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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.

Route summary
A Giro tilted to the climbers with six summit finishes and 38km of time trials, the fewest for years but a tilt rather than a guarantee. The summit finishes get bigger and bigger leading to the Alpine third week. Like last year, there are few chances for the sprinters, five probably but one or two more for those useful in the hills.

Stage 1 – Saturday 8 May

A time trial through the streets of Turin, one of Italy’s major cities and a flat course on big urban boulevards. It’s been hard to see past Filippo Ganna for the win but his level in Romandie makes that harder. Look beyond for the gaps between the GC contenders.

Stage 2 – Sunday 9 May

A flat dash across the Po plains and past the rice fields needed to make the local risotto dishes, this route has all the ingredients of a sprint finish in Novara.

Stage 3 – Monday 10 May

A hilly day where the three categorised climbs are the easy ones, they’re all on a big wide road with a steady gradient. It’s the bump late in the stage that is the trap, a hard climb twisting in the vineyards outside Alba just 15km from the finish.

Stage 4 – Tuesday 11 May

A return visit to Sestola, the Giro has visited several times with the likes of Peter Weening and Giulio Ciccone winning recently. The hard part is the climb out of Fanano to the Colle Passerino and with 4km at a hard 10% to make a selective finish.

Stage 5 – Wednesday 12 May

A a trip along the Adriatic coast to Cattolica, a town with no particular religious significance despite the name. Instead it’s a seaside holiday town, the finish is on the lungomare and the Giro returns for the first time since 1978 when Rik Van Linden, a Tour de France points competition winner, won.

Stage 6 – Thursday 13 May

Ascension day and short mountain stage with the climb to the Colle San Giacomo above Ascoli. It’s a long ascent, 17km at an average of 6% but the last 5km bite with some 8-10% sections to make this finish an important discovery day for the GC contenders.

Stage 7 – Friday 14 May

A day for the sprinters with the seaside finish in Termoli, there was a sprint finish in 2006 when Paolo Bettini celebrated only for the photofinish to award Tomas Vaitkus the win.

Stage 8 – Saturday 15 May

As far south as Giro reaches this year and it’s still north of Napoli. The race heads into the Matese, a chain of mountains that’s part of the Apennines and a finish in Guardia Sanframondi with a tough climb past the olive groves. It’s a good day for a breakaway.

Stage 9 – Sunday 16 May

A return to Rocca di Cambio, with a twist. There’s a climb up to the Campo Felice ski area and then onto a gravel track that’s a ski slope in winter, this final section includes 10% slopes to the line.

Stage 10 – Monday 17 May

A fitness test for the sprinters with the Valico Della Somma 40km from the finish, most should make it as it’s a main traffic artery and it’ll help spice up the stage ahead of the Giro’s first rest day.

Stage 11 – Wednesday 19 May

A big day, this is the strade bianche (sterrato to locals) gravel stage and the wine stage. It’s back to Montalcino, famous for its Brunello wine and for the vintage stage of the Giro in 2010 won by Cadel Evans when the white roads turned beige and grey in a downpour and riders looked like they’d been carved out of marble. The roads are different this time but it should be one to savour.

Stage 12 – Thursday 20 May

A mountain stage? It looks like it on paper but out on the road it’s not so hard, a lot big ring riding and this is one for the breakaway.

Stage 13 – Friday 21 May

Friday, the 13th stage and a TV commentator’s nightmare, almost 200km across the Po plains and as flat as a piadina. Check for crosswinds just in case but otherwise this is a TV viewer’s rest day, tune in late to savour the sprint as there few of them in this year’s Giro. This stage helps deliver fresher legs for the weekend ahead.

Stage 14 – Saturday 22 May

A return to Monte Zoncolan, a name that strikes fear into anyone without a compact chainset. Only this time it’s the Sutrio side, climbed only once by the Giro in 2003 and easier. It’s relative though, after 8km of 7-9% which is selective enough the road kicks up and there’s 3km of vicious 12-16%.

Stage 15 – Sunday 23 May

A circuit race with the finish in a city that’s Nova Gorici on one side of the river in Slovenia, and Gorizia to the Italians on the other, and the site of giant battles during World War One. The stage features a hilly circuit as the name Gornje Cerovo implies before a finish back on Italian soil.

Stage 16 – Monday 24 May

Book Monday off work. The tappone, 212km and into the Dolomites for 5,700m of vertical gain. If that’s not hard enough, remember it’s May and many of the higher sections will be lined with snow, there’s a lot of time at altitude and in the cold… assuming the roads are open. The Pordoi is this year’s Cima Coppi high point. The early climb here gives the breakaway a chance to get clear but behind all the GC contenders and their teams will be up for this one. A rest day awaits in Cortina.

Stage 17 – Wednesday 26 May

193km and the action saved for late. The San Valentino to soften up the group and then the Sega di Ala – the Passo delle Fittanze for locals – as the summit finish and used once before in the Giro del Trentino in 2013 when Vincenzo Nibali won the summit finish weeks before winning the Giro, and Bradley Wiggins tossed his bike away and it wheeled to stop by a wall. It’s an irregular climb, far more awkward than it looks on the profile.

Stage 18 – Thursday 27 May

228km in the third week, it better not rain. It’s a stage to Stradella, where the Po plains stretch out again, where the road is grey and the light is grey… or at least that’s what Paolo Conte sings. Riders will find their lungs moving like accordions in the finish as the race dips into the Pavese hills with some sharp climbs, any sprinters still left in the race won’t have it easy.

Stage 19 – Friday 28 May

The second Giro start in Abbiategrasso in a year, but only because it was appointed in haste last year when the rider strike prompted the start of the day’s stage to be cancelled and the convoy convened here. The real story though is the novelty, the new summit finish. First there’s the climb up Mottarone, the mountain between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta which the Giro’s used before then it’s up the Passo di Colma – a pleonasm as colma means pass – above Varallo and then into the Valsesia, a remote valley, before the finish in Alpe di Mera, more a car park than a ski resort but a tough climb, 10km with 7-8% to start and then the second half is over 10% and if anyone’s on a bad day they’ll discover the missing “D” in Alpe di Mera.

Stage 20 – Saturday 29 May

The race isn’t done with the mountains with 4,300m of vertical again. After a start in Verbania – home to Filippo Ganna – the race itself moves to Switzerland and its smooth roads via the long Passo San Bernardino, 30km of climbing and some steep sections but largely a drag. Then there’s the Splügenpass, another long pass and again with some steep parts but not too hard and the two climbs are ideal for a strong team to keep the race under lockdown. A tricky, irregular climb leads to the finish.

Stage 21 – Sunday 30 May

A 30km time trial from Senago to Milan much like last year’s final stage, it’s flat and fast.

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 Segafredo Zanetti, a brand of coffee that also sponsors the Trek team.

  • Category A+B stages (Stages 2,5,7,10,13,18) 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 3,4,6,8,12,15) 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 1,9,11,14,16,17,19,20,21) offer points for the first 10: 15-12-9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and for the the intermediate sprint  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
  • 11 third category climbs: the first four riders over the top get 9-4-2-1 points
  • 9 second category climbs: first six riders get 18-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • 12 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 16. 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 1996, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Euro Spin, a discount supermarket.

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 held at the second intermediate sprint each day; 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 2,5,7,13: 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 10 and 18: 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 3,4,6,8,12,15 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
  • Stages 9,11,14,16,17,19,20 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 1 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.

  • Stage 4 features a hard climb to the finish
  • Stage 6 is another early test for the GC contenders
  • Stage 11 for the gravel stage to Montalcino
  • Stage 14 with Monte Zoncolan
  • Stage 16 is on a Monday but the biggest stage of the race
  • Stage 19 the new Alpe di Mera summit finish
  • Stage 20 for the Alpine scenery and the hard finish
  • Stage 21 the final TT if things are close

New for 2021, all stages will be broadcast live from start to finish although the RAI press release talks about “increasingly advanced and high performance technology” which doesn’t sound like the tried and tested TV broadcast and could mean fingers-crossed for a 4G signal in the countryside. We’ll see. More certain is that Eurosport-GCN is covering the race and some stages will be on Eurosport 1 but watch out as some are reserved for subscribers via the online Eurosport Player or the GCN app.

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.