The 2009 Giro d'Italia will begin in Venice and end in Rome, three weeks later, with a passel of big names vying for victory, including Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, and Danilo Di Luca, organisers said in unveiling the 3,395.5km route on Saturday.
"I am very excited to come to Italy to participate in my first Giro and I look forward to a good result," Armstrong said in a video at the Giro presentation. "I began my professional career living near Lake Como, but I never competed in the Giro. So, this is a special year for many reasons.
"Obviously, there is the 100-year anniversary of the race, but it’s also a special route from Venice to Rome," he added. "There will be a lot of dynamics in an exciting first week with the Alps in the 4th and 5th stages. The weather may be bad, which will play an important factor in the race. The second week is highlighted by the long time trial of 62 kilometers. As a professional I’ve never done such a long time trial. So, this will be a crucial day in the Giro."
Former Giro winners, Italians Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca and Ivan Basso, pose in front of a poster showing the route of the 100th Giro d'Italia at the Fenice Theatre in Venice
Armstrong's Astana teammate Alberto Contador won the 2008 Giro, and won't be gunning for a repeat. The Spaniard will, however, have seven-time Tour de France winner and Giro debutant Armstrong, back in the sport four years after retiring, alongside him at the Tour de France in July, following the latter's arrival in the Astana team.
The pair have just come off several days of intensive training in the Canary Islands.
Astana general manager Johan Bruyneel is currently in Kazakhstan meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his team's Kazakh sponsor group. Contador and some Astana teammates are with him.
“At least we can say that the revealed route is original," Bruyneel said. "We are not unhappy about it. The two key stages will be the long individual time trial and the stage to Block Haus. We are used to big stage races with decisive mountain stages in the last week. We will have to change our usual strategy. That is one challenge, but the biggest challenge will be to bring back Lance Armstrong to his level of three years ago. I am confident about this and we are highly motivated as well by the presence of a lot big names at the start of this Centenario.”
Contador has his sights set on the 2009 Tour after his team was not invited last year, meaning he could not defend his 2007 French crown, which could let in Armstrong, although Basso - back after a two-year doping ban - compatriots Damiano Cunego and Di Luca and Spanish Tour de France champion Sastre will also push hard for glory.
The first stage will comprise a team time-trial and finish with an individual time-trial over 15.3km in the capital.
"The last week has some tricky stages," Armstrong added. "The stage to the Vesuvio will be a real test for all of us, but there is also that short mountain stage. You never know what will happen there. Some people are better in long stages, others are better in short stages.
"Finally, there is the finish in magical Rome. Rome is a city that I never experienced until last year, when I visited the city as a tourist. I fell immediately in love with Rome.”
2009 Giro d'Italia stages:
- May 9: Venice Lido (team time-trial, 20.5 km)
- May 10: Jesolo to Trieste (156 km)
- May 11: Grado to Valdobbiadene (200 km)
- May 12: Padova to San Martino di Castrozza (165 km)
- May 13: San Martino di Castrozza to Alpe di Siusi (125 km)
- May 14: Bressanone to Brixen Mayrhofen (Austria) (242 km)
- May 15: Innsbruck (Austria) to Chiavenna (244 km)
- May 16: Morbegno to Bergamo (208 km)
- May 17: Milan- Milan Milano Show (100 km) May 18 - first rest day
- May 19: Cuneo to Pinerolo (250 km)
- May 20: Turin v Arenzano (206 km)
- May 21: Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore (individual time-trial, 61.7 km)
- May 22: Lido di Camaiore to Florence (150 km)
- May 23: Campi Bisenzio to Bologna-San Luca (174 km)
- May 24: Forli to Faenza (159 km)
- May 25: Pergola to Monte Petrano-Cagli (237 km) May 26 - second rest day
- May 27: Chieti to Blockhaus (79 km)
- May 28: Sulmona to Benevento (181 km)
- May 29: Avellino to Vesuvius (164 km)
- May 30: Naples to Anagni (203 km)
- May 31: Rome to Rome (individual time trial, 15.3 km)