The race, starting 9 May in Budpest, is a far cry from the unconventional Tour de France parcours unveiled earlier this month, and a sign of RCS and race director Mauro Vengi sticking to what they do best – creating epic bike races.
Let’s dive into six key stages that could prove pivotal in the fight for the pink jersey.
Stage 5: Enna – Mount Etna (150km) ****
The second day of three in Sicily sees the riders head from inland Enna east to the foot of the Mount Etna volcano, with a first-ever climb from Linguaglossa to Piano Provenzana over 18km with average gradients of seven percent, peaking at 10 percent in the finale.
Such a long climb so early in the race will mean the GC contenders get to size each other up before the big final week. The steady gradient should make the climb easy to control for stronger teams, but anyone still in cruise mode after a succession of sprint stages could get caught out if they’re not careful.
Stage 14: Conegliano-Valdobbiadene (33.7km) ****
The longest of the race’s three time trials winds through prosecco country and is one for the rouleurs, with no serious climbing to worry about beyond the short kick in the first 10km. Powerful GC riders such as Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic, and Geraint Thomas will be looking to put time into the climbers before the race heads to the mountains.
At 33.7km it’s not the longest of time trials, but long enough to do damage – in 2019, Roglic took 1:05 and 1:55 on Vincenzo Nibali and Richard Carapaz respectively over 34.8km. The stage should set the scene for who needs to go on the offensive in the mountains to make up lost time.
Stage 15: Rivolto Air Base – Piancavallo (183km) ****
This final stage before the second rest day will see the GC riders warming up their climbing legs for the brutal final week. None of the climbs are particularly tough but are set on narrow and uneven roads contrasting the Alps of the final week.
The summit finish to Piancavallo isn’t the hardest in the race, at over 14km in length and with prolonged sections in excess of 10 percent, could catch a few out. When Mikel Landa won here in 2017, he took nearly two minutes.
Stage 17: Bassano Del Grappa – Madonna Di Campiglio (202km) *****
The pink jersey contenders will start to flex their muscles with three summit finishes in the final week. This unrelenting mountain stage has a succession of four climbs.
As the first of three big mountain tests in four days, this will be as much about conserving as it will be about attacking. GC riders that spend too much energy here will pay for it in the days to come. Rivals will be eyeing each other out looking for signs of weakness to exploit in the following days.
Stage 18: Pinzolo – Laghi Di Cancano (209km) *****
A colossal Alpine stage with 5400 m vertical altitude in total over four climbs. Expect to see riders on their trainers before the start to be ready for diving straight into a 14km climb. The highest point of this year’s Giro is reached on the Stelvio in the Alps with riders facing a grueling 2758m climb through the iconic switchbacks.
The long descent off the Stelvio could prove just as important as the ascent before it. 20km of fast, technical downhill like the bends of the Stelvio could open up big gaps if accomplished descenders like Vincenzo Nibali roll the dice.
Stage 20: Alba – Sestriere (200km) *****
The last big mountain stage sees the race crossing over into France, and they’d better take their oxygen masks with them. The race passes well over the 2000m altitude dangerzone twice with the Colle dell’Agnello and Col d’Izoard, before the Monginevro and summit finish to Sestriere at 2035m.
The peloton will be on their last legs by this point after the mountains of stages 17 and 18, and a 251km flat day on stage 19. If the GC is tight, climbers will be looking to take as much time as possible out of the likes of Dumoulin and Thomas before the 16.5km TT on the final day.