The 91st Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1, may be loaded with time trials, but the mountains in the final week will surely prove to be the great decider. Some of the sports biggest names, like two-time winner Gilberto Simoni, defending champion Danilo Di Luca and Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, will battle for the pink colours of the leader's maglia rosa over there weeks from Palermo to Milano.
On Saturday afternoon in Palermo, 198 riders will start the Italian Grand Tour – organised by RCS Sport – and by the time they reach Pesaro (Le Marche), the race will start to spin out of control. There, the Corsa Rosa will present time trial number two out of four, a 39.4-kilometre individual race against the clock, with the third coming in the form of an uphill time trial (stage 16) and the fourth on the final day into Milano (stage 21).
It is likely that the race will have lost some of its members before it gets to Pesaro, but at the end of the day in the medieval town of Urbino, riders will start to question their value in one of the toughest races on the planet. Looming on the horizon are the Dolomites and Alps with their numerous painful ascensions, such as the Alpe di Pampeago, Passo Fedaia, Passo Gavia and Passo del Mortirolo.
An always-frank Gilberto Simoni noted the impressive parcours in March.
"Passo di San Bernardino, wow! Mortirolo! Aprica, Tirano... damn!" remarked the Giro winner in 2001 and 2003. "Then there are a lot of people that don't think of the start, but it is there that some differences can be made, too. This Giro opens the door to a lot of riders, but then in the third week it will be very hard."
For more photos and discussion on the 2008 Giro, visit Cyclingnews.com.