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APELDOORN, Netherlands (VN) — The 2016 Giro d’Italia starts Friday while planning is underway for 2017, what will be the 100th edition of Italy’s prized stage race. VeloNews understands the race will start in Sardinia, possibly travel to Sicily, and stay completely within the Bel Paese.
La Gazzetta dello Sport organized the first Giro in 1909. It began in Milan’s Piazzale Loreto and after eight stages around Italy’s boot, it finished in Parco Sempione. Italian Luigi Ganna, a cyclist and mason, topped the list of 49 finishers. The Giro continued annually since, only stopping for the wars.
Organizer RCS Sport, now the owner of the pink La Gazzetta dello Sport, wants to mark the 100th edition with a course that stands out and embraces its home country. It is expected to start and remain in Italy and pass through most of the 20 regions.
“The 2016 edition is already in the bag, all we need to do is race the course now,” RCS cycling director Mauro Vegni told VeloNews. “The 2017 course design is well into its design phases. It’s going to be an important year, the 100th edition. We want to have a completely Italian edition.”
The Giro has celebrated anniversaries in the past. In 2011, marking 100 years of Italy’s unification, RCS Sport created a course to trace Giuseppe Garibaldi’s military campaign: starting in Turin, racing south to climb Mount Etna in Sicily, and making a return trip north into the mountains. It was not as extreme as in 1961, marking 50 years, when the race visited both of Italy’s big islands (Sardinia and Sicily), but the long transfers between stages were enough to upset teams.
VeloNews learned from insiders that the 2017 Giro will start in Sardinia. The race last began on the island in 2007. It could then travel, via airplanes and ferries, to Sicily. From the southern island, it is a short trip to Italy’s mainland in Calabria, where this year’s Giro travels after its Dutch start in Apeldoorn. Such a move would almost guarantee both the country’s stars, Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali and Sardinian Fabio Aru, would race.
“Some are saying we may visit three big islands, including Corsica! We have requests to go to Sardinia and Sicily. We have to think about what is the best historical tribute we can pay to the Giro and we have to think about what is possible logistically,” Vegni added.
“We can’t go to the extremes. We can design a beautiful course that hits every region, but you need to keep in mind who is racing the race. So you need to give those riders time to recover and not bury them. It’s a way we’ve employed recently and we want to keep doing so.”
In November, there were reports that the Giro d’Italia would be the first grand tour to take its race far from mainland Europe and start in Shizuoka, Japan, in 2017. That will “definitely” not happen, as Vegni wants to keep the entire race in Italy next year. He also ruled out starting in RCS Sport’s hometown of Milan like in 1909.
“If that’s the case, based on the first edition, we should start in Piazzale Loretto at 3 a.m. and return there after eight long stages. No! We are not starting from Milan,” Vegni said. “We want to maintain a modern Giro with limited transfers and plenty of the race’s beauty, but bringing in elements from the past. We want to give attention to all of Italy, but we can’t touch all 20 regions, unfortunately. We are going to hit as many as we can.”
Vegni is also working on pulling in an all-star list of grand tour cyclists. Besides Nibali and Aru, RCS Sport wants Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome and, if he has not retired, Alberto Contador.
“As you see with this year’s edition, it’s never easy to put all the favorites together in a grand tour!” Vegni said. “However, the goal would be to do so next year.”