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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 fixed.

Route summary
Last year’s route suited the climbers, this year’s even more so with just 26km of time trials, the fewest since 1962 when the route didn’t have a TT stage. As usual the summit finishes get bigger and bigger leading to the Alpine third week. There are more chances for the sprinters compared to the past two editions too.

Stage 1 – Friday 6 May

A road stage to Visegrad and an uphill finish to the castle, it’s a touch reminiscent of the Namur citadel finish of the GP de Wallonie but longer and on a wide tarmac road. Here it’s five kilometres at 5% but the slope bites towards the top. This is a stage open to many, from in-form sprinters who can surf a slipstream all the way to the top, to punchy riders and the GC contenders too.

Stage 2 – Saturday 7 May

A time trial over 9.2km, it’s a big boulevard course designed to show off Budapest. The final kilometre includes cobbles with a steep kick up to the finish.

Stage 3 – Sunday 8 May

A sprint stage that ends on the shores of Lake Balaton in the resort town of Balatonfüred whose name from “bathing in Balaton”.

Stage 4 – Tuesday 10 May

After travel to Sicily and a rest day for the riders, a summit finish on the flanks of Mount Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. It’s to the same site where Jan Polanc won in 2017, but to get there it’s climbed from the other side and there’s a steep middle section. Ideally it should provide an early skirmish among the GC contenders without big time gaps but Etna is a 22km climb and this could shape the whole race.

Stage 5 – Wednesday 11 May

The Giro has a lot of vertical gain and days like this help the count, the Mandrazzi climb is gentle but goes on for some time. It also offers the breakaway some mountains points and the stage should be for the sprinters.

Stage 6 – Thursday 12 May

A trip up the citrus tree packed coastline for the sprinters.

Stage 7 – Friday 13 May

An intriguing route with over 4,500m of vertical gain, as much as any Alpine stage and constant climbing and descending. With the TT and the Etna summit finish some will be well down on GC so there’s a good chance for the breakaway and for the current race leader post Budapest TT/Etna summit to lease the maglia rosa for a week to someone else. There’s a steep uphill finish in town but don’t expect medieval streets and flagstones, it’s a big road between large apartment blocks in the strange town of Potenza, a city in the mountains where locals ride escalators to get about.

Stage 8 – Saturday 15 May

A circuit race near Naples, a hilly 19km loop repeated six times, it’d make a good worlds circuit, before coming back to the city for the finish.

Stage 9 – Sunday 15 May

The big Blockhaus summit finish awaits. “Summit” of sorts as it only finishes at 1650m when the top of the road goes to 2,000m. But it’s enough, Nairo Quintana won here last time in 2017, beating Thibaut Pinot and the surprise of Tom Dumoulin. Talking of surprises, the race came here in 1967 and an infamous newspaper headline the next day was “Un velocista belga supera i nostri scalatori“, or “Belgian sprinter beats our climbers”… the young Eddy Merckx of course.

Stage 10 – Tuesday 17 May

A gentle start after the rest day up the Adriatic coast before turning inland. The hills of the Marche are steep (and often cracked and potholed) and a lot of sprinters can be dropped. The race borrows some roads from Tirreno-Adriatico and passes through Filottrano to pay tribute to the late Michele Scarponi.

Stage 11 – Wednesday 18 May

A sprint stage and a classic, of sorts, as the Giro takes the Via Emilia Roman road once again. It’s being dubbed the food stage and will promote the famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Stage 12 – Thursday 19 May

Another intriguing route in the arid Ligurian hills behind Genoa because the final can reward attacks. The route’s been changed and softened a touch since the presentation last November and this is now the longest stage too, just. Monte Bocco’s not a hard climb but it’s the accumulation of climbs and twisting descents that should make for some sport. Away from racing the day will use the new San Giorgio bridge, built after the Ponte Morandini disaster.

Stage 13 – Friday 20 May

The day starts in Sanremo and traces the route of La Primavera backwards for a while before heading inland – still on the Sanremo route but the exceptional edition of 2020 – to tackle the Colle di Nava and the outside chance a team forces the pace to eject any struggling sprinters. But with 100km to go there’s a likely sprint in Cuneo with the Alps now visible on the horizon.

Stage 14 – Saturday 21 May

Another circuit race, this time it’s got the Superga climb outside Torino and its sister climb across the same ridge, the Colle della Maddalena, plus the Santa Brigida climb and more. It’s only 153km but there’s 3750m of vertical gain and all on twisting roads, there’s little time to rest at all.

Stage 15 – Sunday 22 May

A mountain stage into the Aosta valley and instead of riding straight up the valley, the route rolls like a snowboarder in a half-pipe. First it’s up to the left for the Pila ski lift, then back down to the valley floor, then up to the right and back down. They’re both hard climbs and have been used by the U23 Giro della Valle d’Aosta race. The final one to Cogne is more of a gradual drag on the whole but you’d hesitate to call it a big ring climb because of the steep start. It’s the sort of place where Richard Carapaz could power away from the pure climbers and the race goes out of Cogne to finish in Lillaz, just as the Giro della Valle d’Aosta race did last summer.

Stage 16 – Tuesday 24 May

A huge day in the mountains, a reported 5,440m of vertical gain and at 200km, the longest of the mountain stages this year and presumably the longest day on the bike. Sure the Mortirolo is climbed via the easier side from Nonno but it’s still hard, plenty of 8%. The road to Teglio is marked as a sprint but it’s a tough climb to get there and the final Santa Cristina climb is almost always above 10% for the second half.

Stage 17 – Wednesday 25 May

The day starts up the Tonale, a chance for the breakaway to go clear but the battle could go on during the descent and the steep climb to Giovo could be needed. The “Passo del Vetriolo” is a tough, awkward climb – although the name’s an invention by the Giro, seemingly no such place exists on the ground – and the descent is toboggan-style to the valley and then comes the Menador climb to Monte Rovere, the Kaiserjägerweg road and one of the fringe benefits of history as this was an old military road, once built to kill but now a scenic ride up the cliffside and through narrow tunnels.

Stage 18 – Thursday 26 May

A sprint interlude and active recovery day of 151km but we’ll see which sprinters remain in the race and whether the breakaway can have an advantage. The Ca’ del Poggio wall features to spice things up but there’s 50km to get it together before Treviso.

Stage 19 – Friday 27 May

A detour to Slovenia, the new Yorkshire, but first a dash through Buja, a village of sorts, perhaps even a collection of villages, but home to Il Rosso di Buja, Alessandro de Marchi, so guess who is going in the breakaway? Listed as a mid-mountain stage, you can make a good argument to delete the mid- prefix. Kolovrat is Slovenian for “spinning wheel” but good luck spinning your wheels here as it’s 10km of 10%. The final climb is 7km at 5% but note the dip in the middle, the final 4km are a more selective 7-8%.

Stage 20 – Saturday 28 May

The last hurrah in the mountains and a big day. There’s an early climb thrown in before a dash up the valley into the Dolomites and the steady San Pellegrino and Pordoi climbs before the mean Marmolada and its double-digit gradients. Weather permitting.

Stage 21 – Sunday 39 May

Verona and déjà vu with the same course where Chad Haga won in 2019 complete with the arena finish and where Primož Roglič overhauled Mikel Landa – of course – to climb onto the podium.

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 1,3,11,18) 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 5,6,8,13) 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 4,7,9,14,15,16,17,19,20) 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.

  • 11 fourth category climbs: the first three riders crossing the top of the climb win 3-2 and 1 points respectively
  • 10 third category climbs: the first four riders over the top get 9-4-2-1 points
  • 11 second category climbs: first six riders get 18-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • 14 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 Pordoi on Stage 20. 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 1997, 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 1,3,11, 17: 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 5,6,8,13: 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 10,12 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 14 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 4,7,9,15,16,17,19,20 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 2 and 21, 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 1 because the maglia rosa is there for the taking
  • Stage 4 with the Etna summit finish and to see if any GC bids come unstuck early
  • Stage 9 for the Blockhaus summit finish
  • Stage 14’s circuit race around the Superga makes for a hard race
  • Stage 16 because of the Mortirolo and Cristina climbs, the tappone
  • Stage 17 with more climbing and some tricky mountain backroads
  • Stage 20 for the San Pellegrino, Pordoi and Marmolada trilogy
  • Stage 21 as the final TT to settle the race

TV
All stages will be broadcast live from start to finish although we’ll see what this brings, this started last year and the early phase of some days had “lite” production means until the big show started later. After the fiasco of missing TV images last year production’s been outsourced from RAI to Euromedia who do the Tour de France coverage for France Télévisions which means if it rains we should still get the pictures.

Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the richest 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 finish is expected for around 5.15pm CEST each day. It’s also on Eurosport-GCN for English-language coverage.