Giro d’Italia – The Toughest Race in the most Beautiful Place ?

So Saturday sees the start of the first of the seasons 3 Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia and I love this point of the season as the battles of the spring classics are completed and the War of the Tours get under way (which hopefully signals that summer is coming even though there is not much sight of it in Leeds at the moment).  This is not a cycling website so for full coverage of all the stages etc then I’ll be heading over to the Inner Ring as always but The Giro is reckoned by many to be the toughest of  the Tours and hits the high Alps and the Dolomites where at this time of the year freezing temperatures and snow are a distinct possibility which you can get a feel for via the hilariously voiced promo below for this years race.

The opening few stages actually take place in Denmark but hey if Yorkshire can bid for the Tour de France then why not, the Giro has a bit of a history of taking the early stages to Northern Europe to promote the race.  The route overall this year does not look quite as sadistic as some previous editions and indeed many have voiced that the Giro has been too tough over recent years and of course this years event will not have race number 108 in the field following the tragic death in last years race of Wouter Weylandt.  I for one will very much have thoughts of Wouter to the fore during this years edition.

Unlike in the Tour de France the competition is not to win the Yellow Jersey but the Maglia Rosa so it’s very much a case of :

The passion of the Italian crowds is famed and many stages (particularly the mountains) will be packed, check out the crowd from last year at the opening presentation:

The route has been choreographed for the final two stages, the penultimate a searing day that climbs up to the second highest road pass in Europe on the Stelvio which clocks in at 2,757 metres above sea level.  Think about that for a minute and then consider riding up it at the end of a stage that includes 2 other high mountain passes after racing for the best part of 3,000km over the previous 3 weeks.  The mind boggles.  Check out the stage profile and picture of the pass below:

The Giro favours the mountain goats among the peleton and potentially the final battle between them will take place on this mountain top finish.  However they still have one more day left, a 30km individual time trial so if they leave everything up on the mountain they could suffer in the final dash for the Maglia Rosa.  So who’s going to win – It looks open to me with several riders having a realistic chance but I’d love to see Ryder Hesjedal challenge and I think he could well be a bit of a surprise.  He’s in my fantasy squad which is as follows:

So we’re all ready to go (apart from Sky’s Ben Swift who has fractured his shoulder in training so is out) and all that remains tomorrow night is to watch this beautiful 1974 documentary on the Giro which gives a flavour of the history and fervour of the race.

Crazy riders, crazy crowds, crazy antics, crazy race director, crazy mountains and descents and crazy tunes !