With the Giro d’Italia 2018 route being announced later today, there are quite a few things we want to see from a race which looks likely to attract a cast of big names including Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, Fabio Aru, and Vincenzo Nibali.
The good news for race organisers RCS Sport is that the 2017 was mostly a great success, so they don’t need to change too much, but the odd tweak here and there wouldn’t go amiss…
1. A more interesting first week
We don’t blame you for erasing the first week of the 2017 Giro d’Italia from your memory because, well, it wasn’t the most interesting opening week in Grand Tour history.
Day after day of flat stages where you could turn on your TV with five kilometres to go, safe in the knowledge that you hadn’t missed any action, didn’t exactly do much to attract the casual viewer. Although the opening few stages in Israel don’t bode well, we’ll be hoping for a little more intrigue once the race makes its way to Italy.
2. Keep the time trialling the same
In an effort to create interesting racing, the Tour de France cut its time trialling to the bare bones in 2017… and it didn’t work. In contrast the Giro had nearly 70km of racing against the clock, which made for a titanic battle between Dumoulin and the climbers which was only decided on the final day.
Hopefully the Giro’s organisers have recognised this success and will include a similar amount of time trialling in 2018, although the desire to attract Chris Froome to the race next year could also have affected their decisions.
3. A bit of mixed terrain
The Giro d’Italia has a history of heading off tarmac, but with the Tour de France taking in the pavé of Paris-Roubaix and even a bit of gravel in 2018, the Corsa Rosa might have to up its game.
The good news is that there are strong rumours that the gravel climb of the Colle delle Finestre will return for the first time since 2015, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for a few more moments of non-tarmacked intrigue, perhaps even the white roads of Tuscany used every year in Strade Bianche.
4. Not too many brutal days
As much as sadistic cycling fans might love the thought of 240km stages in the Alps with thousands of metres of climbing, the riders crawling across the line and having to be helped off their bikes, these sorts of stages rarely make for good racing.
Of course the Giro d’Italia wouldn’t be the Giro d’Italia without some tough days, but the organisers need to balance this with shorter, punchier stage that will encourage the main contenders to really go for it, and create aggressive and entertaining racing.
5. No pointless sprint stage in the final week
For some reason, RCS Sport always seems to put a random flat stage in the middle a mountainous final week, which will be a nice easy day out for the GC contenders to rest their legs, but for the viewing public is a chance to turn the TV off, and go and do something else for the afternoon.
With the sprinters having presumably all abandoned by this point, this sort of day is a nice chance for a breakaway to succeed, but hopefully with a few small hills and descents to make things interesting rather than just kilometre after kilometre of boring valley roads.
6. Zoncolan return
Every race needs an iconic climb for the fans to look forward to and the riders to dread, and this year it looks as if that climb will be Monte Zoncolan. Any climb which you start by passing under a banner saying “Welcome to Hell” is going to be tough, and the Zoncolan doesn’t disappoint, with a brutal six kilometres at an unrelenting gradient of 15 per cent in its midst.
The only thing that detracts from the fans’ enjoyment of the Zoncolan are the tunnels near its summit, but the Tour de Suisse and the Critérium du Dauphiné having both put the logistics together to transmit live footage from inside tunnels in recent seasons, we’re hoping that the Giro can do the same.