The Giro is made up of teams of 9 riders. I won’t bore you with the details here, they can be found elsewhere, but basically in professional bike racing riders can only gain time over their rivals in time trials or when cycling up steep hills. At other times, the value of ‘drafting’ behind other riders is just too great.
So at the beginning of a 3-week tour like the Giro we can look forward to the stages where we know the critical action will take place. Tune in to catch these 7 stages, and you’ll see the race won and lost.
(Click on the links for more detail from the Giro D’Italia website.)
1. Saturday 11th May Stage 8
Stage length = 55 Km
2. Monday 13th May Stage 10
Finish at Altopiano Del Montasio (1,519 m)
Stage length = 167 Km
A medium-difficulty mountain stage, and significant because it will be our first chance to see if any of the contenders are especially strong in the mountains. If Nibali, or perhaps Michele Scarponi, can make a break stick all the way to the finish .. well. that’s what we’re looking for today.
3. Saturday 18th May Stage 14
Finish at Bardonecchia (1,908 m)
Stage length = 168 Km
This is the first stage in the high mountains, crossing the Sestriere at 2,035 metres with a summit finish at Bardonecchia. Breaks get chased down when the peaks come a long way before the finish, so this will be a chance for the specialist climbers to attack, win time, and keep it.
4. Sunday 19th May Stage 15
Finish at Col Du Galibier (2,642 m)
Stage length = 149 Km
The Col du Galibier. Say no more. Oh, except the Giro has wandered into France.
5. Thursday 23rd May Stage 18
Stage length = 20.6 Km
This stage really could be the decider. The riders climb over 1,000 metres in just over 20 Km. We amateur punters reckon we know the riders’ abilities in the mountain stages, the sprints and the time trials, but mountain time trials are a bit different. No one to chase, there’s no advantage to attacks or strong acceleration, it’s just maximum sustained power up a steep hill for 20 Km. You’d expect that to suit Wiggins, but I reckon you’ll see riders collapse over the line on this stage.
6. Friday 24th May Stage 19
Finish at Val Martello (2,059 m)
Stage length = 139 Km
Passo Gavia (2,618), Passo dello Stelvio (2,758, Cima Coppi)
This is the stage with the most big cols, including the highest point of this year’s Giro, the Passo Dello Stelvio. The highest pont of the Giro each year is know as the ‘Cimo Coppi’ after the legendary Italian cyclist who won the Giro 5 times either side of World War 2, and this year the mighty Stelvio is it.
To emphasise the difficulty of this climb, the Stelvio contains 48 hairpin bends and is only open for 4 months each year – and even in high summer it is routinely blocked by snow. It’s no exageration to say that today’s stage crosses the Stelvio weather permitting – at least 3 times weather hasn’t permitted and the stage has been changed or abandoned.
7. Saturday May 25th Stage 20
Finish at Tre Crime de Laveredo (2,304 m)
Stage length = 203 Km
As well as the finish, today’s stage contains 4 other mountain passes. This is the final chance for any of the riders to make a move. We’ll almost certainly know the winner by the beginning of today’s stage, but if we don’t this will be a hell of a day.