 rider sprint. Bart de Clercq won here in 2011 with a potent display to hold off the bunch and maybe another ex-track and field rider like Michael Woods can triumph? Otherwise it’s a Valverde kind of finish.

Stage 9 heads to the Gran Sasso d’Italia, literally the “big rock of Italy” and a long stage with a long final climb where there will be rolling than rocking, the kind where a team will set a tempo and the big attacks won’t go until late because the slope only bites near the finish.

Stage 10 is for the breakaway with a climb at the start to help the move go clear. Everyone will have their work cut out on the longest stage in the race as they cross Italy’s Apennine spine.

Stage 11 is another good day for a breakaway as they cross the rough but beautiful roads of the Marche region. The Giro rides through Filottrano, once home to Michele Scarponi – the route passes the exact place where he was killed – before an uphill finish around Osimo, famous for little except the Osimo treaty of 1975 which partitioned Trieste, an accident or after the Jerusalem grande partenza, a theme?

Stage 12 is one of those days when viewers will know exactly when to turn on the TV. It’s featureless and flat until the late climb of Tre Monti, the old World Championship course most recently used in 2015 when Ilnur Zakarin got the stage win. This route is a lot less spicy than past approaches but likely to thwart most sprinters. Stage 13 is another long flat stage with a late climb only if the profile looks similar to the previous day it is more gentle and should suit the sprinters more.

Stage 14 and the Monte Zoncolan summit finish, a must-watch moment and luckily it falls on a Saturday (or rather it is planned as audiences peak at weekends). The climb needs little introduction and is infamous to the point of serving as a comparator, “is such-and-such climb as steep as the Zoncolan” we might ask. It’s directly preceded by two small climbs meaning only a small group of leaders and their lieutenants should start the Zoncolan and then it’s everyone for themselves.

Stage 15 has one of the most interesting routes with a trio of late climbs in the Dolomites on the approach to Sappada. This could encourage late attacks and with a rest day awaiting hopefully some take their chances.

Stage 16 is the fast 34.5km time trial over a flat route with little to disrupt the pace, the most technical moment of the day will be the decision over what chainring to fit, a 55T or perhaps a 56T? It’s a short course but these days the exchange rate of time gaps between mountain stages and TTs has tilted a lot to the latter so only a few kilometres are needed to see someone like Tom Dumoulin put a minute or more into serious GC rivals, some can lose over two minutes here.

Stage 17 is for the sprinters again, a reason to encourage some to stick in the race. Past editions of the Giro have had wine-themed time trials, here it’s on a normal stage and the race to Iseo celebrates the fizzy Franciacorta wines.

Stage 18 brings the first rendez-vous with the Piedmont Alps and a dash across the plains to the Prato Nevoso summit finish, what the Italians call a salita secca. It’s a ski station access road with a a parabolic gradient, 16km at under 6% but after gentle earlier slopes it rises to a more selective 7-8% towards the finish.

Stage 19 has an enticing route with the Colle delle Finestre midway – the 2018 Cima Coppi – before passing Sestriere and then onto the Jafferau finish, used in 2013 but if you don’t remember the climb it’s ok because that day thick cloud meant no TV transmission for most of the stage. The hope is for fireworks on the Finestre with its gravel as it is long and selective enough to reduce the lead group down to only a few riders but the prospect of riding up the Susa valley will dampen any solo bids for glory before the final summit finish.

Stage 20 is the final mountain stage and features three hard climbs in and around the Aosta valley but each gets successively easier. The “Tsecore” on “Mont Tseuc” has a sign at the top saying “Tzecore” and either way it spells hardship. It’s a tough, rural climb with a steep start and tough sections all the way up before a wider descent and then the more steady but still tough Saint Pantaléon climb and then the uphill drag to Cervinia at the foot of Monte Cervino, also known as the Matterhorn.

Stage 21 and the race returns to Rome, finally the Giro goes to the capital and there’s a parade that turns into criterium past many of the great city’s monuments, presumably to the delight and bemusement of the tourists in town.

Overall thoughts
The Israel start got all the headlines but look at the map more closely and it’s the most benign part of the route with a fixed time trial and two vanilla road stages, a change of scenery but not the script. It’s when the race returns to Italy that things liven up and the three days in Sicily that should offer lively racing. As the race heads north it crosses the Apeninnes are visited but typically uses the steadier climbs feature so they’re not ambush country. Indeed overall this is a route packed with long steady climbs, a route to enjoy in a touring car or on a big-engined motorbike rather than by bicycle. Tactically this lends itself to a route where a strong team helps, the steadier climbs suit powerful squads who can pace their leaders. This is reinforced by the long distances of many stages, the Giro isn’t copying Le Tour’s fashion for short distance mountain stages. Indeed the Giro’s route has become more Tour-like with long ski station access road climbs while this year’s Tour gets more Giro-esque with the steeper back country climbs being explored in July. As ever we can parse the course in fine detail but once the race has gone through we remember the actions of the riders rather than the underlying route.

The Zoncolan stage is an obvious highlight, especially because of the two hard climbs that precede it, a path used in 2010 and the time gaps where substantial that day. The following day’s stage to Sappada has all the ingredients of a great day too and the Finestre stage to Jafferau is a mouthwatering ride and race.

  • Better late than never? The route was announced at the end of November so chances are you’ve probably read plenty on the route. But I was away then and still wanted to study the route and make some notes. Here they are.

32 thoughts on “The 2018 Giro d’Italia Route”

  1. I say this about most grand tour routes these days, but the preponderance of all the climbing being near the end of the stage leads to formulaic racing: the teams (or team) do all the work until the final few km, the race is a procession behind this, then there’s a dash to the line.
    (I don’t buy the idea that these sorts of routes are ‘good for TV’ and I’m pretty sure I’ve read Gabriele producing statistics that disprove this notion.)
    Variety is key to a good route and at least one or two stages should have big climbs throughout – only stages 19 and 20 come close to this and even then the climbs are all in the final 90km. Riders may or may not take it, but they should be given the opportunity to attack from long distance – on the rare occasion this happens, it usually produces very exciting racing. Stages with a mountain early on tend to be interesting – even if it’s just because it produces a large breakaway and/or gets rid of some domestiques.

  2. This is one of the most dull GT routes in many years. Nothing special about it besides second Dolomite stage and the Finestre.

    Descending skills are more or less useless in this Giro; and I predict that—apart from the two stages mentioned above—there will be no reason to tune in for the mountain stages before the final mountain, Vuelta style.

  3. Giro 18 looks fantastic. Many mountain stages and a lot of mtn top finishes – contrary to superboring TDF2017 with only 3 mountain top finishes.

    Bad things is mixing politics into cycling. Cycling has enough of its own troubles (thank you SKY!) and is on the verge of real collapse, a lot more serious than in LA era. Instead of trying to stabilize the region, Italian side adds controversies. Pity.

    • How can you remove politics from cycling/sport? It’s impossible.

      How is the Sky issue much more serious than the LA issues? Are you kidding? That’s not true at all. Aren’t EPO/HGH/Corticosteroids way more serious than salbutamol?

      Plus, as a pragmatic, if it wasn’t for Team Sky, cycling’s popularity in UK would be nothing.

  4. The last 3 stages are all sooooo long. The riders will be very tired and I’m not sure the organisers will get the fireworks they hope for.

    I like the route tho.

    Doubt Israel will happen.

  5. Thanx for the words!
    Route look goods for Dumolin, I think there are some cool stages(15 & 19) springs to mind.
    Will be interesting to see how Froom-gate influences the Giro – Froome & Sky troopers going head to head with Dumolin could be very interesting – Aru is supodsely prioritising this one – maybe Chevez could do some disruption???
    For my part I will boycut the Israeli stages, which hopefully will be insignificant, and I will not add another comment regarding this matter.
    Now come Omloop!!!!

    • “It’s when the race returns to Italy that things liven up…”
      I have a nagging worry that political controversy and demonstrations could follow the Giro back across the Mediterranean Sea too.

  6. Very disappointing on two counts, firstly that it is as you say a route to be controlled by a big team (was this part of how they got Froome to sign up?); and secondly of course the stupid Israeli start.
    If there’s one thing I see endless complaints about in cycling, it’s big teams (team?) controlling the race from end to end. I fear the Giro won’t live up to its usual “most exciting GT” reputation this year.
    Thanks as ever though for your analysis!

  7. Dont know if all these recently everywhere emerging apolcalyptic sounding political agitators like sbs are really russian trolls. But what I am clear about is there their comments should be deleted mercilessly. They add nothing but negativity to any discussion. This sports has deserved better

    • Didn’t see anything that suggests trolling (opinions I don’t agree with don’t qualify for me), agitating or Russian-ness (I think you might have to take a spoonful of reality if you believe that Russian agitators are targeting a cycling blog). Suka!

  8. I love it how keyboard warriors can see into the future and predict a dull 3 weeker!! perhaps you would kindly send me a private email with next weeks winning Euromillions numbers, Thanks in advance of course!

    • What were you expecting people to write about a race that is yet to happen?
      Is having an opinion on how you think a race might be based on its parcours and your own experiences of previous races being a ‘keyboard warrior’ – or is that a more apt description of someone criticising random strangers whilst writing nothing about the subject at hand?

    • Concerning dullness, if you are referring to my post, I only mentioned that I find the route to be dull; of course I cannot predict anyting whatsoever as for whether the race will be exciting, dull or somewhere in between.

      Let me specify: In comparison with the 2018 Tour which has cobbled stages, short mountain stages, long mountain stages, stages ending downhill and stages ending uphill, the 2018 Giro only has significant stages ending uphill. And all of the mountain stages are long.
      There are no significant cols before the final mountain besides Finestre, of course.
      Where are Mortirolo, Stelvio, Gavia, Giau, Fedaia, Mt. Grappa, Fauniera etc.?

      So my prediction is that while the final ascents will of course be exciting, I see no reason for tuning in before the final ascent–besides on the second Dolomite stage and the Finestre stage.

  9. It seems to me that this course needs either both of Froome and Dumoulin to race, or neither. The only GC suspense would be between them, or between the climbers, but not – I feel – between the all-rounders and the climbers. A result of the number of rolling climbs, with only one or two opportunities to really break the favourite(s).

    • I’d agree that the route choice seems to have had a Froome / Dumoulin clash in mind.
      But it’s not a dead loss without either rider; bear in mind that Froome might not be present, so we could have Thomas or even Kwiatkowski as the alternative Sky leader v Dumoulin and that still has appeal.
      Then there’s Aru to consider.
      Throw in some uncertain weather and the inevitable crashes and incidents, and the picture is not as gloomily inevitable as has been painted above by readers.

  10. For the second year in a row, the Giro modified its route style, apparently in order to lure in the strong TTers disappointed by the overtly nationalistic option chosen by the Tour de France. Last year, at least, they achieved an excellent startlist and a better final GC than the Tour – the quality of racing ended up being hindered the most.
    However, the course looks slightly better than last year: at least, the third week is decently selective and the balance between TTers and climbers is less flawed than last year. Of course, we shouldn’t let ourselves be mistaken by laughable “uphill finishes” like Montevergine. I’d even doubt that the likes of Gran Sasso or Prato Nevoso are actually that good for climbers.
    It’s also a pity that flattish to rolling or hilly – yet, always highly technical – ITTs like those we saw in 2013-2016 (and further back) are gone… the Jerusalem one is good but short, the other is as tediously focussed on pure specialists as 2017’s were.

    The best news is about sprint stages: late springboards to jump away from the bunch in the finale are back. The sprinters will get most of them all the same, but the show should be worth watching for some 20-25′ at least.
    Stage hunters and Classics specialists will have several occasions, too, which is something we can surely celebrate – there would be more to celebrate, yet, if some of those stages had been tilted towards harder finales, in order to create a more realistinc lingering menace for GC riders. On the contrary, Caltagirone. S. Ninfa, Gualdo, Osimo, Iseo they all tend to prove themselves too mild when it matters the most. Without an Astana-like spirit (2015 vintage), they’ll probably be a carbon copy of 2017’s Peschici or Bagno di Romagna: an absolutely amazing show for the daily win, but lost occasions in terms of GC emotion.

    I believe that most of the success of the race will depend on the Finestre stage being properly raced from far. And at least a couple of hilly stage would need to be raised in rank right there on the battlefield thanks to weather or racing strategies. Anyway, the excess of monoclimbs will be hard to amend.

    I’m still failing to see the charm of testing a champion on a *new* terrain if you make that terrain as similar as possible to what he already likes best (a quote reported by Lasterketa Burua defined this sort of Giros as “a Vuelta which has taken some steroids”).

    • Gabriele, who / what is supposed to be the star of the show – the course or the riders?
      Much of what I’ve read in the past about the Giro’s course, seems to suggest that some monster route shrouded in snow blizzards should be ‘the Giro’.
      It’s like the course itself has become the end product.

      The course is a means to end. The hottest ticket in town is a Froome / Dumoulin shoot-out.
      Everyone else has had a go and failed, but Dumoulin could be the next ‘big thing’.
      So what, if the course has been moderated to bring out the best of that particular contest?
      You’ve got the King and the Young Pretender.

      We’ve had 20% climbs, vertical descents, cobbles, gravel, heatwaves and downpours and Froome still won.
      Quintana et al had their shot, so let Tommy D have a go on a course that could bring out a really good contest between the two?

      • Ecky, in cycling the star is the race. It’s pretty obvious. The TdF famously made a statement of it. Of course, RCS can’t allow themselves to be as bold as the Tour, and it’s also important to have a decent startlist. However, riders come and go: a races which loses its identity may need years to recover from the blow, as the Giro did at the end of the 70s and in the first part of the 80s in order to better exploit the hugely popular rivalry between Moser and Saronni.
        It’s always a losing bet, even more so if the King’s crown is starting to be tainted and wasn’t ever so shiny anyway.
        In the short term, the Giro might be damaged by Froome’s absence, but in the long term it was Chris’ career which was going to be seriously limited if he claimed to be “best GT rider” never having performed decently at the Giro.
        Now, if you allow him to take the win thanks to a favourable course, you get one year’s celebrity among the general public (who might be already running away before the race is even over!) but you’re going to lose the prestige you had worked hard to gain great edition after great edition.
        By the way, you don’t seem to have payed very much attention to what people are asking about the Giro’s course. It’s no cheap Zomegnan parody, it’s just the sort of classy design we were treated to especially but not exclusively in 2016, 2015, 2013, 2010… mammoth editions like 2011 or 2006 are welcome from time to time, as well as slightly flawed ones like 2014 or 2009 – but we’re still miles away from the most recent attitude.

      • However, let me add that this year’s course is less favourable to Dumoulin than 2017. The Dutch will need to step up in order to win, which I’m sure he can do, unless opposition is stepping down (which may happen, indeed, with no Nibali and Quintana around).

        The legend goes that Dumoulin was killing everybody in the ITTs while noone was really beating him in the mountains (even inrng contributed to this storyline in a recent post) – what remains unclear is how Quintana could lose more than 4′ to Dumoulin in the ITTs and finally sit just half a minute behind. Same goes for Nibali, losing some 3′ and then 3rd at 40″, or Pinot who lost nearly 4’30” against the clock and ends up 1’21” behind in the final GC. Zakarin lost a little more than 4′ but his final difference in GC is less than half. Pozzovivo lost 6′ in ITTs, just three in GC. We must go down all the way to Mollema to find the best placed GC rider who didn’t climb clearly faster than Dumoulin (just slightly so).

        It’s all a bit too much to put the blame just on the post-Stelvio toilet stop. In fact, the full time difference which Dumoulin lost in that stage isn’t enough to account for the above – and we should remember that he climbed the Umbrail slower than the rest of the top dogs, anyway (while they lost some time waiting for him).

        Dumoulin was impressive but as fatigue came in, he started to lose big chunks of time whenever the serious climbing was near the stage end and not tens of kms away.
        We’re speaking of some of the best climbers around when GTs are concerned, of course; most of them are GT winners or podiumers. And we’re speaking of just a handful of them, not half of the peloton.
        That said, if last year’s field, in the same physical conditions, was to race the 2018 course, Dumoulin would probably struggle to make the podium. But 2018 is a whole new year, Dumoulin will be one season stronger and will prepare himself carefully for the new conditions – what’s sure is that the route wasn’t tailored on him, even if it’s all the same a course he can adapt to.

        • +1 Good perspective. “Mow ’em down in the chrono, defend in the mountains” was more of the game plan than Dumoulin fans like to admit. On the other hand, I think 2009’s defanged “BigTex” edition of La Corsa Rosa was awful. For 2018 it will be a travesty like Contador’s “win” if Froome is allowed to compete. I think the Israel start idea is really dumb and Vegni and Co already are regretting it, but I’m hopeful the rest of the course will provide a good race. W Il Giro!

  11. Another disappointing parcours with little to no downhill finishes after big climbs.

    To me, the Giro used to reward an all around more polished racer. Now it is trying to imitate the Tour and La Vuelta while Le Tour has begun to look more like La Corsa Rosa.

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