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Despite the demands late last week from Italian Pro Riders' Association for changes to a route that was viewed as extremely hard and not in keeping with the recent move towards reducing the physical demands on riders, Giro organisers RCS did not bow to their pressure and announced a route that has got the pure climbers drooling.
Unlike the route of the 2006 Tour de France, which did not include all of the summits rumoured to be on the itinerary, the 89th Giro, which will take place on May 6-28, included all of the rumours and more. Brutal is a good description of it, while another summary was given by Gilberto Simoni's constant beaming smile at the launch ceremony in Milan's Mazda Palace and Alessandro Petacchi's declaring that he will be focusing on the Tour.
The opening section of the route in Belgium had been widely leaked beforehand and offered no surprises. The race starts in Seraing, the eighth time the Giro has kicked off outside Italy. The second stage finishes in Charleroi, close to Marcinelle where a mining tragedy 50 years ago claimed the lives of dozens of migrant Italian workers.
The race returns to Italy on the fifth day, a rest day, and restarts with a 38km team time trial. There were initial rumours that this stage was going to be 100km long, so it seems RCS did back down slightly in at least this one respect. This will be the first TTT in the race since 1989.
From then on, almost every day features a categorised climb, and most days feature several. Stage seven kicks off the serious climbing with a stage on the roads where Marco Pantani often used to train in and around San Marino. Stage eight brings the first of five summit finishes, at Passo Lanciano (1294 metres).
The only long individual time trial of the race is on stage 11, after the second rest day. The 50km around Pontedera won't please the specialist climbers too much, but their disappointment won't last long.
Stage 13 is the first stage in the high mountains, taking the race over the Colle San Carlo into the Swiss town of La Thuile. There is an excursion through Switzerland the following day, with the Giro returning to home ground over the Colle San Bernardo and then crossing the Sempione on the road to Domodossola.
Stage 16 brings the second second finish on Monte Bodone at Trento, close to Simoni's home. The next day is another huge one, concluding with another summit finish, this time in Austria at Plan de Corones. Two days on from that and there is yet another mountain top finale, this time on the San Pellegrino pass after coming over the very bulky Forcella Staulanza, Fedaia and Pordoi.
Ironically, what is generally seen as the toughest mountain stage does not have a summit finish. The 212km from Trento to Aprica crosses the Tonale, the highest point on the race (Cima Coppi) that is the Gavia and then the dreaded Mortirolo, arguably the toughest climb that regularly features in pro cycling. Ride it and weep was the consensus of the procycling team member who tackled it earlier this year as one of the magazine's Classic Climb features.
That leaves just one day to go, but the traditional easy run into Milan has been toughened by the addition of a morning mountain time trial up the Ghisallo before the parade stage into the finish in the afternoon.
After all that, it is no wonder Petacchi is commiting himself to the Tour, although there is still some hope for the Italian and other sprinters concerned about their obvious lack of opportunity as the International Cycling Union has still to approve the route.
Stage 1, May 6: Seraing time trial, 6.2km
Stage 2, May 7: Mons-Charleroi/Marcinelle, 203km
Stage 3, May 8: Perwez-Namur, 202km
Stage 4, May 9: Wanze-Hotton, 182km
Rest Day: May 10
Stage 5, May 11: Piacenza-Cremona team time trial, 38km
Stage 6, May 12: Busseto-Forli, 223km
Stage 7, May 13: Cesena-Saltara, 230km
Stage 8, May 14: Civitanova Marche-Maielletta/Passo Lanciano, 171km
Stage 9, May 15: Francavilla al Mare-Termoli, 147km
Stage 10, May 16: Termoli-Peschici, 190km
Rest Day: May 17
Stage 11, May 18: Pontedera time trial, 50km
Stage 12, May 19: Livorno-Sestri Levante, 165km
Stage 13, May 20: Alessandria-La Thuile, 216km
Stage 14, May 21: Aosta-Domodossola, 224km
Stage 15, May 22: Mergozzo-Brescia, 182km
Stage 16, May 23: Rovato-Trento/Monte Bondone, 180km
Stage 17, May 24: Termeno-Plan de Corones, 158km
Stage 18, May 25: Sillian-Gemona del Friuli, 227km
Stage 19, May 26: Pordenone-Passo di San Pellegrino, 220km
Stage 20, May 27: Trento-Aprica, 212km
Stage 21, May 28: Canzo-Ghisallo time trial, 11km; Lecco-Milan, 116km
Stage 1: Seraing (158m)
Stage 2: Silenrieux (256m)
Stage 3: Evrehailles (252m), Cote d'Ahin (147m)
Stage 4: Cote de Wanne (492m), Stavelot-La Haute Leve (504m)
Stage 7: San Marino (645m), Monte Catria (1460m), Monte delle Cesane (628m)
Stage 8: Maielletta-Passo Lanciano (1294m)
Stage 9: Palata (520m)
Stage 10: Monte San Angelo (796m)
Stage 12: Passo del Bracco (610m)
Stage 13: Colle San Carlo (1951m)
Stage 14: Colle San Bernardo (1875m), Passo del Sempione (2005m)
Stage 16: Passo Maniva (1664m), Monte Bondone (1650m)
Stage 17: Passo di Pinei (1442m), Passo delle Erbe (1987m), Plan de Corones (2273m)
Stage 18: Monte Croce Carnico (1360m), Cuel di Forcia (884m)
Stage 19: Forcella Staulanza (1773m), Passo Fedaia (2057m), Passo Pordoi (2239m), Passo di San Pellegrino (1918m)
Stage 20: Passo del Tonale (1883m), Passo Gavia (2618m), Passo del Mortirolo (1854m)
Stage 21: Madonna del Ghisallo (754m)
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM