MILAN (AFP) — The Giro d’Italia’s 2018 route will feature a start in Israel and mountaintop finishes from the tip of the “boot” in Sicily to the craggy Dolomite and Alpine mountains — here are five key stages.
Stage 1: 9.7km individual time trial
The opening stage in Israel is a first and this individual time trial will hand specialists like Chris Froome (Sky) their first chance to get the upper hand and maybe even pull on the pink jersey. The following two days are also in Israel, taking in Tel Aviv and the Red Sea.
“The first individual time trial will be very technical, and if it rains there may be great time differences,” said 2015 Giro winner Alberto Contador.
Stage 6: 163km to Mount Etna
After Israel, the Giro winds into Sicily for three days. It climbs the slopes of the island’s celebrated volcano, Mount Etna, for the first of the race’s eight summit finishes, with some sections of the final 15km climb at eight-percent gradient.
“The Sicilian stages are in the areas of the island I know less well — I have never climbed the Etna from the observatory side,” said 2016 Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
Stage 14: 181km to Monte Zoncolon
The high mountains begin here. The recently retired former Giro champion Contador says, “The Zoncolan is even harder than the l’Angliru, I have no doubt of that.” This is one of world cycling’s most feared ascents thanks to its 15-percent gradient over a 5km section, tough even for the very best climbers.
“I fought with Contador the last time I raced there — a very hard stage,” Nibali added about the Zoncolon.
Stage 16: 34.5km individual time trial
Over a mainly flat course running through a valley, featuring a single hill about two-thirds of the way around, time trial specialists will have to gamble on whether to put some time into their rivals on the flat rather than saving energy for the later mountains where the Giro is generally won.
Stage 20: 214km to Cervina
Flat for 125km before three tricky mountains to climb over the final 90km. If the Giro has not already been decided, the steep climbs on offer in this Alpine stage will hurt anyone feeling the pace and would generally be expected to shake up the top 10.