Cycling waits for nobody and with the classics barely done, the focus of the cycling world turns to the Giro d’Italia.
Marked by its beautiful scenery, snow-capped mountains, and brutal climbs, the Italian race is the perfect curtain-raiser for the grand tour season.
Beginning in Hungary, the 2022 Giro d’Italia will trace 3,437 kilometers and climb more than 50,600 altitude meters.
There are six classified summit finishes, including four in the high mountains, but just 26km of time trialing, giving the pure climbers a home-court advantage. It won’t be that simple though, as anything can, and often does, happen at a three-week race.
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While the biggest names in grand tour racing are focusing on this summer’s Tour de France, and defending champion Egan Bernal is still recuperating from a horror crash during the off-season, there are still some star names looking to take home the maglia rosa.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Tom Dumoulin (JUmbo-Visma), Vincenzo Nibali, and Miguel Ángel López (Astana-Qazaqstan), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), and João Almeida (UAE Emirates) are all among the GC hunters heading to Hungary next month.
Let’s take a dive into the 2022 Giro d’Italia route and look at five of the decisive stages.
Stage 4: Avola to Mount Etna
Elevation gain: 3,500m
First featured in the 1967 Giro d’Italia and again some 22 years later in 1989, Mount Etna has become a more regular feature over much of the past decade. It is the only classified climb on this 166k stage with the opening section gently rolling before the sting in the tail arrives.
Mount Etna has been used as a summit finish four times since its return in 2011 and it will be the first of the 2022 race. Previous winners on the Sicilian volcano include Alberto Contador, Jan Polanc, and Esteban Chaves.
There are several ways up this climb and next year’s route will take in a couple of them, beginning on the approach via Biancavilla and through the Strada Milia — which was used in 2018 — the course swaps midway through to the more traditional ascent at Nicolosi — last used in 2011 — before the finish at the Rifugio Sapienza.
As the old adage goes, you won’t win the Giro d’Italia on this climb, but you could lose it.
Stage 9: Isernia to Blockhaus
Elevation gain: 5,000m
Back into mainland Italy as the route traverses from west to east and toward the Adriatic coast for a brutal finish to the opening week of racing. The 191km stage from Isernia to Blockhaus is the second big summit finish of the race and packs in 5,000 meters of climbing.
The Blockhaus is back in the mix after a five-year absence from the race. It last featured in the 2017 edition, when Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, and Wilco Kelderman crashed after Kelderman collided with a parked police motorcycle. The GC men will be hoping for a much easier time of it when they approach the Abruzzo climb next May.
The 13.6k climb averages 8.4 percent with a maximum gradient of 14 percent, two-thirds of the way up. After a long day in the saddle, this climb will mete out some tough punishment to tired riders.
Indeed, before they can concern themselves with the Blockhaus, the riders must contend with the second category Roccaraso and the first category Passo Lanciano.
Stage 16: Salò to Aprica
Elevation meters: 5,250m
This stage is a brute. Not only is it one of the longest stages of the entire race — only stage 11 beats it at 203km — it contains more climbing than any other day in the race. Just to make it that bit worse, it comes immediately following a rest day.
Any riders who have not rested properly, or are struggling with the post-rest day lull, could find themselves in a lot of trouble here. This is a day where the Giro d’Italia will be made or broken for some riders.
The first climb of three that will feature during the day is the Goletto di Cadino, which tops out at 1,938m and last appeared in the Giro d’Italia in 1998. Marco Pantani won on that day as he rode to victory in Montecampione.
Next on the menu is a climb that strikes fear into riders, the Mortirolo. With an average gradient of 7.6 percent and a maximum of 16, this climb will really thin out the peloton and send strugglers into the hurt locker.
The final climb of the day is another one that has been away for some time with the Santa Cristina making its first appearance since 1999, another climb marked by the lingering legend of Marco Pantani. It was here that a relatively unknown-at-the-time Pantani beat Miguel Indurain by well over three minutes into Aprica.
As it did on that day, the race will descend from the Santa Cristina into Aprica in what is likely to be a fast finish to the day.
Stage 20: Belluno to Marmolada (Passo Fedaia)
Elevation gain: 4,490m
After being cut from the 2021 race due to adverse weather conditions, the Passo Pordoi and Passo Fedaia are back for 2022. They were supposed to provide a thrilling finish to the second week of this year’s race and RCS will hope that moving them to the end of the third week will help it to avoid falling foul of the weather again.
This year the two climbs were to be part of a smorgasbord of climbing, but they are the centerpiece of next year’s stage 20 and packed into a much shorter distance at just 167km.
This will be the final mountain stage of the 2022 Giro d’Italia and, therefore, we should see plenty of aggression from those looking to build a buffer or take back time ahead of the time trial in Verona.
The climbing starts early in the stage with the Passo San Pellegrino, the shortest of the three ascents at 1,918 meters. From there the riders take a quick descent to the bottom of the Passo Podoi, which will bring them to the highest point of the race — also known as the Cima Coppi. A long ride into the valley takes them to the foot of the Marmolada and the Passo Fedaia ascent.
With the stage going above 2,000 meters on a regular basis, this will be a huge test for all the riders.
Stage 21: Verona
Elevation gain: 280m
There are very few time trialing kilometers to be had in this Giro d’Italia so the TT specialists will have to make the most of the ones offered.
This will be no parade lap for the GC winner and there could be a lot on the line when the race arrives in Girona on the final Sunday of the Giro. If you look at the parcours and think it looks familiar then you are correct as it was previously used for the finale of the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
While the maglia rosa didn’t change hands on that day, there were some exciting battles up and down the GC and Vincenzo Nibali put race leader Richard Carapaz under plenty of pressure.
The short climb, which averages five percent, makes this TT a slightly different prospect and Filippo Ganna might find himself with some stiffer competition for the stage win — though you still wouldn’t bet against him taking it.