The first of the Grand Tours is upon us and to be brutally honest with you, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) is my favourite of the three.
For those of you new to Grand Tours, and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading a beginners guide, the other two Grand Tours are the Tour de France (Tour of France) held each July and the Vuelta a España, (Tour of Spain) raced every September.
Competing in a Grand Tour must be like some form of masochism on a bicycle and if you’re an Australian fan, like me, it’s also some form of torture in three weeks of sleep depravation.
Once again I’ll be road testing those sleep bank theories!
So, sit back, relax, make yourself a cuppa and let me talk you through the magical world of three week bike races, specifically, the Giro d’Italia.
The Giro d’Italia.
The Giro is without doubt, my favourite of the Grand Tours.
It often presents surprise victors or at the very least, it is a hard race to predict a winner as it is the first of this style of racing.
It’s quite common for these races to begin on foreign lands and this year’s Giro will begin with stages one and two in Belfast and Dublin, before heading back to Italy for the remainder of the race.
Like the TdF and the Vuelta, the Giro will consist of 21 stages. There will be one rest day each week.
The stages offer a variety of terrains and racing styles.
There will be two Individual Time Trials (ITT) and one Team Time Trial (TTT). These are the stages where riders race the clock either individually or as a team.
Team Time Trials can be fascinating. The recorded time is the time of the fifth rider to cross the line, so you essentially want to ensure you have at least five guys who won’t get dropped.
Orica GreenEdge won the TTT at last year’s TdF and narrowly missed out at the Worlds to Omega Pharma Quick Step.
The Aussie outfit has clearly earmarked this stage for victory, selecting a team made for winning a Team Time Trial.
Many Aussie fans use the time trials as an excuse for an early night. I use to be one of those but after live blogging a couple I found a new found respect for them.
Then there will be eight sprint finishes, most of them coming early on in the race. The sprint field may not be the strongest but there should be some great sprint stages.
Team Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel will be one of the favourites, but Cannondale’s Elia Viviani is in some good form. FDJ’s, Nacer Bouhanni will be seeking his maiden Grand Tour stage victory and don’t discount Orica GreenEdge’s Michael “Bling” Matthews. He may not be able to match Kittel in a flat out sprint but if get’s away he will be a dangerous man.
There will be one medium mountain stage and nine mountain stages with summit finishes.
This is where the mountain goats will really shine.
As with all Grand Tours, there are a variety of jerseys up for grabs. These races basically have a little something for every type of rider.
The main classification is the General Classification or the GC.
The leader of the race will wear the Maglia Rosa, or pink jersey, with the aim of being the man who takes it home at the end.
The leader’s jersey at the Giro is pink as the newspaper which began the race, La Gazzetta dello Sport in 1909, was printed on pink paper.
The next category is the Points of commonly called the Sprint Classification.
This is the Maglia Rossa or red jersey.
Various stages award sprint points, sometimes at the conclusion of the stage and also at specific points during the stage.
The rider who has the most points in this category will take home the red jersey.
As with all of the jerseys, the leader of this classification will wear the jersey during the race.
The Maglia Azzurra is the King of the Mountains (KOM) classification. Like the sprint category, particular stages will award points for crossing the mountain first at the conclusion of the stage or for within the stage.
The final category is the Maglia Bianca or white jersey. This is the youth category. This classification, like the GC is decided on time.
So, who’s going to win?
Well, who knows? This is the best thing about he Giro and particularly, this year’s edition.
This is a seriously open race.
Last year’s winner, Vicenzo Niballi (Astana) is not racing, preferring to try and add the yellow jersey of the TdF to his Maglia Rosa.
Nor are the last two winners of the TdF, Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins, both of Team Sky.
Speaking of Team Sky, they are without their original leader, Australian rider, Ritchie Porte. It’s been long known that Sky were rewarding Porte’s hard work and commitment with the position of leader at this year’s race.
Porte has been battling illness and not only is he missing his leadership duties but Australian fans are missing the promised showdown between him and Cadel Evans.
Thankfully unlike the last two editions of the TdF, the skybots from Britain’s Team Sky did not have a strangle hold on events.
This does make for good viewing.
Speaking of Cadel, do I think the BMC rider will win? I’m really not sure. I would like to say “Yes” but I can’t help but think Movistar’s, Nairo Quintana will walk away in pink. Those mountains were made for this little munchkin from Colombia.
I would also suggest keeping an eye out for OPQS rider Rigoberto Uran, another Colombian. His form so far hasn’t been good but early season form is hard to track and harder to apply to a race like this.
Cycling’s permanent GT bridesmaid, Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha will be a sentimental favourite.
If countryman, Nico Almagro could finally beat Rafael Nadal on his 11th attempt, then maybe Rodriquez will break his drought too.
There is little more to say, other than, “Bring on the Giro!”