2013 Giro d’Italia – the important stages

This is my attempt to make sense of the first Grand Tour of the year. Normally, the Giro d’Italia passes me by a bit because it always seems to be contested by a load of blokes who I don’t know very well. However, in 2013 a big time trial means that Bradley Wiggins and a few other similar riders are likely to be attracted to it. Also, Domenico Pozzovivo should be there, cycling uphill as fast I can go downhill and downhill as fast as I can go uphill.

I guess that most of the top stage racers aim for the Tour de France and then they might also race the Vuelta a Espana because the Tour’s already over. The Giro’s different, because it comes before the Tour and it’s all but impossible to win both so to enter would be to compromise your Tour efforts.

Who’s going to target the Giro over the Tour? Italians, mostly. Rucks and rucks of Italians you’ve never heard of along with a handful you have heard of, who are supposed to be good, but who for some mysterious reason can no longer contest Grand Tours even though they should be at their peak…

These are probably the main stages:

Stage 8 — Gabbicce Mare to Saltara (time trial), Saturday May 11

55.5km and pretty flat. If Wiggins is in the race, this is where he’ll expect to put time into his rivals. He’ll want a buffer, because there are a few summit finishes to come which don’t really favour the gangly king of weary tetchiness.

Stage 10 — Cordenons to Altopiano del Montasio, Tuesday May 14

This stage sees the first proper summit finish. The Altopiano del Montasio hits double digit gradients at times. It won’t be decisive, but it’ll clear out most of the ex-Giro winners who just can’t quite seem to recapture the form of years gone by for some inexplicable reason.

Stage 14 — Cervere to Bardonecchia, Saturday May 18

Another summit finish. A bit steeper, averaging 9% over 7km on the approach to the finish line.

Stage 15 — Cesana Torinese to Col du Galibier, Sunday May 19

And another. The very next day. And they have to go to France. Where people speak French. Exhausting. They’re going up the north side of the Galibier, which means the final climb is 18.1km at an average of 6.9%.

Stage 18 — Mori to Polsa (time trial), Thursday May 23

Only 19.4km, but it’s 19.4km uphill (average gradient 5%). This stage will give us a really good idea who’s been holding something back and who’s been holding on for grim death behind a ferociously maintained blank face designed to camouflage the agony. The stage isn’t really steep enough that lighter riders will have a significant advantage, but it is still uphill so it won’t suit the bigger time-trialists who do well on the flat.

Stage 19 — Ponte di Legno to Val Martello Martelltal, Friday May 24

This stage features over 4,000m of climbing in just 138km. If that were one, shallow slope, it would be 85 miles at 3%, which would be unimaginably bad. It isn’t one, shallow slope though. They go over two mountain passes (the first is the Passo dello Stelvio which you might have seen on ITV’s The Cycle Show) before a summit finish. And you know what? Those downhill segments aren’t going to last for long. There is an awful lot of steep uphill cycling in this stage. It will be bloody murder. To make matters worse, because it’s relatively short, they’re going to end up cycling harder. Whoever’s in the lead will be well aware that it might all go tits up during this stage.

Stage 20 — Silandro to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Saturday May 25

The last meaningful stage tests the riders in a subtly different way to the previous day. Four mountain passes and a summit finish over 202km after three weeks of racing will test stamina, endurance and recovery. The last four kilometres of the climb towards Tre Cime di Lavaredo don’t drop below 10% so the main contenders certainly won’t be enjoying the view. Instead, they will be experiencing acute pain in the Dolomites, which is, apparently, what the Giro d’Italia’s all about.