Race Preview: La Gazzetta dello Sport announced the 2020 Giro d’Italia ‘percorso’ last week, giving our PEZ Grand Tour specialist, Ed Hood, time to ruminate over the route and give us his stage-by-stage thoughts. From Hungary to Milan with three time trials and 45,000 metres of climbing – Avanti!
Landscapes of the #Giro 102
It’s easy to rattle off the bald statistic: this will be the 103rd edition of the Giro d’Italia. When this race began in 1909, World War One was five years away, the world marathon record stood at 2 hours 46 minutes and Louis Bleriot had just become the first man to fly the English Channel.
Bleriot in 1909 – No, not the last time a Frenchman won a Grand Tour!
Two World Wars, the nuclear age, man on the moon, the internet, EPO – the Giro has seen it all. Just about every great road rider who has ever lived has ridden this bike race. Sometimes, with the hype, the foreign country starts and the ‘gimmick’ stages it’s easy to forget what a historic and wonderful adventure this race really is. OK, the sermon endeth, let’s see what the 2020 edition is all about. . .
# Total distance: 3580 kilometres
# Total elevation: 45,000 metres
# ‘Cima Coppi’ – the highest point in the race: 2,758 on the Passeo Stelvio
# Three time tests totalling 49 kilometres
# Average stage distance is 171 kilometres
# There are 10 stages over 200 kilometres with the longest at 251 kilometres.
# Six stages for sprinters
# Six stages for escape artists
# One puncheur finale
# Five ‘HD’ stages [Horrific Days]
The 2020 Giro Route Map
Hungary – alma mater to big two thousands era ‘chronoman’ Laszlo Bodrogi, (but he’s French now) – is where it all begins next May; I’ve tried to establish what the tenuous link is for such a thing to occur but have drawn a blank. So, yeah, it’s all about the ‘Forints’ that’s the Hungarian folding stuff – MONEY in other words.
Hungary: The 14th nation to host a Giro partenza features an 8.6K time trial as Stage One in Budapest with a gravitational sting in the tail; and then Stages Two and Three are sprinter jobs with little in the way of Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery to worry about – the organisers say that these two stages only merit one star each on their five star rating system. However, they’ll be on six stars for Sagan fans with Slovakia not so far away. Then the circus slips neatly across Austria and into the Veneto, right? Wrong.
Stage 1 ITT – 8.6 kilometres not 9.5
Sicily: The next three stages are about as far away as you can get from Hungary whilst remaining in la Bella Italia. Stage Four is for the ‘puncheurs’ with a spike into Agrigento; but it gets really nasty for Stage Five with an ascent of Mount Etna and four stars – the sprinters will be hoping for an eruption to dodge this one.
Mount Etna on stage 5
Stage Six is still off shore and one for the ‘baroudeurs,’ or maybe the sprinters if the trains can pull it back together off the big hump in the middle before the Villafranca Tirrena finish?
Stage 6 map and profile
Across the Straights: If you’re on the ferry and see a dorsal fin off the port bow, don’t be alarmed, it’s just Vincenzo going back to his natural habitat. Stage Seven is a toughie, one for the baroudeurs with a big climb late in the day then a plunge into Camigliatello Silano.
No point looking back at Vincenzo
Stage Eight is pan flat for the velocisti – and even has a downhill start – along the ‘insole’ of the Italian ‘boot’ to finish in Brindisi. Stage Nine to Vieste is for the baroudeurs again.
Secondo Atto: Stage 10 to Tortereto Lido is another for the desperados while Stage 11 is pan flat for the fast men into sun worshipping Rimini as they edge up the Adriatico.
More Giro sprint wins for Ewan?
But Stage 12 is a toughie, on four stars, through the hills around the late Marco Pantani’s home town of Cesenatico; starting and finishing in this resort town which, back in time gave shelter to ‘The Old Pretender’ to the British throne, James Francis Edward Stuart father of Bonnie Prince Charlie – such a pity young Charlie messed it up at the Battle of Culloden. But I digress.
The Marco Pantani Monument in Cesenatico
Stage 13 to Monselice should be on for the fast twitch guys but those late ‘bumps’ will encourage frisky locals to go on the offensive.
Stage 14 ITT
Stage 14 through Prosecco territory is for those who can turn a 58 chain ring and handle a technical percorso. It will also ensure a reshuffle the day before the first of the ‘horror’ stages.
Tough stage 15 after the TT
Stage 15, with four stars and three big ascents before the last 15.5 kilometre climb at 7.3% to Piancavallo. Just what the doctor ordered after pumping a mega gear for 45 minutes the previous day. On the bright side, next day is the second rest day.
Settimana No!: As ex-pro and now Ineos DS Dario Cioni used to tell us; ‘a Grand Tour is won in the last week.’ For sure. The organisers ease the boys back in with Stage 16 and three laps of the savage Monte Ragona circuit; ‘saw tooth’ doesn’t do that one justice – four stars again.
Stage 16 3D and profile
There’s debate about which is the ‘Queen Stage’ in this race – but like ex-pro Ted King asked; “why is it the ‘Queen’ stage and not the ‘King’ stage?” good question. Some say Stage 17: 204K with first up the Forcella Valbona then Monte Bondone, 20 kilometres with an average gradient around 7%. Then the Passo Durone before the closing grind to Madonna di Campiglio – 15.5 kilometres, average gradient around 6%. No surprise that this is a five star day.
The late Felice Gimondi climbing the Stelvio in 1977
Stage 18 and the mighty Stelvio
BUT. Others plump for five star Stage 18: 209K including the mighty Stelvio with the final ascent 8.7 kilometres long at 6.8% to Laghi di Cancano – the wrong stage for a bad day.
Stage 19: One for the sprinters – If there are any left
Stage 19: throws the sprinters a bone – but only after 251 kilometres. And like the song goes, when it comes to sprinters in this race; ‘there wasn’t as many as there was a while ago.’
The killer stage 20
Stage 20: now, back to the ‘Queen Stage’ debate – it could be this one, the last of the three five star stages and extremely tough. Colle D’Agnello at 2,744 metres, Izoard at 2,360 metres, Montigenevre at 1,854 metres and the finish at Sestriere 2,035 metres.
Stage 21 would suit Dumoulin, if he is there
Stage 21: If a ‘rouleur’ has the skinny guys within spitting distance he has just 10 miles to claw back the precious seconds which stand between him and pink in Milano.
# Just in case we needed reminding; there’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ Giro. . . #
The Giro d’Italia 2020 Route
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,800 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.