Spring has well and truly sprung, which means it’s time for the first three-week race of the season.
The Giro d’Italia is the Grand Tour your Rapha membership-owning friend will always assert is the finest of the three. It just has a certain… “Je ne sais quoi,” they’ll say with a knowing smile before taking a sip from their espresso doppio.
More annoying than the affectations of your pseudo-sophisticated pal is the nagging suspicion that they might be right.
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The Giro is the Grand Tour of Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Francesco Moser and Giuseppe Saronni. More recently that of Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi. Its most celebrated mountain passes all sound more romantic than their gaudy gaulish equivalents: the Passo dello Stelvio and the Gavia; the Colle dell’Agnello and the Colle del Finestre; the Mortirolo and Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It’s the Vuelta with an all-star startlist, or the Tour but a lot more fun. Nowhere has that fun been better depicted than in Jorgen Leths’ 1974 documentary, Stars and Watercarriers - which, by the way, your pal also prefers to A Sunday in Hell.
The victuals are also vital - it is the only Grand Tour that takes the time to celebrate both food and drink. In this edition the former takes place on Stage 11. The start town, Santarcangelo di Romagna, is famous for its onions, sold on the street and eaten raw with radicchio, extra virgin olive oil, Sangiovese wine vinegar and grilled sausage. Lovers of libation must wait until Stage 16, which begins on the shores of Lake Garda. Wines produced in the region have been awarded denominazione d’origine controllata (DOC) which sets specific rules around their production and holds them to a very particular standard.
Cycling? Scusi, of course.
Without reigning champion Egan Bernal, who is on the comeback trail from his life-threatening training crash, it’s a rather more open contest than it might have been. Even in the absence of the Colombian this edition’s startlist will still support four former winners: Tao Geoghegan Hart, Richard Carapaz (both Ineos Grenadiers), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo Visma) and home favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan). Of these, only Nibali’s time has passed, though Tao Geoghegan Hart may be expected to play the role of equipier to the Olympic champion’s el capitan. Dumoulin takes on the task of leading a team for the first time since joining Jumbo Visma, though may find there aren’t as many time trialling kilometres as would suit him. With a heck of a lot of hills across the three weeks, Carapaz will start as a strong favourite to be in pink at the end of May.
Other potential champions include Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Simon Yates (Jayco BikeExchange), Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious). Each of these has something to prove and/or a primate of some kind to shake from their shoulder.
Of these, surprisingly it is the ageing hipster Bardet who has the best chance. Victory in the Tour of the Alps was his first overall title since he won the Tour de l’Ain nine years ago. Almeida will be hoping to prove to his new employer that he was worth their investment, has what it takes to lead a team, and shouldn’t be shuffled into a support slot for superstar Tadej Pogacar. Yates’ Vuelta victory seems like a very long time ago. That his collapse at the 2018 Giro is even longer ago but still feels fresh says he still has something to prove - to himself first, but also to those who believe he has never quite realised his potential. What of the mercurial Landa? That he possesses a remarkable raw talent in abundance has never been in doubt. How many more chances will he get to spin it into gold?
GIRO D’ITALIA 2022 - THE ROUTE
Bold = key stage, explained in detail below
- May 6, Stage 1: Budapest - Visegrad (195km, flat)
- May 7, Stage 2: Budapest - Budapest ITT (9.2km, ITT)
- May 8, Stage 3: Kaposvár - Balatonfüred (201km, flat)
- Travelling to Sicily
- May 10, Stage 4: Avola - Etna-Nicolosi (Rif. Sapienza) (172km, mountains)
- May 11, Stage 5: Catania - Messina (174km, flat)
- May 12, Stage 6: Palmi - Scalea (Riviera dei Cedri) (192km, flat)
- May 13, Stage 7: Diamante - Potenza (196km, hilly)
- May 14, Stage 8: Napoli - Napoli (Procida Capitale Italiana della Cultura) (153km, hilly)
- May 15, Stage 9: Isernia - Blockhaus (191 km, mountains)
- May 16, first rest day
- May 17, Stage 10: Pescara - Jesi (196km, hilly)
- May 18, Stage 11: Santarcangelo di Romagna - Reggio Emilia Parmigiano Reggiano Food Stage (203km, flat)
- May 19, Stage 12: Parma - Genova (204km, hilly)
- May 20, Stage 13: Sanremo - Cuneo (150km, flat)
- May 21, Stage 14: Santena - Torino (147km, hilly)
- May 22, Stage 15: Rivarolo Canavese - Cogne (178 km, mountains)
- May 23, Second rest day
- May 24, Stage 16: Salo - Aprica (Sforzato Wine Stage) (202km, mountains)
- May 25, Stage 17: Ponte di Legno - Lavarone (168km, mountains)
- May 26, Stage 18: Borgo Valsugana - Treviso (152km, flat)
- May 27, Stage 19: Marano Lagunare - Santuario di Castelmonte (177km, hilly)
- May 28, Stage 20: Belluno - Marmolada (Passo Fedaia) (168km, mountains)
- May 29, Stage 21: Verona (Cronometro delle Colline Veronesi) (17.4km, ITT)
GIRO D'ITALIA ROUTE MAP
GIRO D'ITALIA 2022 - KEY STAGES
Stage 1, May 6: Budapest - Visegrad (195km, flat)
Two years on from the Grande Partenza claimed by Covid, we finally arrive in Budapest. Though the road to Visegrad may be largely level, it has a serious sting in its tail. Across the Danube and up towards the castle, the final four kilometres average 5.1%. At the pace that’s sure to be set, it will all be too much for the true sprinters to hang on, which brings to mind one man. Can Mathieu van der Poel, making his first appearance at the Giro, also claim his first maglia rosa?
Stage 4, May 10: Avola - Etna-Nicolosi (Rif. Sapienza) (172km, mountains)
Will a day off the bikes have been good for their legs, or will the hefty transfer have taken it out of them? However our stars are feeling, there’ll be no escaping the first true climb of the race and a certain new maglia rosa by day’s end. Though the ultimo destination is not new - we were last here in 2018 - the route to the top will be unfamiliar to the riders. Its gradients barely squeaking above 10%, and mostly staying in the mid single digits, Etna is more of an endurance test than anything else. 22km of uphill means team-mates will be key. Which team leaders can keep theirs beside them for the longest could prove the difference here.
Stage 7, May 13: Diamante - Potenza (196km, hilly)
Beginning where you might tie a bow onto the Italian boot, this stage starts and stays by the coast before heading across the southern Apennines. Its intrigue originates from the almost complete lack of horizontal road, and several short sharp sharks’ teeth to entice any opportunist whose legs feel light - or who fancies stealing something on a descent. We’re not in Sicily anymore, but one rider’s name certainly springs to mind…
Stage 9, May 15: Isernia - Blockhaus (191 km, mountains)
If there is one stage in the first week that promises a firework-y finale, it’s this one. The ninth most frequented climb in the race, the Giro last visited Blockhaus in 2017. Nairo Quintana was king of the hill that day - which gives you some indication of the challenges it presents - but Tom Dumoulin was only 24 seconds in arrears. As they look towards the first rest day, there will be no holding back on Blockhaus. And no hiding form (or lack thereof) either.
Stage 14, May 21: Santena - Torino (147km, hilly)
Excluding the time trials, this is the shortest stage of the race. Don’t imagine for a moment that will make it an easy day out, though. Instead expect intensity from the off, with the course’s five classified climbs less than half of the total. The organisers reckon the race could be concluded in 3 hour 45 minutes. We wouldn’t bet against it being even faster than that.
Stage 16, May 24: Salo - Aprica (Sforzato Wine Stage) (202km, mountains)
Into the Alps for both our Queen and wine stage. The Mortirolo in the middle might be better known but Valico di Santa Cristina will be where the day’s drama takes place. Though the first half is mostly meat and drink for these riders, the final five kilometres of the climb barely drop below 10%. If someone paces it right they could head over the top with a healthy lead, the stage win, and some precious GC seconds in the bag. Judge it wrong, on the other hand, and their hopes of taking the title in Verona could crumble.
Stage 21, May 29: Verona (Cronometro delle Colline Veronesi) (17.4km, ITT)
The 2022 Giro concludes, as it did in 2019, with a time trial on the Torricelle Circuit (also the same as used in the World Championships.) On that occasion, although it was of sufficiently distance to shuffle the podium a bit, it was not long enough to disrobe Richard Carapaz. Will he have enough of a lead this time? Or any lead at all. That all depends on what happens in the 20 stages prior. Bring it on.
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