The Giro d’Italia began May 5th and will run througho May 27th, 2012 starting with an 8.7km ITT in Herring, Denmark and concluding in Milan with a 31.2km ITT.
The first responses to the race are that it is a flatter, easier Giro than in the past, and with the news today that Alberto Contador will not return to defend his Giro crown the competition will be, at the very least, one grand champion easier. To me, the route suits Bradley Wiggins, but so does the rumoured 2012 Tour de France, but we’ll wait to see an official TdF announcement before we start speculating who may be favoured in which race.
For the official video presentation (in Italian) of each stage and more
I’m not going to go through each and every stage, but have highlighted a few that I think will be exciting and likely decisive in the race. The Time Trials will be as important as always and this year has 40.2km individual and a 32.2km Team Time Trial. The individuals are about the same distance as in 2011, but the Team Time Trial is much longer (32.2km vs 19.3km in ’11) and will likely make for some big gaps as we saw the small teams lose 45″-1:13″ in 19km last year. So, the winner of the Giro will likely come from a strong group, and 2012 being the year of the super team, that winner may likely be from Team Sky, BMC Racing, Radioshack-Nissan-Trek or Omega Pharma-Quickstep.
Stage 7 is the first that really interests me after two time-trials and series of sprint stages in the first 6. Immersing further into the Appennino Centrale through stages 6,7 and 8, stage 7 features the first mountain finish of the race – the 1392m Rocca di Cambio. The 17km climb isn’t long enough, nor steep enough averaging 4.4%, to be a difference maker, but it may likely see a suicidal break-away effort pay-off or a nice testing of the legs. It’s a shallow enough climb that the power climbers could put the ultra-lightweights under some early race stress.
Stage 14 looks like it may be the first big day for the main GC contenders, which is unusually late for a Giro D’Italia. The stage features a rolling Col de Jeux with a long 18km descent which may make some gaps for the timid, then it’s immediately into the final climb up to Cervinia is about 5.5% avg but does have a significant 1.5km section in the middle that runs about 8-9%
Stage 20 is the big prize of the race, both for the overall and the allure of the Cima Coppi. The 2012 Giro will make it’s mark in cycling history having the highest mountain top finish ever in a grand tour at 2757m. The finishing climb itself will blow the race to pieces, coming on the penultimate day, which will weed out the exhausted, and being at such altitude, which will exacerbate the exhaustion. However, stage 20 is more than just the Stelvio, they’ve also decided on another route up the Motirolo, and word is it features sections of 22% and it’s not paved for 3km. A flat on the Motirolo and a desperate chase up the Stelvio? No thanks. The Giro will be decided on this day, no doubt.
I’m going to take a closer look at some of the other stages later, but I’d also point out stage 12 as one that should be just an incredibly grand day and tremendously beautiful running along the Ligurian coast from Seravezza to Sestri Levante. On stage 6, the Montolupone feature looks unfortunately insignificant with it being so far from the finish to make much difference.
All in all, it’s a Giro and I think the race and team structure will keep it interesting, but the epic stage 20 alone cannot measure this Giro up to it’s predecessors. It’ll be a good Giro, but I don’t know if it will be a great Giro.