The route for the 104th Giro d’Italia is out and it looks to be a very tough edition for the 'fight for pink' taking on tough gravel sections, the infamous Monte Zoncolan and two individual time trials.
The 2021 Italian Grand Tour is set to take place between May 8 to May 30 where the riders will tackle a massive 3,450km over 21 stages over most of the nation as well as some brief dips into Slovenia and Switzerland.
The event opens with an 8.6km time trial around the city of Turin quickly followed by chances for the fast men and climbers who have a good kick on some hilly days before taking on the first uphill finish to Sestola on stage four.
Climbing is definitely the buzz word for this year's race with stages six, eight and nine all taking on more than 3,000 metres of altitude gain.
The main stand-out stage is the day they ride up the vicious Monte Zoncolan on stage 14, this time from the Sustrio side, a side that hasn't been used since 2003's race.
But of course, there are many more big climbs that the peloton will have to face including the San Bernadino Pass, the Alpe di Motta and a new finish for the race on the Alpe di Mera in Valsesia.
New cycling superpower Slovenia will also feature briefly in the race. The country and been pushed to the front of the queue as one of the main cycling nations thanks to the success of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Neither rider is riding the race though.
We've known for a while now that Turin and the Piemonte region will host the Grande Partenza of the 104th Giro d’Italia for the first time in 10 years.
The time trial on day one will sort out an early selection before a chance for the sprinters and the puncheurs on stages two and three.
Then they go straight into proper climbing on stage four with an uphill finish. They start in the town of Piacenza and finish in Sestola.
It's then the turn of the fast men yet again on day five before the first big day of climbing comes on stage six from the caves of Frasassi to Ascoli Piceno.
The seventh day is once again back to the sprinters, but they don't have long as stage eight and nine are big mountain stages kicking above 3,000 metres of ascending.
The tenth stage could potentially see a breakaway success but the sprinters' teams will likely be keen to not miss a single chance before the first rest day.
After the riders have had some rest they go straight into stage 11 and the gravel roads between Pergui and Montalcino. They will have to take on an undulating Strade Bianche'esque stage with 35km of gravel sections in the latter stages.
The 12th day is all about climbing as the race pays tribute to Gino Bartali and Alfredo Martini before another sprint stage on stage 13.
It will be sensible to have a gentle ride on stage 13 as the 14th-day heads into the hellish arms of the Monte Zoncolan.
After that test, stage 15 should be an explosive stage for the punchers. It is very likely a perfect day for a break to go all the way. The final stage of the second week was set to be the queen's stage of the Giro with three climbs over 2000 metres, but due to bad weather the climbs of the Passo Fedaia and the race's Cima Coppi, Passo Pordoi.
Instead, the stage was shortened from 212km to 153km between Sacile to Cortina d'Ampezzo with just two climbs instead of four. La Crossetta and Passo Giau.
After the second and final rest day, the race heads back into the mountains with a new finish for the Giro up the Sega di Ala. This day also features Passo San Valentino.
Stage 18 should be a big day for the fight for the overall with the closing kilometres going over the Olreop Paverse hills. Then it's another new finish for the race on stage 19 with a climb to Alpe di Mera with a massive 3,700 metres of climbing to be done.
As usual for the Giro the penultimate stage of the race is an absolutely epic mountain stage with a huge 4,800 metres of climbing on the menu. Passo San Bernadino and Passo Spluga both hit the above 2,000 metres above sea-level marker before a finish on Alpe di Motta.
Then the final day sees the race come to a close as the winner is decided with a 29.4km individual time trial into Milan. We will then see the victor don the pink jersey and lift the 'never-ending trophy' above their heads.
Giro d'Italia route 2021
|Stage one, Sat May 8||Turin - Turin||8.6km ITT|
|Stage two, Sun May 9||Stupinigi - Novara||179km flat|
|Stage three, Mon May 10||Biella - Canale||190km hilly|
|Stage four, Tues May 11||Piacenza - Sestola||187km hilly|
|Stage five, Wed May 12||Modena - Cattolica||177km flat|
|Stage six, Thurs May 13||Grotte di Frassassi - Ascoli Piceno||160km mountain|
|Stage seven, Fri May 14||Notaresco - Temoli||181km flat|
|Stage eight, Sat May 15||Foggia - Guardia Sanframondi||170km mountain|
|Stage nine, Sun May 16||Castel di Sangro - Campo Felice||158km mountain|
|Stage 10, Mon May 17||Aquila - Foligno||139km hilly|
|Rest day, Tues May 18|
|Stage 11, Wed May 19||Perugia - Montalcino||162km hilly|
|Stage 12, Thurs May 20||Siena -Bagno di Romagna||212km hilly|
|Stage 13, Fri May 21||Ravenna - Verona||198km flat|
|Stage 14, Sat May 22||Cittadella - Monte Zoncolan||205km mountain|
|Stage 15, Sun May 23||Grado - Gorizia||147km hilly|
|Stage 16, Mon May 24||Sacille - Cortina d'Ampezzo||153km mountain|
|Rest day, Tues May 25|
|Stage 17, Wed May 26||Canazei - Sega di Ala||193km mountain|
|Stage 18, Thurs May 27||Rovereto - Stradella||231km flat|
|Stage 19, Fri May 28||Abbiategrasso - Alpe di Mera Valsesia||176km mountain|
|Stage 20, Sat May 29||Verbania - Alpe Motta||164km mountain|
|Stage 21, Sun May 30||Senago - Milan||30.3km ITT|
Giro d'Italia 2021 stages
Stage one, Turin - Turin, 8.6km ITT
A day that will likely see world time trial champion, Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), take the stage and go into pink for the second time in his career. But his recent form has put doubts on whether he will be able to take it. French time trial champion Rémi Cavagna could be coming for pink on the opening day.
Stage two, Stupinigi - Novara, 179km
Stage two will likely see the current leader of the race keep pink, but it should be the first mass sprint with a potential for Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) to get his first Grand Tour stage of the year as he looks to get at least one in the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
Stage three, Biella - Canale, 190km
The third stage opens up for the punchers and a possible change of overall leader. A stage that looks tailor-made for Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), whether he will be back to full fitness after his health scare break in time is another thing entirely.
Stage four, Piacenza to Sestola (187km)
The first proper test for the GC riders. Potential for a good early shake up in the standings will show who has turned up with the early race form.
Stage five, Modena to Cattolica (177km)
More sprinting on the fifth day. The likes of Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will all hope for victory here.
Stage six, Grotte di Frasassi to Ascoli Piceno (San Giacomo) (160km)
The GC battle continues with a tough mountain stage finishing on the category two summit finish to Ascoli Piceno.
Stage seven Notaresco to Temoli (181km)
A transition stage to Temoli provides a final sprint opportunity before a weekend of mountains.
Stage eight, Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi (170km)
A 170km stage in the medium mountains that could suit a breakaway. GC contenders will need to be attentive to any time gaps on the category four finishing climb.
Stage nine, Castel di Sangro to Campo Felice (Rocca di Cambio) (158km)
The final stage before the Giro d'Italia's first rest day is a big mountain test, with a category one climb to the finish in Campo Felice.
Stage 10, L'Aquila to Foligno (139km)
The race kicks back into action with stage 10, a short, fairly flat stage that will favour the sprint teams.
Stage 11, Perugia to Montalcino (Brunello di Montalcino Wine Stage) (162km)
One of the key stages of the second week will see the riders tackle gravel sectors from the Strade Bianche one-day race. GC contenders will need to be on high alert for mechanicals and crashes, while classics riders will fancy their chances at the stage win.
Stage 12, Siena to Bagno di Romagna (212km)
After the tricky gravel stage comes a long, brutal mountain stage for the peloton of the Giro d'Italia 2021. With very little flat on the 212km route, the category three climb before the finish should see some late attacking.
Stage 13, Ravenna to Verona (198km)
The profile speaks for itself; this is not a stage for the fans.
Stage 14, Cittadella to Monte Zoncolan (205km)
After the flattest day of the race, comes the hardest day of the race. For the GC contenders this is one of the most decisive days as they battle it out on the summit finish of the painfully steep Monte Zoncolan. For everyone else, this stage is simply about surviving and getting to the finish.
Stage 15, Grado to Gorizia (147km)
The first of two days that dip into foreign lands. Stage 15 sees the peloton dip in and out of Slovenia. Plenty of Slovenians are down to start but not the big stars of Roglič and Pogačar. The following day see the race take its second rest day.
Stage 16, Sacille to Cortina d'Ampezzo (153km)
The 16th stage of the race sees the peloton tackle the Cima Coppi or the highest point of the Giro, but not the original climb. The original highest point was set to be the Passo Pordoi as well as the Passo Fedaia, but due to bad weather, they were removed.
This made the Passo Giau the new Cima Coppi with both Fedaia and Pordoi being removed. Shortening the stage from 212km to 153km.
Stage 17, Canazei to Sega di Ala (193km)
The mountain stages come thick and fast in the final week and stage 17 features another huge category one summit finish that will be crucial in the fight for pink.
Stage 18, Rovereto to Stradella (231km)
The sprinters will be relieved to get an opportunity for a stage win after suffering through the mountains, but the stage is still a long one at 231km.
Stage 19, Abbiategrasso to Alpe di Mera (Valsesia) (176km)
After stage 18's brief respite it's a return to the mountains for the peloton, with another testing summit finish to Alpe di Mera.
Stage 20, Verbania to Alpe Motta (164km)
The second stage in a different country sees the race enter Switzerland for the vast majority of the stage from kilometre 22 to kilometre 134.9. This sees the race tackle the huge Passo San Bernardino and the Passo di Spluga of Splügenpass both hitting over 2000m before taking on Alpe Motta to the line.
Stage 21, Senago to Milan (30.3km ITT)
There's no procession on the final stage here, with the Giro d'Italia once again potentially decided on the final day. Last year saw Tao Geoghegan Hart snatch the win from Jai Hindley in the final time trial, while Tom Dumoulin did the same to Nairo Quintana in 2018. Could we a dramatic last day change of pink once again?
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