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Beginning on the island of Sardinia, moving to neighbouring Sicily before then heading to the Italian mainland, the route of the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia was unveiled in Milan on Tuesday.
Totalling 3,572km kilometres in length, the 2017 race will comprise six sprint stages, eight stages of medium climbing difficulty, five strenuous mountain legs and two individual time trials. The combined 67.2 kilometres of the latter give all rounders a chance to take on the specialist climbers, who must make do with just five summit finishes this time around.
The penultimate day to Asiago also has a difficult climb near the end, but false flat after the summit may permit some regrouping.
The race begins with three stages on Sardinia, following earlier starts in 1991 and 2007. The first of these is a 203 kilometre mainly flat stage from Alghero to Olbia on Friday May 5. This is followed by a lumpier 208 kilometre race to Tortoli, then a 148 kilometre stage to Cagliari which looks tailor-made for sprinters.
After an early rest day, the Giro will recommence with the first mountain stage, a 180 kilometre race from Cefalù to the volcano of Etna. The latter is appearing 50 years after it was first used, and will act as the first summit finish of the 2017 edition.
Stage five from Pedara to Messina runs 157 kilometres and is either downhill or flat from the halfway point. Vincenzo Nibali was born in the finish town but with the stage parcours unsuited to him, it will be the sprinters who will try to take their chances.
From there the race moves to the Italian mainland. Stages six (Reggio Calabria to Terme Luigiane, 207 km), seven (Castrovillari to Alberobello, 220 km) and eight (Molfetta to Peschici, 189 km) are either flat or lumpy, and should pitch breakaway riders against the sprinters’ teams. However the first of those has an uphill kick before the line and might prompt the GC riders to try to grab a stage victory.
Climbing battles intensify
Stage nine will be another all-out day for the GC riders, both because of the profile and also as it comes right before the second rest day. Starting in Montenero di Bisaccia, it is either flat or lumpy for the majority of the 139 kilometres, but the final 26 kilometres is on the tough uphill to Blockhaus. First used 50 years earlier when Eddy Merckx took the stage, the big guns will be firing here in a bid to gain time.
After that rest day, one which will be dedicated to those affected by the earthquake of August 24, the riders will recommence their GC battle in an undulating 39 kilometre time trial from Foligno to Montefalco. The following day is another important one in determining the Maglia Rosa: four categorised climbs rear up during the 161 kilometre between Firenze and Bagno di Romagna, although the last 25 kilometres is downhill to the line.
Once done and dusted, the sprinters and breakaway specialists will come to the fore again on stages 12 (237km) and 13 (162km). The first of these has two climbs early on before a much less complicated run in to the finish in Reggio Emilia, while the second to Tortona is completely flat.
The same can’t be said of the 131 kilometre 14th stage to Oropa, which ramps up inside the final 12 kilometres and will break things apart. The final ascent is best remembered as the location for Marco Pantani’s dramatic fightback from a puncture in 1999, an effort which saw him overtake all those ahead of him and take the win.
The climbing theme also features the following day, although the twin ascents of the Miragolo san Salvadore and Selvino are sufficiently far from the finish for things to come back together.
Toughest mountain stages before a final time trial
From there the riders head into the third and last rest day, then on to the final six stages of the race. Stage 16 is one of the most difficult of the 2017 Giro, with three categorised climbs rearing up during the 227 kilometres from Rovetta to Bormio. These are the famous Passo del Mortirolo, the Passo dello Stelvio (this year’s Cima Coppi) and the Umbrail Pass, which crests the Stelvio from the other direction. There is then a tricky descent to the finish, ending what could be one of the most decisive stages.
The climbing theme also features on the 219 kilometre 17th stage from Tirano to Canazei, although the second half of the stage is less difficult and may limit its influence.
The same can’t be said of stage 18, which will be brutal. The 137 kilometre leg features five climbs after the start in Moena, including the summit finish of Ortisei/St. Ulrich, and is potentially the hardest of the Giro. One day later another uphill battle to the line will conclude the 191 kilometre race to Piancavallo. The climbers then have one final chance to distance any TT specialists with a mountainous race to Asiago. The 190 kilometre leg features the climb of Foza close to the finish, although flat and slightly downhill roads for 15 kilometres afterwards may make things slightly less decisive.
Things then conclude on May 28 with a flat 28 kilometre time trial from the Monza race track to Milan.
2017 Giro d’Italia:
Stage 1: Alghero to Olbia 203 km
Stage 2: Olbia to Tortolì 208 km
Stage 3: Tortolì to Cagliari 148 km
Stage 4: Cefalù to Etna 180 km
Stage 5: Pedara to Messina 157 km
Stage 6: Reggio Calabria to Terme Luigiane 207 km
Stage 7: Castrovillari to Alberobello 220 km
Stage 8: Molfetta to Peschici 189 km
Stage 9: Montenero di Bisaccia to Blockhaus 139 km
Stage 10: Foligno to Montefalco 39 km TT
Stage 11: Firenze to Bagno di Romagna 161 km
Stage 12: Forlì to Reggio Emilia 237 km
Stage 13: Reggio Emilia to Tortona 162 km
Stage 14: Castellania to Oropa 131 km
Stage 15: Valdengo to Bergamo 199 km
Stage 16: Rovetta to Bormio 227 km (cima Coppi sullo Stelvio)
Stage 17: Tirano to Canazei 219 km
Stage 18: Moena to Ortisei/St. Urlich 137 km
Stage 19: San Candido/Innichen to Piancavallo 191 km
Stage 20: Pordenone to Asiago 190 km
Stage 21: Monza to Milano 28 km TT