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Giro d’Italia Guide

Here’s the Giro d’Italia guide. There’s a concise preview of every stage as well as explainers on the rules for the mountains and points competitions; TV guide and more.

We’re awaiting the publication of the Giro’s rulebook it’s still a work-in-progress for the points scales and more but the route’s is a done deal.

Route summary
Last year’s route had just 26km of time trials, the least since 1962… when the route didn’t have a TT stage. This time there are three time trial stages totalling over 70km, although the third has a tough climb. As ever there’s a mix of mountains that get harder and more intense for the third week in the Alps including some high altitude but the climbing this year isn’t the fiercest ever.

Stage 1 – Saturday 6 May

An opening time trial held mostly on a coastal cycle path, although one wide enough to permit a following car. Look for Filippo Ganna to win and take the maglia rosa.

Stage 2 – Sunday 7 May

A stage for the sprinters but it’ll suit those who can manage the sharp climbs, this borrows some of the spiky hilltop ramps from typical Tirreno-Adriatico stages. The climb to Chieti isn’t even rated but it’s hard. There’s 70km from the last climb to the finish to regroup.

Stage 3 – Monday 8 May

An intriguing stage. The action should be on the flanks of Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano. That said, who will control the stage? The sprinters’ teams won’t and the GC teams won’t rush either.

Stage 4 – Tuesday 9 May

A mid-mountain stage on some familiar roads, the Molella-Laceno finish has been used a couple of times in recent years. As a finish it’s where Domenico Pozzovivo got his stage win in 2012 and the Colle Molella is a selective 4km at 10%.

Stage 5 – Wednesday 10 May

A good day for a breakaway with the opening half of the race ideal for a move to establish itself and build up a lead. But given the few chances for the sprinters this year and the flat finish that follows, several teams can try to set up their sprinters for the win.

Stage 6 – Thursday 11 May

After a start and finish in Naples last year, another start and finish. This time there are no laps, instead the route is like a tourist day-trip via Vesuvius out to the Amalfi coast and then back.

Stage 7 – Friday 12 May

Very similar to the 2018 stage won by Simon Yates. There’s the climb of Roccaraso which has featured regularly in recent years and then the big summit finish of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, literally “The Big Stone of Italy”. The were only seconds between the big names in 2018 but the order proved instructive.

Stage 8 – Saturday 13 May

An intriguing stage. It’s 140km to the scenic gorge of the Gola del Furlo and after this, the scenery will give way to sport with the climbs around Fossombrone. The climb of I Cappucini is an awkward backroad that’s steep, the next climb hard and then it’s Cappucini again. This stage doesn’t look tough, the y-axis of vertical gain doesn’t look fierce but it’s harder than it seems.

Stage 9 – Sunday 14 May

A TT where the hardest part could be a bridge over the autostrada. The opener and this course are flat and with few corners, there aren’t too many places to brake and accelerate, it’s more about reaching a top cruising speed and holding it.

Stage 10 – Tuesday 16 May

The race crosses the Apennine mountains to ride into Tuscany. The Passo delle Radici isn’t steep but it’s up and up for a long way and a chance for some sprinters’ teams to eject heavyset riders.

Stage 11 – Wednesday 17 May

The longest stage. After the coast it’s inland and via a series of steady climbs to Tortona.

Stage 12 – Thursday 18 May

The first Alpine stage but first the Alba vineyards and most of the route is on the flat Po plains. The Colle Braida doesn’t look like much but it’s over 10km at 6.8% and that includes a descent along the way, the top part is hard and selective as it passes the hilltop abbey of the Sacra di San Michele before a fast descent to Rivoli, a town on the edge of Turin. It’s reminiscent of 2019’s Stage 12 via the Montoso climb to Pinerolo.

Stage 13 – Friday 19 May

A big day in the mountains to Switzerland via the giant Col du Grand Saint-Bernard. Tackling a 2,469 metre pass in May is ambitious – the pass usually opens on the last day of May, it’s never been opened before 23 May but if the weather helps and workers are deployed, well fingers crossed. If not there’s a tunnel that allows the race to stay below 2,000m as a potential back-up plan. Once in Switzerland riders will feel the difference thanks to the tarmac although the first they’ll feel is the chill via the long descent. The Croix de Coeur which is the hairpins to the ski resort of Verbier with a “new” road on top, followed by a perilous descent to the Rhone valley and then the Crans Montana ski station summit finish.

Stage 14 – Saturday 20 May

Back to Italy via the Simplon Pass, a big transport artery used by trucks and so it’s accessible to sprinters and like the previous day if it’s snowing there’s a tunnel underneath too. Once clear of the pass there’s a long ride down the valley via some of Filippo Ganna’s training roads.

Stage 15 – Tuesday 23 May

A mini Tour of Lombardy with the Valcava and Selvino climbs before the finish in Bergamo.

Stage 16 – Wednesday 24 May

The lack of altitude shouldn’t mask this stage’s big attitude, there’s over 5,000 of vertical gain. This is a decisive stage with successive climbs. This time Monte Bondone is tackled on the eastern side from Aldeno and it’s a gradual ascent at first before the final 10km offer plenty of 8-10%.

Stage 17 – Thursday 25 May

It looks like a course you could almost freewheel down but there’s 192km to pedal out of the mountains and down to the coast. Today’s stage serves two purposes, first a day for the sprinters and second an active recovery ride for the GC contenders so they can start tomorrow relatively fresh.

Stage 18 – Friday 26 May

A big day in the Dolomites including the climb to Coi, never used in the Giro before with 4km at over 10%. On paper it doesn’t look as hard but all we know is on paper as the Giro’s not used this finish before, at some point maps will have be swapped for a visit.

Stage 19 – Friday 27 May

Crans Montana and Monte Bondone can both make a good case they’re hosting the biggest stage of the Giro because they’re longer and have more climbing. But there’s plenty about this stage that makes it more compelling. The saw blade profile at first glance, the regular incursions beyond 2,000m, and then the names, an aristocracy of Dolomite ascents with the Valparolo, Giau and the Tre Croci approach to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, a famous place in the Giro but used sparingly, the last time was 2013 when Vincenzo Nibali won the stage wearing the maglia rosa on his way to the win.

Stage 20 – Saturday 27 May

A mountain time trial, back in the Giro for the first time since 2016 when cosmonaut Alexander Foliforov won the day. Monte Lussari is a new climb, little more than a mule path but it’s been paved in time for the race. There’s a flat section which will have managers exploring bike change options before the steep climb which is also worthy of a specialist bike. If the sun’s shining it’ll be scenic, all forest and a hilltop village.

Stage 21 – Sunday 28 May

They say all roads lead to Rome, so here’s 700km transfer for the final stage. It’s perhaps less a test for riders and more for the city of Rome, the last visit saw the final stage altered and partially neutralised after the course was in a poor state.

The Jerseys

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 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 the daily intermediate sprints

Cyclamen: the points competition. Riders score points at both of the intermediate sprints per day 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 can handle arithmetic. The maglia ciclamino is sponsored by Be It, a made in Italy marketing campaign.

  • Category A+B stages (Stages ***TBC****) 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 intermediate sprint there are points for the first eight: 20-12-8-6-4-3-2-1
  • Category C stages: (Stages ***TBC*** offer points for the first 10: 25-18-12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. For the intermediate sprint there are points for the first five: 10-6-3-2-1
  • Category D+E: (Stages ****TBC***) offer points for the first 10: 15-12-9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and for the first intermediate sprint of each stage 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.

  • ***TBC**** fourth category climbs: the first three riders crossing the top of the climb win 3-2 and 1 points respectively
  • ***TBC**** third category climbs: the first four riders over the top get 9-4-2-1 points
  • ***TBC**** second category climbs: first six riders get 18-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • ***TBC**** 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 San Bernardino on Stage 13. 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 1998, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Intimissimi, an underwear brand.

Now a rider can’t wear two jerseys at once, they’d get too hot and the sponsors wouldn’t get the exposure they’ve paid for. 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. The hierarchy is pink > points > mountains > white.

There are also other prizes and in-race competitions such as the intermediate sprint competition which is separate to the points competition or the time bonuses also available at these spots; the breakaway prize for the rider with the most kilometres in the breakaway; the fighting spirit prize which is a combined competition for scoring across the points, mountains and so on; the team prize; and the fair play prize for teams that avoid fines and penalties.

Time cuts
All riders have to make the time cut each day to stay in the race and this is a function of the stage type and average speed:

  • Stages ***TBC****: the winner’s time plus 7% if the average speed is less than or equal to 40 km/h; 8% if the average speed is between 40 and 45 km/h; 10% if the average speed is over 45 km/h
  • Stages ***TBC****: the winner’s time plus 9% if the average speed is less than or equal to 37 km/h; 10% of the average speed is between 37 and 41 km/h; 11% if the average speed is over 41 km/h
  • Stages ***TBC**** the winner’s time plus 11% if the average speed is less than or equal to 35 km/h; 12% if the average speed is between 35 km and 39 km/h; 13% if the average speed is over 39 km/h
  • Stage ***TBC**** the winners’ time plus 19% if the average speed is less than or equal to 30 km/h; 21% if the average speed between 30 km/h and 34 km/h; 22% if the average speed is over 34km/h;
  • Stages ***TBC**** the winners’ time plus 16% if the average speed is less than or equal to 30 km/h; 17% if the average speed between 30 km/h and 34 km/h; 18% if the average speed is over 34km/h;
  • For Stages 1,9 and 20, the winner’s time plus 30%

The unmissable stages
Anything can happen during the Giro but there are some stages that matter more than others, some suggestions for the must-watch days:

  • Stage 4 with a selective uphill finish
  • Stage 7 to see who’s the sassiest on the Gran Sasso
  • Stage 13 as the start of the big mountain stages
  • Stage 16 for the Bondone tappone
  • Stage 18 with the hipster alternative Dolomite climbs
  • Stage 19 for the Dolomite derby to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
  • Stage 20 as the final TT to settle the race

All stages will be broadcast live from start to finish. Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the richest coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra info. If you want English coverage, there’s Eurosport-GCN of course on TV and online.

The timing varies but as a rule the finish is expected for around 5.15pm CEST each day.