By VeloNews Interactive
The route of the 87th Giro d’Italia was announced Saturday, with organizers promising a more demanding opening week and a shorter, tougher finish than in this year’s edition.
A nearly all-Italian event comprising a prologue and 20 stages, with one start and finish in Croatia, the 2004 Giro will cover 3435 kilometers, with 12 flat stages, four rolling and three in the high mountains.
Organizers concede that Italy’s grand tour will be “slightly biased towards climbers,” with only a single time trial; there were two races against the clock in both 2003 and ‘02. The longer stages will come early in next year’s Giro, with short, punchy stages in the final stretch.
The Giro begins with a 7km up-and-down prologue in Genoa’s old town center before turning its attention to the sprinters for stage one, a rolling route to Alba.
A bunch finish seems unlikely in stage two, from Novi Ligure to Pontremoli, as riders tackle the Passo del Bocco and the Passo del Brattello, only 19km from the finish.
The first serious effort comes on the third day, a 190km stage from Pontremoli to Corno alle Scale, which includes the Foce di Carpinelli after 60km and La Lima. Corno alle Scale, new to the Giro, is a 12.8km ascent whose final 3.2km are the toughest, with grades of 14 percent.
The next day will be a smooth, 187km ride from Porretta Terme down to Pistoia and then to Civitella in Val di Chiana. The fifth stage, to Spoleto, has no major climbs; stage six, to Valmontone, appears to be a day for the sprinters.
The next big test should come in the 211km stage seven, from Frosinone to Montevergine di Mercogliano, with climbs of 10 percent over the final 17km, last included in 2001 (Danilo Di Luca won). The following stage, from Giffoni Valle Piana to Policoro, will be the Giro’s longest at 234km, and organizers predict a “gruppo compatto” at the finish. Same goes for the next stage, to Carovigno, which is to be followed by a rest day and transfer.
Stage 10 takes the Giro 145km inland to Ascoli Piceno as a prelude to the next big test, a 229km race to Cesena that starts flat, then climbs to San Marino before segueing into what organizers term a “terrible” series of ups and downs in the finale.
Stage 12 to Treviso serves as another transition leading into the next day’s individual time trial at Trieste. The 52km course is flat in its first kilometers, then climbs from Contovello to Prosecco and then Rupingrande, before going back to the smooth roads that lead from Sistiana back to Trieste and the finish in the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia. Stages 14 and 15 take the Giro from Trieste through Pola to San Vendemiano.
And then, stage 16 — 215km from San Vendemiano to Falzes, a course that tackles the Forcella Staulanza, the Valparola, Furcia and Terento.
Next up is the Giro’s final rest day, followed by four of the shortest stages in the race, culminating with stage 20, 144km from Clusone to Milan.
2004 Giro d’Italia, May 8-30:
May 8, Prologue: Genoa, 7km
May 9, Stage 1: Genoa-Alba, 149km
May 10, Stage 2: Novi Ligure-Pontremoli, 183km
May 11, Stage 3: Pontremoli-Corno alle Scale,190km
May 12, Stage 4: Porretta Terme-Civitella Val di Chiana, 187km
May 13, Stage 5: Civitella Val di Chiana-Spoleto, 174km
May 14, Stage 6: Spoleto-Valmontone, 163km
May 15, Stage 7: Frosinone-Montevergine, 211km
May 16, Stage 8: Giffoni-Policoro, 234km
May 17, Stage 9: Policoro-Carovigno, 142km
May 18, rest day
May 19, Stage 10: Porto Sant’Elpidio-Ascoli Piceno, 145km
May 20, Stage 11: Porto Sant’Elpidio-Cesena, 229km
May 21, Stage 12: Cesena-Trevise, 216km
May 22, Stage 13: Trieste-Carsico, 52km individual time trial
May 23, Stage 14: Trieste-Pola, 166km
May 24, Stage 15: Porec/Parenzo-San Vendemiano, 229km
May 25, Stage 16: San Vendemiano-Falzes, 215km
May 26, Rest day
May 27, Stage 17: Brunico-Fondo Sarnonico, 158km
May 28, Stage 18: Cles-Bormio, 120km
May 29, Stage 19: Bormio-Presolana, 121km
May 30, Stage 20: Clusone-Milan, 144km