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In 2019 Zwift staged a virtual prologue just...

No ‘virtual’ start just yet as Giro reveals opening three stages

Giro officials revealed the opening three stages of next year's edition, but sources tell VeloNews a 'virtual' event could still be in the cards

There was nothing “virtual” about the racing prospects revealed Thursday as part of the opening three stages for the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Sources, however, say a “virtual event” to award the pink jersey could still be part of the plans for next year’s Italian grand tour.

Last month, VeloNews reported that Giro boss Mauro Vegni is considering a type of “virtual race” to be included in the grand tour. Thursday’s announcement, which includes an opening time trial as well as two road stages in Hungary, seemed to suggest that a Zwift-style race isn’t in the cards.

The idea is still alive. One concept making the rounds is to have a virtual racing event held Friday ahead of the official opening time trial to start the Giro on Saturday. Riders would battle each other over a virtual course. Though the results would not count for any official times in the GC, there could be a pink carrot at the end of the stick. Sources said a pink jersey could be awarded for a rider to wear during the Saturday time trial as well as the results determining the start order in the next day’s real-time kickoff.

The Giro has already dabbled with virtual racing. Prior to the 2019 race the Giro worked with Zwift to created a virtual course for the opening time trial in Bologna. Riders from WorldTour and UCI Professional Continental squads conducted a virtual race on the course.

During the first three days of the Giro, Zwift invited riders to race on the course, and then awarded a signed maglia rosa to a participant.

On Thursday, Giro officials only confirmed the opening three stages of the 2020 route.

“This is the first time the Giro will start in this part of Europe,” Vegni said Thursday to the Italian agency ANSA. “We are sure the Hungarian fans will pour onto the streets and make this event a success.”

In what is the 14th foreign start for the Giro, the 2020 Giro will click into gear on May 9 on the streets of Budapest with a 9.5km individual time trial. The route takes in some of the Hungarian capital’s most important sites and crosses the Danube to finish with a short climb on the “Castle district” overlooking the city that will also award the first best climber’s jersey.

The 193m second stage will favor the sprinters and starts in Budapest in a rolling profile to Györ. Stage three will start in Székesfehérvár and cover 197km to Nagykahizsa via Lake Balaton.

From there, the Giro is expected to return to Italy possibly as far south as Sicily via a flight transfer. The remaining details of the Giro route will be revealed later this fall.

Other Giro foreign starts:
1965 San Marino (Republic of San Marino)
1966 Monte Carlo (Principality of Monaco)
1973 Verviers (Belgium)
1974 Vatican City
1996 Athens (Greece)
1998 Nice (France)
2002 Groningen (Netherlands)
2006 Seraing (Belgium)
2010 Amsterdam (Netherlands)
2012 Herning (Denmark)
2014 Belfast (Northern Ireland)
2016 Apeldoorn (Netherlands)
2018 Jerusalem (Israel)