The hunt for the maglia rosa is once again upon us and to celebrate the centenary of the Giro d’Italia, organisers have created a race route that takes in the best Italy has to offer.

To best get an understanding of what the race will offer in the first nine stages we asked our very own experts what we can expect from the riders on the start list, including favourites like Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Geraint Thomas.

Starting off in Sardinia, the first three stages skirt the island’s coast making for some flat and fast racing in stage one before facing some lengthy climbing on the second day. Stage three will offer overall contenders a task to deal with crosswinds.

Heading to Sicily, riders prepare for the first big stage on stage four which features a finish up Mount Etna. Stage five will take riders through the homeland of overall contender, Vincenzo Nibali, otherwise known as the Shark of Messina, who will relish the chance to be in pink his hometown.

Finally riders make it to the mainland for stage six, which is a mixed profile with a real steep finish much like stage eight. The race really gets going at stage nine with the finish coming after the Blockhaus climb featuring 13km at 9.4 per cent average throughout.

>>> Watch the race as it happens: Giro d’Italia 2017 TV guide

With such a rough climb facing riders it’ll be key for teams to protect their lead contenders and will we see the likes of Movistar, Team Sky and Bahrain-Merida eschewing themselves into prime position?

Whatever happens, the first nine stages will make for interesting racing and could produce several different riders in the famous pink jersey. It will certainly set up for an exciting Giro.