Gregor Brown examines what we know about the 2018 Giro route and puts together a list of what GC hopefuls need to do.
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The 2018 Giro d’Italia, the route for which will be unveiled Wednesday, is rumored to present several difficulties for those aiming to win such as Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa, and Chris Froome.
Organizer RCS Sport celebrated its 100th edition with a mostly “Made in Italy” route in 2017. The 2018 edition will break the limits previously known to grand tours by being the first to travel outside of Europe. It begins May 4 in Jerusalem for three stages in Israel before returning to its motherland.
After speaking to several insiders and reading local press reports, VeloNews has learned most of the route. It is due to return to Italy via Campania, on the island of Sicily, will travel north up the boot with eight summit finishes, and will include a long time trial in the third week.
Here’s a look at how the race could be won.
1. With a strong start abroad
The start abroad will rattle some riders even if RCS Sport goes out of its way to make it as plush as possible. The organizer arranges with teams for the shipments of their tools and bikes and allows for an extra rest day to travel back after the first three stages. Only the Giro has this third day of rest, first granted in 2014.
The Dutch roads at the 2011 Giro caused chaos for Cadel Evans and a damp Belfast day quickly spoiled Dan Martin’s hopes. It could have happened anywhere in Italy, but the normal early-race stress combined with the foreign lands brought issues to a boil quicker.
2. Among the eight summit finishes
The reported eight summit finishes will have fans rubbing their hands with glee because they are often what defines the Giro from other grand tours. Many recall Vincenzo’s Nibali come-from-behind performance to overhaul Esteban Chaves on the final Sant’Anna summit finish in 2016, Nairo Quintana’s escape on the snowy Stelvio to win at Val Martello in 2014, or Ivan Basso’s comeback on Monte Zoncolan in 2010.
The race organizer spreads the summit finishes over the three weeks next year. The eventual winner will make the first steps toward the spiral trophy with Sicily’s Mount Etna, Montevergine di Mercogliano near Naples, and Gran Sasso in the Abruzzo region. The 2018 Giro sticks to its formula and piles them on thick in the final week, with a Zoncolan finish, 22 percent pitches at the end of a stage with 4,000 meters of climbing, and the gravel Colle delle Finestre roads leading to Jafferau — a 200-kilometer stage that climbs 3,500 meters.
3. Via time trial gains
The Giro strummed a perfect chord when it introduced the wine-themed time trials. After Barolo, Prosecco, Chianti, and Sagrantino, the 2018 race will travel to the Vallagarina vineyards near Lake Garda. The organizer can take advantage of the flat valley roads and the hillsides where the grapes thrive to produce a scenic and testing time trial.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) won the time trial in 2017 to pave the way for his eventual win two weeks later. He had the legs in the mountains to fend off Quintana and Nibali, but overall victory would not have been possible without his gains in the time trial. It seems likely that Dumoulin will race the Tour in 2018, but this estimated 34.5km stage, along with the opening 10.1km time trial, could be enough to sway the attendance of time trial specialists like Froome.
4. Conquering Italy’s infrastructure
The foreign start could be a dream compared to racing back in the Bel Paese on the Italian roads that often suffer due to Italy’s weak economy and transportation department. Cyclists do not wonder if, but when and how often they will have to navigate diesel patches, ruts, and potholes.
Riders and teams protested against the unsafe conditions in 2011 and had the Monte Crostis climb and descent removed. Usually, rain highlights the poor conditions and already technical roads, such as when Bradley Wiggins slid out of contention in Pescara or the wet and muddy stage to Montalcino that Cadel Evans won.
5. Having some luck, or no bad luck
Luck will ultimately affect those who excel and fail in the 2018 Giro. Ask Tom Dumoulin, who had stomach problems and had to stop to relieve himself during the Stelvio stage in 2017. He lost 2:10 but still won the overall title thanks to his time trail and mountain defense. A badly timed stomach problem ruled out Mikel Landa in 2016. On the other hand, snow and race astuteness — and a bit of luck — helped Quintana to become the first Colombian winner in 2014.