GIRO D' ITALIA PREVIEW
CYCLING WEEKLY|May 06, 2021
Back in its usual early-season slot, this year’s parcours looks primed for an action-packed three weeks
Steve Puddicombe and Chris Marshall-Bell

Giro d’Italia 2021

1 SATURDAY 8 MAY TURIN > TURIN | INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL

Ten years since Turin hosted the 2011 Grande Partenza to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the unification of Italy, the Giro returns, this time to celebrate the 160th anniversary. The nation will no doubt be united behind Filippo Ganna, who won all three-time trials in last year’s race and will be the hot favourites to do so again on what is a straightforwardly short and flat course. At just 8.6km long, there won’t be any significant gaps between the GC favourites, but the stage will offer a revealing glimpse of who’s arrived at the Giro in good form.

2 SUNDAY 9 MAY STUPINIGI (NICHELINO) > NOVARA | FLAT

Though the Alps loom on the horizon here in Piemonte, there are no nasty surprises in store for the riders as they head north-east through the Po valley towards the town of Novara. A 22-year-old Eddy Merckx won his first-ever Giro stage when the race last visited Novara in 1968, but a flat Parcours today makes this a nailed-on sprint finish.

The biggest concern for the GC men will be the possibility of crashes – early stages of Grand Tours are notoriously nervous affairs, and any rider lacking either alertness or luck could find their race coming to a premature end.

3 MONDAY 10 MAY BIELLA > CANALE | HILLY

When is a climb not a climb? The roadbook may not list two small rises inside the final 15km of this undulating stage in Piemonte as official categorized climbs, but they have enough of a bite for puncheurs to potentially launch stage-winning attacks and deny the sprinters another chance for glory.

Whoever was in pink following the opening stage would probably have retained the lead up until now, but will, like the sprinters’ teams, have a much harder time controlling attacks from anyone high enough on GC to fancy their chances of taking the jersey.

4 TUESDAY 11 MAY PIACENZA > SESTOLA | HILLY

This is the day the Giro d’Italia gets serious. Having left Piemonte for Emilia-Romagna, the peloton will head further south into hills of the northern Apennines where the constantly undulating terrain is likely to split the peloton into pieces.

Although they won’t climb the Pian del Falco, where Giulio Ciccone recorded his first win as a pro the last time the Giro visited Sestola in 2016, the 4km at 10 per cent featured on the finishing climb of Colle Passerino is hard enough to separate the GC favourites – even if a 2km plateau to the finish might limit the time gaps.

5 WEDNESDAY 12 MAY MODENA > CATTOLICA | FLAT

Today’s stage finishes in the seaside resort of Cattolica, and indeed this will feel like a holiday given how simple and flat the route is. Beginning in Modena, it follows a quintessentially straight Roman road that passes through the towns of Bologna, Imola and Forli without so much as encountering a speed bump, before reaching the Adriatic coast.

If you are thinking of giving this one a miss, be sure to check the weather forecast first – if it’s a blustery day, crosswinds could become a factor, which would make the stage much more than just a procession leading to a bunch sprint.

6 THURSDAY 13 MAY GROTTE DI FRASASSI > ASCOLI PICENO (SAN GIACOMO) | MOUNTAINS

Every summer, Ascoli Piceno hosts a colourful medieval festival where hundreds dress up in Renaissance clothing, and a jousting event known, incidentally, as a ‘Quintana’, takes place. Although Nairo himself isn’t riding the Giro this year, it’s riders of his ilk who will do battle today for what is the first proper mountain-top finish of the race.

Although a fair amount of climbing kilometres will have accumulated by this point of the race, today’s stage is the first that can be reasonably called a mountainous stage. The finishing climb of San Giacomo, which the riders will take on immediately after exiting southwards out of Ascoli Piceno, is the longest of the race so far, lasting a total of 17km. And don’t be fooled by the category two status of the Forca di Gualdo climb that precedes it – the Giro prides itself on being tougher than the Tour de France, and not giving a higher rating to a climb like this, which averages over seven per cent for 10km, comes across a little like macho posturing.

Attacks likely won’t come until the steeper higher slopes of San Giacomo. The only previous time a Giro stage finished here in 2002, 16 riders managed to finish within a minute of the winner Julio Alberto Pérez, but were all strewn across the road in small groups. Expect something similar today – no hugely significant time gaps, but a clear indication of who the strongest riders at this Giro d’Italia are.

7 FRIDAY 14 MAY NOTARESCO > TERMOLI | FLAT

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