The 2014 Giro d’Italia starts Friday, May 9th in Belfast, Northern Ireland and finishes on Sunday June 1st in Trieste, Italy.
The Giro organisers have chosen Ireland for the first three stages of racing, starting north of the border and finishing in Dublin in the Republic. It’s a first Irish trip for the Giro and riders need to be prepared for changable weather, rolling country roads and huge crowds in a country where cycling is growing more popular by the year.
The 2014 Giro is a climber’s dream. There will be 9 summit finishes, including 5 in the high mountains. The climbing starts early as well with the GC boys having to be on their game in stages 5 and 6.
The Giro organization have included 3 time trials; a team time trial in Belfast to open the race, a flat time trial to Barolo in stage 12 and a mountain time trial to Cima Grappa on stage 19 that could have a heavy say on the final GC.
Sprinters do get their chance however with 8 stages in total that could potentially end in a bunch sprint.
Stages 14 and 15 finish where Pantani once dominated, to Oropa and Plan di Montecampione whereas stage 8 features his favourite training climb, Cippo di Capergna
The final week is by far the toughest. On May 27th, both the Passo dello Stelvio (2,775 metres) and the Passo de Gavia (2,621 metres) must be overcome before concluding with a final climb to Val Martello (2,059 metres). This exact stage was designed for the 2013 route but was cancelled due to severe weather conditions.
Stage 18, the day before the mountain time trial is another difficult one, finishing at Refugio Panarotta after an 18.8 kilometre climb with an average gradient of 7.9%. It’s the third col of the day and should have a say in how the final GC shapes up.
The grueling final week continues until the penultimate day when riders face the unbelievably steep Monte Zoncolan. The finish is at an altitude of 1,700 metres after a climb with maximum gradients of 22%! The Zoncolan is one of the most feared climbs in cycling and the race will not be decided until all GC favourites reach the top.
It’s not for the faint-hearted and should make for intriguing viewing, something we’ve come to expect from the Giro in recent years.
Giro d’Italia 2014: Images
Click on the images to zoom