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.
Stage 1 – Saturday 3 October
Last year’s Giro began with an uphill time trial to the San Luca basilica, this year’s opens with a downhill one. There’s an uphill start on a cobbled climb and a technical section through a narrow passageway almost running through the Monreale cathedral and then it’s onto the big road downhill, it’s not a ski run but the long descent is as fast as it looks before big boulevards in Palermo.
Stage 2 – Sunday 4 October
A race across Sicily before the uphill finish in Agrigento, 4km at 5% but with steeper sections, a punchy finish.
Stage 3 – Monday 5 October
A summit finish on Etna, no passage through Sicily can avoid this impressive landmark. This time it’s a “new” road up the climb, an old road through Lingualossa and its black volcanic paving but not used in the Giro yet. It’s 20km long and with plenty of selective gradients and a tough upper section. Decisivo as they say, decisive.
Stage 4 – Tuesday 6 October
A big climb in the middle of the stage but it’s gentle one, any sprinter dropped here isn’t just in trouble for the day, they’ll struggle to reach Milan.
Stage 5 – Wednesday 7 October
A hilly stage but a test of back muscles as much as legs, who can churn a big gear up the final climb of Montescuro (“dark mountain”) before the descent into the finish.
Stage 6 – Thursday 8 October
A hilly stage leading to Matera, famous for its Sassi caves and a sassy finish with a 10% wall with two kilometres to go to derail the sprint trains.
Stage 7 – Friday 9 October
A race across the heel of Italy and a sprint finish in Brindisi.
Stage 8 – Saturday 10 October
A hillier finish and a coastal road, this could be for the sprinters but they’ll have to work for it in the final third of the race and there’s a loop around Vieste at the end with a tough wall to scale.
Stage 9 – Sunday 11 October
A mountain stage with a lot of climbing but the finish at Roccaraso is for punchy riders.
Stage 10 – Tuesday 13 October
Want to spice up a stage that heads along the coast? Just turn inland, it works almost anywhere in Italy and here the race has the feel of a Tirreno-Adriatico stage with several wall-like climbs.
Stage 11 – Wednesday 14 October
A sprint stage to the seaside town of Rimini, the big sea-side resort but now out of season.
Stage 12 – Thursday 15 October
The Nove Colli gran fondo route, a hilly day with multiple climbs and swooshing descents and one for a high quality breakaway.
Stage 13 – Friday 16 October
Across the Po plains to a finishing circuit with some steep climbing, yet more walls for the puncheurs. The climb to Roccolo looks like one ascent on the profile but it’s actually a collection of ramps, a staircase.
Stage 14 – Saturday 17 October
A 34km time trial amid the Prosecco vineyards with the steep climb of the Ca’del Poggio and then on fast open roads, much of the route copies the 2015 TT stage used in the same area.
Stage 15 – Sunday 18 October
A big day in the mountains with the Sella Chianzutan first and its stone paving and tricky tunnels on the descent and leading to Monte Cavallo, a tough summit finish that put Tom Dumoulin in trouble in 2017.
Stage 16 – Tuesday 20 October
A difficult stage with a hilly circuit finish and the profile doesn’t quite show the tough wall finish in San Daniele. This is a hard stage and, whisper it, a good day for an ambush.
Stage 17 – Wednesday 21 October
A big day in the Dolomites with some famous climbs like Monte Bondone and infamous ones like the road to Madonna di Campiglio, ordinarily a village nestled in the Dolomites at the end of a relatively gentle climb but still notorious as the place where Marco Pantani was thrown off the Giro.
Stage 18 – Thursday 22 October
Uphill from the start and the day is dominated by the giant climb of the Stelvio. Once over the pass the race doesn’t complete the descent but instead turns off at Premadio for the scenic climb to the Lago di Cancano via a miniature Alpe d’Huez, complete with 21 hairpins at 7.5% before a flatter 2km on a freshly tarmacked road.
Stage 19 – Friday 23 October
Notionally a rest day between mountain stages but this is is a 253km slog. If the wind isn’t up riders would do well to enjoy an audiobook two over their race radios.
Stage 20 – Saturday 24 October
A change of plan, the stage has been revised after the French government said non to the Giro because of Covid restrictions. So it’s Sestriere, and only Sestriere.
Stage 21 – Sunday 25 October
This day clashes with the Tourmalet summit finish of the Vuelta and Paris-Roubaix so it’s considerate of RCS to supply a time trial where the only vertical gain comes from bridges, a day to fit 56 and 58T chainrings.
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 La Gazzetta Dello Sport, a newspaper 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 4,6,7,11,13,19) 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 2,5,8,10,12) 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+E: (Stages 1,3,9,14,15,16,17,18,20,21) 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 eight: 12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1
Blue: the mountains jersey. It is sponsored by Banca Mediolanum, a bank. There are five categories of climb and note the weighting towards first place.
- 14 fourth category climbs: the first three riders crossing the top of the climb win 3-2 and 1 points respectively
- 14 third category climbs: the first four riders over the top get 9-4-2-1 points
- 7 second category climbs: first six riders get 18-8-6-4-2-1 points
- 11 first category climbs: the first eight riders get 40-18-12-9-6-4-2-1 points
- CC or Cima Coppi: a special award, the “Coppi Summit” for the highest point of the race. This year it is the Passo Stelvio on Stage 18. The first nine win 50-30-20-14-10-6-4-2-1 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 1995, 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 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 3: the Etna summit finish
- Stage 9: the Apennines and Roccaraso
- Stage 10: a good battle for the stage win with the steep walls and ramps
- Stage 12: a hilly day inland
- Stage 15: Piancavallo and the Sunday after the time trial
- Stage 18: the Stelvio
- Stage 20: a Saturday and the final mountain stage with the Izoard and Sestriere
Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe plus Australia and New Zealand and in India, a first. It’s on L’Equipe TV in France and streaming via Flobikes in the US.
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. The timing varies but as a rule the live coverage begins at 2.00pm CET and the finish is expected for around 4.30pm CEST each day.