Cycling’s first Grand Tour of the year begins on Friday when the 105th Giro d’Italia peloton gets ready to embark around the boot-shaped Mediterranean nation. Here is everything you need to know about the race for the pink jersey.
Like the Tour de France often does, this year’s Giro will start beyond the country’s borders in Hungary.
Budapest was initially touted as the launch city in 2020 but complications surrounding border closures saw the event instead start in Sicily.
Two stages in Hungary will be followed by two in Sicily before the peloton rides around the remainder of Italy toward a time trial finish in Verona.
What to expect
We can expect a different winner from last year, at least. The 2021 Giro champion Egan Bernal crashed into a bus at 60kph in January and has been away from the sport since.
While the Colombian will be missed, this opens up a significant chance for other riders to have a dedicated run at winning the year’s first Tour.
Of the 21 stages, 12 are mountainous and seven are flat – the other two are deemed time trials.
Three of the stages are rated the maximum five stars out of five for difficulty, with six rated four. There are just three stages with a one-star rating.
Ineos Grenadier Richard Carapaz is the favourite for this year’s Tour. The Ecuadorian won last year’s Tokyo Olympic road race and looks strong.
Britain’s Simon Yates finished on the podium last year and the Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider will be looking to better that this season. He has seen a series of stage and tour first places in the last two years and will hope this year’s Grand Tour can be his first overall win.
It’s worth keeping an eye on WorldTeam UAE rider Joao Almeida and Spanish veteran Mikel Landa in the tour, too.
There is sturdy British interest, however, in the race for the purple jersey as Mark Cavendish was this week named in the Quick-Step squad. The 36-year-old will look to snatch the sprinters’ jersey with many of the points coming on the flatter stages.
However, it is not all good for the Brit because his inclusion for the Budapest start means he is likely to miss out on the Tour de France later this year – where he would have hoped to become the outright record holder for stage wins, which he currently shares with Eddy Merckx.
Last year’s Giro saw most of its action in the General Super Team competition. While the top four individual classification jerseys were all virtually wrapped up by stage 10, the team competition was only confirmed three stages from the finish.
If the peloton can continue their close battle throughout this edition of the Giro d’Italia while individuals close their time gaps, fans could be treated to a classic fight for the pink jersey.