I think I actually prefer this race to the TdF …..
The route of the 2015 Giro d’Italia has been presented this afternoon in Milan in front of a star-studded audience including Alberto Contador, the soon-to-retire Cadel Evans and new world champion, Michal Kwiatkowski – but not this year’s winner, Nairo Quintana, who is targetting the Tour de France next year.
We already knew that the race would start in the Liguria region, and today it has been confirmed that it will finish in Milan after a two-year absence, in a stage that starts in Turin. The penultimate day witnesses a key stage for the overall contenders, with a summit finish at Sestriere preceded by a climb of the Colle delle Finestre.
The race commences with a team time trial of 17.6km on San Remo’s cycling track, built on the site of the former coastal railway line, and also has an unusually long individual time trial of 59.2km on Stage 14 from Treviso to Valdobbiadene.
There are seven stages for the sprinters – one of them, from Grosseto to Fiuggi a monster 263km – as well as seven medium mountain stages and five high mountain stages. There are seven uphill finishes over the three weeks of the 3,481.8km race.
“The Giro d’Italia is a true legend in our sport and an important race for the future of road cycling. I believe that this 2015 edition will be extremely challenging, combining some testing early stages together with the highest mountains in the last week. I really cannot wait for May 2015.”
UCI president Brian Cookson, who was at the presentation today, said: “I am delighted to see that the 2015 Giro d’Italia will go through some of Italy’s most iconic regions and cities. It reminds me of some of the great battles of past editions.
This year’s race featured six days in the high mountains, and while there are some undoubtedly tough stages next May particularly in the final third, it’s perhaps not as tough as some closing week’s we have seen in recent years.
That reflects race director Mauro Vegni’s commitment to provide a more “human” race – something his predecessor, Michele Acquarone, also promised prior to the 2012 edition – and is reflected not only in the route, but also the length of transfers from one stage to the next.
In part, that’s also because the Giro wants to attract the very top riders – men such as Alberto Contador, who was at today’s presentation, and Vincenzo Nibali, the only man besides the Spaniard to have won all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
Both are now said to have their sights on another rare achievement – winning the Giro and the Tour in the same season, a feat only ever previously achieved by seven men, the first being Fausto Coppi in 1949, the last Marco Pantani almost half a century later, in 1998.
Those two legends of Italian cycling are honoured by Giro organisers RCS Sport by having two of the climbs that will help decide the race named after them. This year’s Montagna Pantani will be the Passo del Mortirolo, which comes on Stage 16 from Pinzolo to Aprica.
That stage is preceded by a rest day following a last-but-one weekend that will see that long stage against the clock in which a lot of time could be won or lost, then what looks like one of the more decisive days of the race, with Stage 15’s summit finish at Madonna di Compiglio.
The Cima Coppi, the highest point of a race which includes 44,000 vertical metres of climbing, comes on the penultimate day with the Colle delle Finestre, with that stage finishing at the ski station of Setsriere.
The previous day will have also seen a summit finish, at Cervinia, 2,001 metres above sea level, with that ascent preceded by two other tough climbs in the final third.
Contador himself believes the race will suit an attacking rider, and with that long time trial on the penultimate Saturday has speculated that the course could be perfect for the rider he beat at last month’s Vuelta – Chris Froome.
As with any Grand Tour, while the General Classification provides the overarching narrative and carries the most prestige, there will be plenty of sub-plots bubbling away in the background – not least through those seven sprint stages, while the medium mountain days should as ever encourage plenty of attacking riding.
But if the organisers have pitched the race just right to attract riders of the calibre of Froome, Contador and Nibali, we may just have one of the most exciting tussles for the maglia rosa we’ve seen for a while next May.