Giro Stage 1 Preview

Is the Giro going to be a cakewalk for Tadej Pogačar, a three week passeggiata? We’ll have to wait for Rome but today might tell us plenty about how he and his team want to race and what the others have in store too.

The Route: a tough stage for 140km. 1850m of vertical gain is hilly but Vuelta sprint stages can have more, the trouble for the sprinters today is the climbing is concentrated late on.

The Superga climb is famous in Italy for its hilltop chapel where the Italian royal family was buried, and for the air disaster in 1949 which saw the entire FC Torino football team perish when their plane crashed into the hillside, a theme you may have heard before and will probably hear more about today.

The Superga is famous in cycling as it’s been used by the Giro and Milano-Torino alike. Climbed today from “the other side”, it’s still 4.7km at over 9% and so hard going for non-climbers. The race drops down into Torino on the main road, the bad news is it’s got some blind bends; the good news is the same descent is used later off the Maddalena so it’ll be more familiar when it counts more.

The Intergiro sprint for 3-2-1 bonus seconds comes before the unmarked San Vito climb which climbs up the hillside amid some of Torino’s most swanky homes – the Agnelli villa is just off the route – on a steep and narrow road.

The Colle Maddalena featured in 2022 on the hectic stage mid-race won by Simon Yates but this is the main road up out of the city this time and more steady, it’s served by a bus route. If it’s 7km at 7% it’s got some descents you don’t see on the profile so in turn the slopes up are steeper. They take the main road back down too, safer but it’s full of blind bends all the same.

The Finish: into Torino and along the river but the San Vito climb again – by now riders will know the 16% is only if you take the wrong line in a hairpin – before dropping back to the city for a flat finish.

The Contenders: did you know Tadej Pogačar (UAE) can get over the climbs and he sprints well from a small group? We’ll have to see how much he and his team can control things, everyone will be looking to them and one opportunistic attack could work; or if there’s a stand-off on the Maddalena some dropped finisseurs can get back on during the descent.

Suitable rivals include Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) who can still win sprints but look to see if he’s still got the descending skills. Andrea Bagioli (Lidl-Trek) is handy but the form is questionable. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) can win sprints from a small group, Dani Martinez (Bora-hansgrohe) isn’t just a mountain diesel as he’s won sprints too. Christophe Laporte (Visma-LAB), Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) bring doubts about form if they can get over the climb.

Alaphilippe, Vansevenant
Bagioli, APP, Martinez, Lutsenko, Vendrame, Vallter

Weather: sunny and 20°C.

TV: the start is at 1.55pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in at 3.30pm if you want to see the Superga, 4.30pm for the Maddelena.

Postcard from Torino
Torino, Turin in English, is Italy’s fourth city by population. It was briefly Italy’s first capital city. It’s been seat of the defunct royal family, the city of car maker FIAT and the birthplace of grissini breadsticks and plenty more.

It has two top-tier football clubs in Juventus and FC Torino. Juventus is famous worldwide and you might hear more about FC Torino today given today is the 75th anniversary of the air disaster where almost the entire team died when their plane crashed into the Superga hill where the race passes today.

FC Torino is alive and kicking, currently 10th in Serie A… and the club is owned by Urbano Cairo. He also owns RCS, organisers of the Giro. Cairo began work as a protégé of Silvio Berlusconi and ended up with a criminal conviction but got a pardon thanks to a plea bargain. Undeterred, and likening himself to the Count of Monte Cristo, he launched himself into media and advertising. He bought FC Torino in 2005 and then set about buying public TV Channel La7. In 2016 he took control of print and publishing company RCS, a deal with landed him a media empire among which was the right to organise the Giro. Today sees him with two hats, taking “his” Giro to commemorate the loss of “his” football club.

As well as La Gazzetta Dello Sport – Italy’s most widely read newspaper with news and editorial on the back pages – RCS publishes national newspaper Corriere della Serra. Owning newspapers and TV channels gives Cairo sway. He’s tayed out of politics so far, often saying he’s interested – his politics are on Italy’s centre-right – but he knows the risks. But he’s increasingly visible and audible. This could be where the Giro d’Italia comes in.

For Cairo and Italy alike the Giro is rare event of national unity in a land of campanilismo. It’s given Cairo a vehicle, literally, to tour the country where he can appear on TV, be in newspapers and meet politicians. Indeed Cairo and the Giro go so well together that he attended last month’s G7 gathering in Capri to give a speech to foreign ministers about the ambassadorial role of sports, and gifted them with a maglia rosa each. The Giro is quite the asset for Cairo.

Now let’s not exaggerate, the race isn’t a platform to run to office, roadside fans are not exactly waving pro-Cairo banners. All the same as someone from the Torino area who lives in Milan it’s given Cairo added range and once you consider he might be building up for a political launch some Giro press releases – subtext: forza Italia! – take on an extra meaning differently. He comes across more as a chatty dealmaker rather than the TV or social media character that thrives in politics today. Anyway, for cycling fans if he did go into politics then what would the Giro look like?

22 thoughts on “Giro Stage 1 Preview”

  1. Prediction: this will be the first comment. Secondly, 3 weeks of unadulterated bliss if Kirby and Kelly DNS. I see Milan scoring in Torino. Alternatively, The Poganaut in pink to Pompei and beyond. Alaphillipe donning the first maglia azzura? Predictions:

  2. Ah, the start of Grand Tour season – that wonderful time of year in which the days grow longer, the air becomes warmer, and the best cycling blog on the Internet gets updated daily for weeks at a stretch.

    Keep up the excellent work, INRNG, as ever. Your loyal readership thanks you.

  3. I’d like to see Alain Philippe in the pink jersey this evening… I think it could be interesting, even if he would not try to cling on to it as much as if it was yellow.

  4. Indeed looking forward to three weeks of ‘postcards’ that add so much more to the previews. Excellent work, grazie mille INRNG!

    • That postcard is quite the cultural artifact. Tasteless in the usual touristy way and more phony than most. The artist seems to have deemed the aircraft that crashed at Superga to be too lowly to figure in his postcard (it was a Fiat G.212, a small and ancient-looking three-engined airliner) and substituted a Vickers Vanguard instead.

  5. I’m in Turin for the start and went to the Torino v Bologna match last night in Serie A. At half time there was a ceremony commemorating the Superga disaster, with a song about it, archive images and thousands of cell phone torches. The loss of probably the most dominant Italian club team of all time obviously still resonates here, 75 years later. I knew little about it before, so thanks for the extra detail here. I’m going to try and get up to Superga today for the race. It would seem appropriate.

  6. Seems like a very late start and finish. Is this normal for the Giro. Or just for the opening stage and maximum viewing figures.

    • Usual finishing time, late start as the “modern” stages are short and fast. 140 km is Sunday warriors range. Better this way, in this case, because as Pogi is stronger on extreme distance, too, at least the easier the route, the less selective for a broader competition. All relative, of course. Thanks to the timetable, it will be a good opportunity to watch how the “morning” (= early) break is formed, which might grant a good input about the attitude this Giro will be raced with by many.

  7. If this were a one day race I’d be pretty confident that Pogacar would dispense with everyone on the Maddalena and ride it home from there. He still may do if he wants to make a statement, though its obviously a fairly short stage and everyone should be as fresh as a daisy. It would be nice to see a hit out from a decent sized bunch at the finish. I’ve no idea who would win.

  8. I will go for a breakaway win. So from the team I most follow I will pick Zana as he can climb and sprint okay and i can’t see why his team would not let a rider go in the break if there’s half a chance it may be gifted the win.
    It seems likely that UAE will chase a breakaway down but if i was DS i would pick the boring strategy that nobody wants of letting a break get the win so someone else controls the race for at least a day. The UAE team is pretty good but controlling for 3 weeks may be hard.
    Who knows maybe another team will chase the break down anyway if UAE don’t.

  9. Pogacar would be wise to let a non-GC rider, or a few, take a bundle of time – make it easier for his team. It’s most unlike him, mind you. Other teams would be wise to no let this happen.

  10. I was thinking there’s no way the Superga from this side is over 9%, or did you just mean max gradient? Looking at PCS it suggests 8 km at just 4.3% with no sub-section anything like 9%. Anyway the final climb 3km out is hard so no one is finishing with Pogacar if he decides to fully attack there.

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