Strap yourselves in, the first grand tour of the year is about to begin, it’s Giro time!
The race begins with three stages in Hungary, the first of which ends with a climb of 4km at 4.9%. This will make it too hard for almost all of the sprinters, and a certain Mathieu van der Poel will be eyeing up a pink jersey to go with his yellow one.
A short TT in Budapest. The distance of 9.2km should keep most of the GC contenders close together, especially as the final 1.3km averages 5%. After going so close to winning the opening TT in 2021, Edoardo Affini will hope to go one better and final land a big one.
The final stage in Hungary is one for the fast men. It’s the first time we’ll get to see Ewan, Cavendish, Gaviria, Nizzolo, Bauhaus and Démare go head-to-head. A rest day follows to allow the race to head to Sicily.
We head back to Mount Etna, climbing from the west side. The riders will have to negotiate 23.5km at 5.8%, we’ll see if any of the GC riders have a bad day and wave goodbye to their dreams of the pink jersey. Despite being the first mountaintop finish of the race, the break has a good chance of success.
The position of the cat 2 climb means this should be another day for the quick men. With so many teams wanting to get a sprint, they’ll ensure a small break escapes and the climb will be done at tempo. The finish in Messina contains a couple of kickers and is fairly technical.
The bunch head across the water to the mainland, for another sprint stage. The race hugs the coastline for the final 100km of the stage, which means there is a chance of echelons. This final 100km is basically without a single corner, that’s a long finishing straight!
The first of the breakaway stages. We have 4489m of climbing, it’s a monster of a stage, you need to be a strong rider to win this one. With the serious climbing finishing with 60km to go, the finish will be tactical and those with a good sprint will have a significant advantage.
We head to Naples for only the second time this century. The roads down here can get very slippy when it rains, I’m hoping for a dry day. This is too hard for the fast men, and with a huge GC day following next, it’s another day where the breakaway will sense an opportunity. It looks a great stage for van der Poel.
The first of the huge GC days. The race returns to Blockhaus, where Quintana won in 2017 and a motorbike ended the hopes of Geraint Thomas. We have 5050m of climbing, the most of any stage in the whole race, this is where the GC will start to take shape. The climb is 13.9km at 8.2%, a proper effort. With a rest day to follow, it’s a full gas day.
The riders will be happy the rest day doesn’t involve much travelling, it gives them a proper chance to relax and get ready for the second week, which starts with a sprint stage. The series of short climbs in the final half of the stage will mean not all the fast men make it to the finish, a reduced sprint is the most likely scenario.
A standard looking sprint stage.
On paper, it looks like another sprint stage, but I’m not so sure. The final cat 3 climb is 4km at 8%, that’s far too hard for most of the fast men, so it opens the door to the morning break. It’s either that or we see attacks on the final climb and a late move develops and stays away to fight out the win.
Another sprint stage, the sprinters will love the start to the second week of the Giro, but most will quit the race after this day.
A beautifully designed stage in Turin. We have 3175m of climbing in just 150km of racing, it’s one of those days where we could see big GC moves, despite the lack of a cat 1 climb. The lap circuit features two climbs: 5.1km at 8.1% and 1.66km at 12.4%, both are done twice. This is my type of stage!
Despite some big cat 1 climbs, the finish isn’t hard enough for this to be a GC day, it should be one for the break. When the GC riders get to the final climb, we will see lots of attacks, especially as a lot of domestiques will have been dropped earlier in the day. A rest day follows, so teams will be happy to give it a go and see what happens.
The final week begins with the Queen stage up in the Alps. It has 5047m of climbing for the riders to deal with, including the mighty Mortirolo, which is probably too far out to see big attacks. Instead, most of the action will be saved for the final climb, Valico di Santa Cristina, which is 12km at 8.2%. A short descent to the finish follows, and by the end of this stage we’ll have a good understanding of who is going to win the pink jersey.
We have two cat 1 climbs towards the end of the stage, with a tricky descent in between. The final climb is the Monterovere, which is a leg breaking 7.9km at 9.9%, it’s a very difficult climb. Coming after the Queen stage means legs will already be tired and some riders could lose lots of time in this stage after going deep the day before.
A chance for everyone to catch their breath, with a short sprint stage. We’ll have to see how many sprinters are still in the race, the breakaway riders will hope to steal the spoils. I’m happy the Giro aren’t trying to shoehorn a 250km stage at this point, like in previous years.
The Giro continues its love affair with Slovenia, with this tough looking stage. This is another brilliant day for the breakaway, as the big climb is far from home and the final climb isn’t too hard. By this point in the race, most will be on their knees, we’ll have to see who has carefully saved energy for a breakaway stage deep into the third week.
The final showdown. Just 167km in length but has 4359m of climbing. We are in the Dolomites for what could be a stage that lives long in the memory. We have the Passo di San Pellegrino, Passo Pordoi (Cima Coppi) and Passo Fedaia to deal with. The final 5.6km of the stage averages 10.2%, the battle for the pink jersey could go all the way to the wire.
The race ends with a 17.4km ITT in Verona, but it does contain a climb of 4.5km at 5.2%. The length of the climb and the route means it’s unlikely we’ll see big gaps between the GC riders, it will be hard for anyone to make significant time back, but it will keep us entertained until the end.
Only one man can wear the pink jersey after the 21 stages have been ridden, but behind every winner of the pink jersey is a strong team. This team needs to be good in a variety of terrain, it’s not just about the high mountains. Having riders to ensure safe passage in sprint stages is vital, being at the front of the race with 3km to go significantly decreases the chances of being involved in crashes and losing vital time.
Once we hit the mountains, having teammates deep into the stage gives a huge psychological advantage. When you look round and see three of your pals, it gives a boost, even if it’s just to share a joke with. These teammates can be used to collect food from the team car, dissuade others from attacking, and crucially cover moves when the attacks do start to fly. A strong team really is vital in a three-week race, but not all the contenders have one, this will likely come back to haunt them.
Richard Carapaz – the man from Ecuador starts as the big favourite to win the race. Ineos have the strongest team by a mile, you could argue that with Porte and Sivakov they have three men who could be in the top 10 by the time we reach Verona. This team support will be crucial throughout the race, Carapaz will always have riders to help deep into each stage. His form this year hasn’t been great, he had to abandon Bessèges, Provence and Tirreno, hardly ideal preparation, but he did respond well by taking a stage win and finishing 2ndin Catalunya. The difference with Carapaz is how he responds in a three-week race; it seems to get the best out of him. Given his track record and team strength, he’s a worthy favourite.
João Almeida – he always seems to have a bad day in him during a three-week race, but as he gets older, that should hopefully go away. This is his first grand tour for UAE, and they arrive with a good team to support him, but I think they’ll get found out in the high mountains. He would prefer more TT kilometres, especially as I think there is still a weakness in the big mountain stages, we’ll have to see if he has what it takes to finish on the podium.
Simon Yates – team strength is a big worry for me, Yates will find himself massively outnumbered by the Ineos riders. He’s had a good season so far, winning the final stage in Paris-Nice was his best performance of 2022. He returned to racing in the Asturias at the weekend, winning two stages, but totally blowing in the Queen stage. Was that just a blip? It certainly puts a little doubt into my mind about his current form.
Romain Bardet – flying! The likeable Frenchman seems to be back to his very best, he’s a delight to watch when in full swing. If he has the same legs he had in the Alps, he’s got a big chance of finishing on the podium and winning a stage. Winning the pink jersey will be tough, but it would be great to see him up there.
Giulio Ciccone – skipped the Ardennes to continue his altitude camp in Tenerife, I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad. He’s been trying to crack the Giro for a while now, transitioning from stage hunter into GC rider, but he’s not quite managed to make the jump. Will this be his year?
Tom Dumoulin – I’ll start by saying I’m a big fan, that might sweeten the next bit. I don’t think he’s back to his old level.
Hugh Carthy – was sitting 5th on GC in 2021 before the final mountain stage, but he had a bad day and dropped down to 7th, eventually finishing 8th after the TT. To finish top 10 in a grand tour is always a good result, but it was a shame to see him having a tough day. This season has been a slow burner, but it’s been all about getting ready for this race. We have two mountain stages with over 5000m of climbing, such days are brilliant for the big man, he usually excels in demanding stages. I think we’ll see him back to his very best over the next three weeks, you have been warned!
Wilco Kelderman – Bora have a strong team with three GC options, but Kelderman will probably be their best. The Dutch climber is a Steady Eddie in grand tours, he just plugs away and normally nets a top 10 on GC. His last three grand tours have all finished with him in the top 10, but I would love to see him risk it and go for broke.
Guillaume Martin – another solid contender for the top 10. The lack of a long TT is great news for him, it significantly increases his chances of a top result. Last year he was 8th in the Tour and 9th in the Vuelta, if everything clicks, we could see him challenging for the top 5.
Miguel Ángel López – after returning to Astana in the winter, his bosses will be wanting a big result from him in this race. They have surrounded him with strong climbers, Astana are one of the best teams in the race. López is a rider who always performs well in grand tours, this is a big chance for him to better his 3rd place in the 2018 Giro.
Mikel Landa – I’m sorry Landa fans, I just don’t see him challenging, but I do hope I’m wrong.
Pello Bilbao – he’ll likely pick up the pieces for Bahrain. 5th last year was an incredible result for him, it was important for him to back up his two stage wins from the year before. Bettering that result will be very hard, but he’s certainly in with a chance of winning a stage and finishing top 5 on GC.
Richie Porte – riding his final grand tour, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him doing very well. The Aussie will be riding in support of Carapaz, but that won’t stop him finishing in the top 10 and ending his grand tour career on a high.
I’ll take a win for Richard Carapaz.