Teams racing the 2019 Giro d’Italia will take part in a special Zwift prologue event ahead of the Grand Tour.
A new partnership between the Giro organisers and online training platform Zwift will see four teams compete over two virtual exhibition races before the official Grande Partenza on Saturday (May 11).
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An online version of the opening 8.2km prologue course will also be launched on Zwift this weekend, which will let amateur riders recreate the opening stage.
The head of race organiser RCS, Paolo Bellino, said: “The Giro d’Italia has a long history of innovation.
“It’s always an exciting race and we’ve never been afraid to experiment with new ways to deliver excitement.
“This year, we are excited to be able to bring a new technological advancement to the race.
“Not only does this give fans around the world a chance to get closer to the race by experiencing a stage, but it also gives the competing riders a new way to prepare for the start of the race.”
Zwift have teamed up with RCS ahead of the 102nd edition of the Giro d’Italia and have recreated the 8.2km-long Bologna prologue.
The new course will be launched on Zwift on Saturday, the same day the pros take to the roads.
Featuring a 6km flat run in and a 2.1km climb, which averages 9.7 per cent gradient and hits 16 per cent, the tough course will be a challenge for both professionals and amateurs.
There will also be a series of time trials held on Zwift during the Giro, with anyone taking part in an event in the first three days of the race being entered into a prize draw to win a maglia rosa signed by the eventual winner.
Ahead of the start of the Giro, four Professional Continental teams racing the first Grand Tour of the season will take part in two races on the virtual prologue course as part of an exhibition event.
Israel Cycling Academy, Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizanè, Bardiani-CSF and Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec riders will battle it out on Thursday (May 9) from the race village in Bologna.
Former Giro winner Ivan Basso will also briefly return from retirement to test his legs in the event.
Zwift CEO and co-founder Eric Min said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to help encourage global participation around the Giro d’Italia.
“By engaging a large global community of cyclists, Zwift has the power to increase the exposure of Bologna as a host start town.
“The Bologna course will live on long beyond the start on Saturday, and allow many more people around the world to experience a small part of this historic city.”