Aah, it's that special time again. When hundreds of lycra-clad men hurtle through beautiful countryside in the chase for pink. What am I talking about? The Giro d'Italia of course!!
Twenty-one stages, starting in Napoli, tracing the sole of Italy, migrating up the Adriatic coast, before traversing the cooler climes of the northern regions. Finishing in Brescia three weeks later, the Giro d'Italia is a grueling cycle race that pushes the very best. Unlike the last two years, there won't be a stage in Lazio or Umbria (see my previous posts for the routes and cultural highlights on the way). However, there's still plenty to look forward to!
|Click to download a PDF of this map (from La Gazzetta dello Sport)|
From a cycling perspective, the Giro is a great tour. With plenty of mountain stages, unpredictable weather, and less-than officious stewarding, the Giro is an exciting riot through Italy. The lead constantly changes and indeed, more often than in the Tour de France, the Giro is usually decided on the final stage.
From a non-cycling perspective, the Giro d'Italia is a feast for the eyes. Granted, watching the cyclists whiz round Naples a few times was a little repetitive (I'm writing this after the third stage), but today it got going, with lovely views of Sorrento and the Amalfi coast. If the cycling gets boring, just use the stage to plan your next holiday...
The first Giro d'Italia was held in 1909 and was invented by La Gazzetta dello Sport to compete with the Tour de France (and increase sales of La Gazzetta). While the route changes each year, the format of the race stays the same, with the appearance of at least two time trials, a passage through the Alps and usually, a lovely scenic climb up a volcano. All of the stages are timed and the riders' times from each stage (or tappa) are combined. The rider with the lowest aggregate time is the leader of the race and gets to wear the Maglia rosa (the pink jersey they are all racing for). The one in pink at the end is the overall winner (predicted winners this year include Sir Bradley Wiggins, winner of last year's Tour de France, and the homegrown Vincenzo Nibali). While the general classification gathers the most attention, there are other contests held within the Giro: the points classification for the sprinters (look out for Mark Cavendish) the mountains classification for the climbers, young rider classification for the riders under the age of 25, and the team classification for the competing teams.
If you want to know anything about the stages, the routes, the riders, La Gazzetta dello Sport has it covered (in both Italian and English). Seriously. They even have tourist information about what to see and where to eat when you're in the area.
They even have an iPhone and Android app, which is great for keeping up with the race when you're out and about. But hold up. Before you think I'm writing an advert for La Gazzetta dello Sport (well, they did invent it to increase sales), I should point out that The Guardian has an excellent Giro section, replete with minute-by-minute commentaries of every stage and interviews with the main players.
So sit back, relax, grab a glass of wine (ideally from the region they're riding through) and enjoy the fight for pink!