2018 Giro d'Italia: Stage-by-stage Analysis

As tradition, here comes my analysis of the greatest race of the year! :cool:

The 101st edition of the Giro starts outside Europe for the first time, but not as far as the US or Japan, as it was rumoured in the past. Starting from Israel is a choice that gets inevitably frown upon by many, especially considering the current political situation in the whole area. It's only three days, but we'll see if there are any problems related to that. Let's get to the route: The 2018 Giro follows very closely the style of the previous edition, sadly miles away from the 2015-16 editions. Too many mountain top finishes and only a few well designed medium mountain stages. On the bright side, even if there are many MTFs on the hardest climb of the day, they are in the first two thirds of the race, while in the final week there are three mountain stages out of four that end on easier climbs. The route as a whole has a good pacing, with only some minor issues, namely the MTFs in the second weekend, one of which should have been avoided, and the three consecutive MTFs in the finale, which should have been two. Despite all this, the route is still alright, especially compared to some other editions in this decade, and it should still favour good racing, if the riders cooperate. Only 6 days to go.

STAGE 1: West Jerusalem ITT 9.7 km

May 4th

Technical Overview:
For the first time in history the Giro starts outside of Europe. The first stage is a short ITT in West Jerusalem and it's an interesting one, quite technical and with some gradients (although the profile is inflated, you can find some 4-5% here and there). All in all is quite a nice prologue, where maybe some significant gaps can be made.

Final km

What to Expect:
It's just a prologue, but it's not that easy, so GC guys will need to be serious about it. Pure climbers might lose quite some time already.

STAGE 2: Haifa – Tel Aviv 167 km

May 5th

Technical Overview:
The second stage starts from Haifa and at first heads north, until the town of Acres, where the first intermediate sprint takes place. There, the peloton will make a short loop to get back south, passing also though the hills, with the first categorized climb of this edition, Zikhron Ya'Aqov (GPM4, 2.6 at 5.3%). Once past that, the race goes back to the coast to stay. The second intermediate sprint in Caesarea opens a long coastal section of around 60 km, all the way to Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel, the one that is internationally recognized, that is.

Final km

The Climbs:
Zikhron Ya'Aqov (GPM4, 2.6 at 5.3%)
Short and easy.

What to Expect:
Hopefully wind. Otherwise, mass sprint.

Tel Aviv
STAGE 3: Be'er Sheva – Eilat 229 km

May 6th

Technical Overview:
Quite a long stage, almost all through the desert... which means wind, right? Right??? ...Let's just hope it blows in the right direction. The route goes always south, so it's either echelons all day or never. From the profile side, just have to mention that the first part of the stage goes through some rolling terrain and features a categorized climb, Faran River (GPM4, 1.2 km at 6.5%). After it, it's all pan flat, besides a short descending section mid-way.

Final km

The Climbs:
Faran River (GPM4, 1.2 km at 6.5%)
Very similar to the climb of the previous day.

What to Expect:
Well, if there are echelons this is gonna be carnage... if there aren't it will be very boring. Let's hope the weather helps us out.

STAGE 4: Catania – Caltagirone 198 km

May 8th

Technical Overview:
The Giro gets back to Italy with a very nervous stage in Sicily. From Catania, the riders will face a continuous series of twisty roads through the Sicilian countryside. None of this roads are particularly steep however, as the profile is inflated a bit. There are two categorized climbs on the way. The first one is Pietre Calde (GPM4, 9.3 at 2.8%), while the second is Vizzini (GPM4, 4.8km at 4.4%), both without any serious ramps. They should be quite irrelevant. The abundance of twists and turns will probably be the bigger issue for the peloton, as well as the absence of properly flat and straight road sectors. However, the stage ends with what is by far the hardest ramp of the day, which comes after an uphill drag of 9 km at 3.3% and 6 very tricky km, where an important point will be the fight for positions leading into the uphill sprint. The last 900m have an 8.5% average gradient, which is lowered by a 200m flattish section right at the start, after a first very short ramp. The rest of the finale is always over 10%.

Final km

The Climbs:
Pietre Calde (GPM4, 9.3 at 2.8%)
RCS don't seem to bother providing a profile for this kind of climbs, if they are in Italy...

Vizzini (GPM4, 4.8km at 4.4%)
See above.

What to Expect:
Uphill mass sprint. Maybe some minor gaps, besides time bonuses. The breakaway has a decent chance of success, though.

STAGE 5: Agrigento – Santa Ninfa 153 km

May 9th

Technical Overview:
Another nervous stage, on the same kind of roads as the previous one. Starting from Agrigento, the peloton will first travel through a long stretch of 60 km along the coast before heading back to the countryside for a lot of (easy) climbing and descending. The first climb of the day is S.Margherita di Belice (GPM4, 2.8 km at 4.3%), after which a longer descent will lead straight to a second climb, Partanna (GPM4, 9.2 km at 3.7%), still very easy. After its very fast descent and 7 km flat, the pack will hit the last categorized climb of the stage, Poggioreale Vecchia (GPM4, 4.7 km at 5.4%). The official numbers only refer to its second ramp, after Poggioreale, but also the ramp before is comparable and comes almost attached to it. Considering both ramps, it is kind of a serious climb. It is followed, after just a short descent, by another irregular ramp measuring 4.4 km at 3.8%. It tops at around 12 to go, most of which are descending towards the finishing town. The last 2.1 km are very interesting, featuring a 1.3 km at 6.1% climb that starts with around 800m at 8-9%, before flattening out. The last 800m are mostly false flat, descending and ascending up to the finishing line.

Final km

The Climbs:
S.Margherita di Belice (GPM4, 2.8 km at 4.3%)
Hold on just a bit more. I swear there are profiles coming...

Partanna (GPM4, 9.2 km at 3.7%)
Longish but very easy.

Poggioreale Vecchia (GPM4, 4.7 km at 5.4%)
This climb could be considered as a GPM3 if they included the ramp leading to it.

What to Expect:
The finale is really nice, and ideally attackers should be able to get away and go for the win. Gaps will be minimal in any case. Obviously it could just be a reduced sprint, but I don't see real sprinters winning here. There is very little potential to see more before the last 2 km, as the previous climbs aren't that hard and the stage is fairly short.

Valle dei Templi, Agrigento
STAGE 6: Caltanissetta – Etna 164 km

May 10th

Technical Overview:
The Giro comes back to the Etna for the second year in a row, using yet another new road. From the town of Caltanissetta the peloton will face the now usual rolling terrain for pretty much the whole stage, which does not present any really tough gradient until the volcano approaches. The ascent has a first sector that is little more than a long false flat, with 14.5 km at 3.4% average. After around 5 km of descending false flat, the second and final sector starts. The Etna (GPM1, 15 km at 6.5%) is tackled from a totally new road, and is to be climbed up until the Osservatorio Astrofisico, instead of Rifugio Sapienza (which is a bit higher and could have been still reached, since the road does connect with the usual one). The official start of the climb is in Ragalna, but the sector starts almost 4 km earlier at roughly the same gradient, so that the overall numbers of the climb should be almost 19 km at 6.5%. A very respectable climb, either way. It is quite irregular, the hardest ramps reaching 15% and featuring many easier sections. The key ramp is at 5.2 km to go, with 0.5 km at 12% while the last 1.5 km are almost a false flat.

Final km

The Climbs:
Etna (GPM1, 15 km at 6.5%)
There you have it, a profile! After a bunch of GPM4 we hit the jackpot with a GPM1. The Etna is a very famous climb of course, but this side has never been ridden. Supposedly, the final 5.5 are on quite narrow roads. Should give a much different impression than the ascent of 2017. Hopefully.

What to Expect:
On a climb like this we have to expect at least a big selection among the GC guys. If there are attacks, they have to be between 5 and 3 to go, so if there's wind it's unlikely anybody will try, like last year...

Monte Etna
STAGE 7: Pizzo – Praia a Mare 159 km

May 11th

Technical Overview:
After 3 demanding stages in Sicily, the peloton reaches the mainland for a much easier stage. The short length and the absence of meaningful climbs (the uphill section at 15 km to go only measures 4 km at 3.5%...) make wind the only possible threat for the riders. The stage runs entirely along the coast, so it is a concrete chance. Considering how the last stage to Praia a Mare looked like (see 2016), this route is very underwhelming, but considering the rest of the stages of this week, it's understandable...

Final km

What to Expect:
Either mass sprint or echelons and reduced sprint.

Praia a Mare
STAGE 8: Praia a Mare - Montevergine di Mercogliano 209 km

May 12th

Technical Overview:
The second Saturday of the race keeps heading north, making its way from the sea to the hills. The stage starts where it ended the previous day, and after ~40 km along the coast the peloton will go into the hills, with a couple of uncategorized climbs, that could have been at least GPM3. The first one measures 6.5 km at 5.4%, while the second is 5.5 km long at 6.1%, and is followed by an ascending false flat section at the top. After the descent and some more rolling terrain, the riders will reach the coast again, for 45 straight km until the town of Salerno, where they will head again towards the hills, this time for good. After the intermediate sprint, the road will gently start to rise, and after a somewhat serious ramp leading to Celzi, will lead the peloton to the Montevergine-style MTF of this edition. Which is... exactly that. The most famous Montevergine di Mercogliano (GPM2, 17.1 km at 5%), the very archetype of the longish, easy MTF that is typical of the end of a Giro's first week. Although it is used by most cycling fans as THE example of such easy finish, it has not actually been used that many times in the Giro. In fact, before being used 4 times between 2001 and 2011, it was a relatively unknown climb, only previously used in the 60's. With its 17.1 km at a steady 5%, it is much easier than the MTF the peloton already had on stage 6, which is why its inclusion at this point of the race is quite unnecessary...

Final km

The Climbs:
Montevergine di Mercogliano (GPM2, 17.1 km at 5%)
The one and only. Steady, regular, full of hairpins and with a nice Sanctuary at the top.

What to Expect:
Well, you should expect the outcome of pretty much every Montevergine finish: 20-30 men sprint. Anything better would be a surprise.

Santuario di Montevergine
STAGE 9: Pesco Sannita – Gran Sasso d'Italia 225 km

May 13th

Technical Overview:
Another MTF, this time on a completely different kind of climb. We start in Pesco Sannita and head north-west following the Appennines for quite a long and tough stage. The first categorized climb of the day follows a gentle drag of 8.2 km at 4.3% and its descent. Roccaraso (GPM2, 6.9 km at 6.5%) is a classic climb that has been ridden countless times. It features 11 km of false flat at the top, after which a long and gentle descent will bring the peloton into the Abruzzo region. Here, 40 km of false flat will lead to the foot of the Gran Sasso d'Italia, the highest mountain of the Appennines. In order to reach the finish in Campo Imperatore, the riders will have to climb for the next 45 km, that the organizers have divided into two sections. The first one is Calascio (GPM1, 13.5 km at 6%), a very regular climb. After it the peloton reaches the second section, simply named Gran Sasso d'Italia (26.5 km at 3.9%). This section opens with 10 km at 4% to reach a plateau of another 10 km, with some rolling terrain. Finally, the last ramp begins at 4.5 km to go (8.2% average), which is by far the hardest ramp of the whole stage. The initial part of this ramp is the steepest, with 1.5 km at over 9% (max 13%), after which there is a 500m false flat, and the last 2 km have an average of 8.1%.

Final km

The Climbs:
Roccaraso (GPM2, 6.9 km at 6.5%)
Pretty much every year the Giro has to pass in this region, it climbs this road. The real climb is only the middle section, with 5 km at 7.5%. The rest is false flat.

Calascio (GPM1, 13.5 km at 6%)
Very regular, 5-7% from start to finish. It's long enough to wear down some people.

Gran Sasso d'Italia (26.5 km at 3.9%)
The “Big Rock” of the Appennines has been ridden only 4 times in the Giro's history, and never in this millennium. Last time in 1999. Its last ramp is the only hard part.

What to Expect:
The stage should be long and hard, but the profile of the last climb makes hard to believe the favourites would try anything before the last 4 km... Hopefully a few second tiers will attack during the Calascio climb. The wind might be a problem however, especially on the plateau.

Gran Sasso d'Italia
STAGE 10: Penne – Gualdo Tadino 239 km

May 15th

Technical Overview:
The longest stage of the race comes after a race day, and it seems made with the breakaway in mind. It starts with a pretty serious climb right off the bat, Fonte della Creva (GPM2, 15.7 km at 5.8%), followed closely by another short climb, Bruzzolana (GPM3, 6.2 km at 5.7%). After this great start, however, the route relaxes quite a lot, going through small valleys without tackling any other serious climb. The only other difficulty of the day is the climb to Annifo (GPM4, 14 km at 2%), which is just a long false flat with one decent ramp at the very top. Considering it is at 30 km to go, it should be irrelevant.The finish is flat but very tricky, with two dangerous looking turns in the last km, so in case of a full peloton sprinting that would be the most serious issue.

Final km

The Climbs:
Fonte della Creva (GPM2, 15.7 km at 5.8%)
Starting the week straight with a tough climb can be tricky for some... This climb in particular is very irregular and hides some serious ramps.

Bruzzolana (GPM3, 6.2 km at 5.7%)
Basically a shorter version of the previous climb. No profile, sadly.

Annifo (GPM4, 14 km at 2%)
It's just a ramp. Counting all the false flat km before it is quite ridiculous.

What to Expect:
Big breakaway and peloton just inside the time limit. Unless a favourite bonks on the first climb of the day.

Gualdo Tadino
STAGE 11: Assisi – Osimo 156 km

May 16th

Technical Overview:
Very interesting medium mountain stage. Starting from the most famous town of Assisi, the riders cross the Appennines again, this time towards east. The first climb of the day is Passo Cornello (GPM3, 8.4 km at 4.4%), a climb that only has one serious ramp, but that should be enough to define the breakaway of the day. A breakaway that has very good chances to make it to the end. After the descent, 40 km of descending false flat bring to the second climb of the day, Valico di Pietra Rossa (GPM3, 9.6 km at 3.7%), another very gentle climb, rarely over 6% gradient. The best however is about to start: the next difficulty is the intermediate sprint of Filottrano (in memory of Michele Scarponi), which lies after a 1.8 km wall with an average gradient of 7.8%. This wall features a 800m section at 11.8%, so it's pretty serious. It tops at 30 km to go, and it's the first of 4 walls, including the finish. The second wall comes at 13 km to go, in San Paterniano, and it's roughly 1 km at 9-10% (no official info). After it, some rolling terrain will bring the riders to Osimo, where 2 walls are still waiting. The first is perhaps the most interesting: Via Costa del Borgo is a 300m cobbled stretch at 13.2% average, coming at 5 km to go, 2 of which are a descent. At the bottom, less than 1 km of flat will lead to the final wall. Osimo (GPM4, 1.8 km at 6.4%) includes a real wall of 500m at 12.4%, followed by 1.3 km of easier climbing (still featuring some serious ramps), that flattens out towards the finishing line.

Final km

The Climbs:
Passo Cornello (GPM3, 8.4 km at 4.4%)
The only interesting section is 1.5 km at 7.8%. Not a bad climb, but nothing special, either.

Valico di Pietra Rossa (GPM3, 9.6 km at 3.7%)
Very shallow gradients throughout. And, no profile.

It's no GPM, but the organizers provide a profile, so here it is.

Osimo (GPM4, 1.8 km at 6.4%)
Profile on the final km picture.

What to Expect:
This is a very cool stage that would have the potential even for GC attacks, if there were favourites that are good in this scenarios. Unfortunately, I don't think there are, so on the GC side nothing should happen. Still, the fight for the stage win will be fun.

STAGE 12: Osimo – Imola 214 km

May 17th

Technical Overview:
After a very nice medium mountain stage comes one of the most disappointing ones. The peloton starts where it finished the previous day, in Osimo, and heads north-west along the coast and then into the inland, following the long Roman road called Via Emilia. It is all pan flat and straight all the way to the finishing town, Imola. Luckily the stage does not end immediately there: the riders will have to enter a circuit that includes part of the Autodromo and a small climb, Tre Monti (GPM4, 4.4 km at 4.1%). This circuit is exactly the same that was featured in the 2015 Giro... only this time it's to be done only once. Comparing this stage to the 2015 one is indeed very disappointing, especially considering they come at almost the same point in the race, and in very similar situations. The only excuse I can find is that the stage is already long as it is, but even so they should have given it some more love. It's not like tomorrow is a big day...

Final km

The Climbs:
Tre Monti (GPM4, 4.4 km at 4.1%)
Profile on the final km picture. The climb is quite easy but has a good ramp at the beginning, with 1.5 km at 7.3%, and one at the end, with 1 km at 7.6%.

What to Expect:
Probably a mass sprint. Tre Monti has a few nice ramps but many sprinters will not have problems. Hopefully it will be enough to spice it up.

STAGE 13: Ferrara – Nervesa della Battaglia 180 km

May 18th

Technical Overview:
The peloton leaves the Appennines and crosses the Po Valley, with a stage that is almost pan flat. The only (very minor) difficulty of the day comes in the end, with the Montello (GPM4, 2.9 km at 3.9%). To me this makes it look even worse, because the Montello is an awesome place for a bike race, featuring a lot of steep roads (some of them even unsurfaced), and since the stage is not long at all, and follows an easy stage as well, they could have used some. The sprinters will get one of their last chances and everybody will spend their time looking at tomorrow...

The Climbs:
Montello (GPM4, 2.9 km at 3.9%)
*Sad trombone*

What to Expect:
Mass sprint. Can't really think the main road of the Montello is enough for anything else.

Ossario del Montello, Nervesa della Battaglia
Stage 14: S.Vito al Tagliamento - Monte Zoncolan 186 km

May 19th

Technical Overview:
The penultimate weekend opens with the stage some might consider the queen stage of this year. It is not, mind you, but the Zoncolan always takes the spotlight on the media and in the riders' minds. For this reason, having it at the beginning of the mountain block is by far the best placement for the race as a whole. I'm quite happy with that, despite not liking an MTF on the Zoncolan, on general terms.
Furthermore, the stage itself is quite demanding for a stage 14. Starting from the town of S.Vito, the riders will head north towards the mountains, following upstream the Tagliamento river, with only a few deviations to tackle small but steep climbs. The first is Monte di Ragogna (GPM3, 2.8 km at 10.2%), which will perfectly get the riders in the mood for what's to come, and it will probably determine the composition of the breakaway. After this climb comes the first intermediate sprint, in Forgaria del Friuli, on top of a short uphill drag. With the breakaway already formed, the riders will have a long, relaxing flat stretch, before climbing towards the town of Verzegnis, around 4 km at 5%, which leads to the second categorized climb of the day, Avaglio (GPM3, 4.6 km at 7%). Although the numbers are not impressive here, keep in mind that it features a central ramp of 1.5 km at 13% average (max 15%). After the descent, the riders could just head north to Ovaro and be done with all this. But that would be lame. Instead, they will head east, and make a long counter-clockwise loop to reach Ovaro from the north. The first part of this loop is just a long, gentle false flat on the valley until the second intermediate sprint of the day, in Paularo. There starts the third climb of this stage: Passo Duron (GPM2, 4.4 km at 9.6%) has its toughest ramps (18%) at the very beginning, but even if it gets progressively easier, it always remains very steep. After its descent the peloton will immediately find another climb, Sella Valcalda (GPM3, 7.6 km at 5.6%), at the top of which we, cycling fans, will salute Monte Crostis on the right side (2011 never forget), while the peloton will instead turn left towards Ovaro and the last climb of the day. The famous Monte Zoncolan (GPM1, 10.1 km at 11.9%) is widely considered the hardest climb in professional cycling (or at least, within the GTs), together with Angliru. Its super steep and narrow ramps will in all likelihood decide the winner.

Final km

The Climbs:
Monte di Ragogna (GPM3, 2.8 km at 10.2%)
Short, but very steep, and on narrow roads.

Avaglio (GPM3, 4.6 km at 7%)
The 13% will hurt, but sadly it's way too far from the finish to have any impact.

Passo Duron (GPM2, 4.4 km at 9.6%)
Another super-steep climb. Was featured in the 2010 Giro, that had exactly the same route as this stage from this climb on.

Sella Valcalda (GPM3, 7.6 km at 5.6%)
This one starts and ends with false flats, but its central part is quite hard, with 3.5 km at 8.3%.

Monte Zoncolan (GPM1, 10.1 km at 11.9%)
Since its “discovery” in 2007, the Zonc has soon become one of the most famous climbs in Italy due to its sheer gradient. Its central section of 6 km at 15% average doesn't have many comparable roads in Europe. After that, however, it eases off, the last 2 km being at only 8%, with 2 very narrow tunnels that force all team cars to park in Ovaro and ride motorbikes instead.

What to Expect:
A solo winner? Carnage among the favourites? Well, after what happened in 2014 one can never be sure, but still... That stage was in a terrible placement, while this one is perfect where it is. Riders will be relatively fresh, GC should be open... if not today, when? In any case, don't expect anything before Ovaro. Just hope for some good pace.

Monte Zoncolan
STAGE 15: Tolmezzo – Sappada 176 km

May 20th

Technical Overview:
The Giro hits the Dolomites with a very nice stage at low altitude (it could probably be classified as medium mountain...). Starting from Tolmezzo, the peloton will begin climbing straight away, first with an ascending false flat and then with the proper first climb of the day, Passo della Mauria (GPM3, 8.8 km at 4.4%), whose official numbers only include the last, steady section, which is preceded by some slightly harder but irregular ramps. After a long descent with a very twisty first part, the route goes along a long false flat in the Cadore Valley, all the way to the end of it, the famous town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, where the second climb of the day starts. Passo Tre Croci (GPM2, 7.9 km at 7.3%), very steady and consistent, is a classic of the Giro, mostly known for being the lead-up to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The riders however are not headed there. In fact, after the top the will turn back east, and enter the other end of the Cadore Valley, this time descending until Auronzo, where the final sequence of climbs start. The first one is Passo di Sant'Antonio (GPM2, 8.3 km at 7.5%), a steep, short climb with a central section of 6 km at 9.5%. Its tricky descent will lead the pack directly to another climb, Costalissolo (GPM2, 3.8 km at 8.8%), with the initial 2.5 km at 10.6% before an easier final drag. After another interesting descent, the riders will only need to reach Sappada, after an 8.5 km drag which somehow is not categorized, but has a central ramp of 2.5 km at 6.5%, before a flattish final 2.5 km.

Final km

The Climbs:
Passo della Mauria (GPM3, 8.8 km at 4.4%)
Very easy and constant.

Passo Tre Croci (GPM2, 7.9 km at 7.3%)
A classic climb of the Giro, fairly steep and very consistent, but quite short.

Passo di Sant'Antonio (GPM2, 8.3 km at 7.5%)
Possibly the key point of the stage, with an excellent central section of 6 km at 9.5%, surrounded by short false flat sections.

Costalissolo (GPM2, 3.8 km at 8.8%)
Nice short wall, that starts very steep at the beginning and gets easier at the top.

What to Expect:
Very good design, just before a rest day... Even a solo attack can potentially work on the Sant'Antonio. Any point in the last 40 km can go, with or without help from the team. Most of this depends on the GC situation, as always. But let's be confident. This is by far the best stage for far out attacks, on paper.

STAGE 16: Trento – Rovereto 34.2 km ITT

May 22nd

Technical Overview:
The final ITT of the Giro comes after the final rest day, and it's quite an average one. Surprisingly, it is not sponsored by a wine, for the first time since 2013. From Trento, each rider will head south along the Adige River, for what is mostly a flat time trial. It is divided into three time sectors: the first, pan flat, ends in Aldeno at km 12.7. The second is mostly similar to the first, but features the only difficulty of the route, that comes at km 24, just before the time split in Nogaredo, but even if it looks like a wall on the profile, it doesn't reach 5% and it's around 1 km long. Nothing much. Finally, the third sector has some rolling terrain and a few tricky turns, but it shouldn't matter much. An ITT for pure specialists.

Final km

What to Expect:
A 40' solo effort, consistent gaps between the specialists and the pure climbers.

STAGE 17: Riva del Garda – Iseo 155 km

May 23rd

Technical Overview:
So this year the wine stage is a transitional stage that bring the riders into Lombardia, in the Franciacorta area. From the shores of Garda Lake, the peloton will climb from km 0, on the way to Molina di Ledro (10 km at 5.5%, uncategorized, because reasons...). At the top there is a plateau of 15 km before a descent brings everyone at the bottom again. The first and only categorized climb of the day comes after 30 km of false flats. Lodrino (GPM3, 8.1 km at 4%) is on all accounts easier that the uncategorized climb at the start, but whatever. After it, there is still another uncategorized climb, around 7 km at 4%. The remainder of the stage is flattish, and makes a nice tour of the area near the lake Iseo. The finish is in the town with the same name.

Final km

The Climbs:
Lodrino (GPM3, 8.1 km at 4%)
No profile. Not much to say about this one.

What to Expect:
Breakaway wins and peloton nowhere to be seen.

Lake Iseo
STAGE 18: Abbiategrasso – Prato Nevoso 196 km

May 24th

Technical Overview:
The final mountain block opens with quite a disappointing stage, although probably it's justifiable due to what's coming next. The first 160 km of this stage have very little to offer: only the climb of Novello (GPM4, 5.4 km at 4.6%) stands out. After this long stroll in the Po Valley, however, the road will begin to head uphill into the Alps. The mountain top finish of Prato Nevoso (GPM1, 13.9 km at 6.9%) it's quite a good climb, consistently tough and regular, without particularly steep ramps.

Final km

The Climbs:
Novello (GPM4, 5.4 km at 4.6%)
No profile. Just your typical GPM4.

Prato Nevoso (GPM1, 13.9 km at 6.9%)
Very consistent, tough but without going crazy. Last time a GT finished here, it was actually the Tour, in 2008. For some reason the profile is not on the website. I had to take it from the Garibaldi, which has an abysmal resolution.

What to Expect:
Well, this is a one-climb MTF, so just expect the favourites to attack within 5 km to go. If we are lucky, that is.

Prato Nevoso
STAGE 19: Venaria Reale – Monte Jafferau 184 km

May 25th

Technical Overview:
This stage. At the same time, the most intriguing and the most upsetting of this race. It starts in Venaria Reale, at the Royal Palace of Savoy, and heads immediately towards the mountains. The first difficulty of the day comes after just 35 km of ascending false flats. Colle del Lys (GPM2, 13,8 km at 4,3%) from the easy side is not much, but its will still be a key point of the stage, since the composition of the breakaway of the day has an enormous importance with this kind of design. The descent is very technical too, so it might be another important factor to consider. At the bottom the riders will breathe for 30 km of flat, that lead to the town of Susa. Here the peloton will hit the Cima Coppi of this Giro, one of the most famous recent climbs in the cycling world. The mighty Colle delle Finestre (CC, 18.5 km at 9.2%) is the only other monstrous climb of this Giro after the Zoncolan. Everyone knows it's features by now: extremely regular at around 9%, its top 8 km are on gravel. It starts at 91.8 km to go and ends at 73.3. One can hope. In any case, it's one of the prettiest climbs out there, so it's worth to watch it. The descent is quite short but very technical, and brings into the middle of one of the most classic climbs of both Giro and Tour. Sestriere (GPM2, 16.2 km at 3.8%) is full of false flats from this side (well, also from the other) and it will do damage only if something already happened on Finestre. At the top, 45.6 km to go. 23.7 km are descent, albeit very easy, to reach the town of Oulx. From there the riders will have to go 14.7 km of ascending false flat, leading to Bardonecchia, and then the final climb of the day will start, Monte Jafferau (GPM1, 7.2 at 9.1%). It is constant and very steep (without going crazy), always between 8-10%, but it's relatively short, so hopefully it won't be too intimidating to the riders. The last time the Giro came here we barely saw any pictures due to bad weather, so let's hope we are luckier this time. With the weather and with the race attitude. As I mentioned, this is the most intriguing stage, because Finestre is what it is and it's still within range for something to happen, yet this is also the most upsetting, because when you see Finestre you expect it to be the protagonist of the stage, and here it is unlikely that it will be. The worst part is the presence of Jafferau, which is a really hard climb and could very well be the incentive for every GC guy to wait for the last 7 km of the stage. Which would be a huge waste. If the stage ended in Bardonecchia (as, by the way, the official name of the stage would suggest) it would be much better, as Finestre would be the only chance for GC attacks. however, if the choice is between having Jafferau with Finestre-Sestriere vs having Jafferau with Sestriere alone, I gladly choose the former option and hope for the best.

Final km

The Climbs:
Colle del Lys (GPM2, 13,8 km at 4,3%)
A very irregular climb, with only one challenging section of 5.5 km at 7.1%.

Colle delle Finestre (Cima Coppi, 18.5 km at 9.2%)
One of the most beatiful climbs in Italy, and it's also one of the hardest, being long, steep and with 8 km of gravel at the end. The good news for the riders is that it's very regular, just having a steeper ramp at the beginning and afterwards being always between 8-10%, so one can find his own pace and keep it.
It tops at 2178m, making it the highest mountain (thus Cima Coppi) of this edition, by just 43m over the Gran Sasso. It's been ridden in the Giro only 3 times, in 2005, 2011 and 2015, the latter as Cima Coppi, like this year.

Sestriere (GPM2, 16.2 km at 3.8%)
One of the most iconic climbs in cycling, because of the Giro and also the Tour. The riders will climb only the upper half of it.

Monte Jafferau (GPM1, 7.2 at 9.1%)
A short but steep climb, without any respite. Before its revival in 2013, it was raced only once, in 1972, when Merckx won. This will be the third time.

What to Expect:
Let's start with the end: Monte Jafferau is a very good climb and should guarantee meaningful GC action in the last 5 km. The rest of the stage is very hard to predict. I believe an attack on Finestre (or even just on Sestriere) can work only if you have teammates up the road, which is why our chances depend on what happens on the first climb of the day. If the breakaway is irrelevant, we'll just watch the scenery. Still, Finestre should force a selection by itself, so maybe even the worst cas scenario is not that terrible...

Colle delle Finestre
STAGE 20: Susa – Cervinia 214

May 26th

Technical Overview:
Probably the queen stage. I say “probably” because the initial flat 130 km don't look fit for a classic queen stage, admittedly. If this had a decent climb at the beginning no one would doubt its royalty. In any case, the rest of the stage is great, and as a design it's only surpassed by the Sappada stage, which does not qualify as queen stage because of its lack of top category climbs. So let's get to it. We start in Susa, at the foot of the Colle delle Finestre and head north-east all the way to the Aosta valley. After 130 km more or less flat, the peloton will hit a combo of 3 major climbs with little to no rest in between. The first one is new to the Giro but not to cycling fans, as it is pretty famous. Col Tsecore (GPM1, 16 km at 7.7%), also known as Zuccore, is a climb I always wanted to see in the Giro. It features 3 km at 11.4% near the top that would be perfect for an attack, if they weren't at 70 km to go... But even so, the climb should do a lot of damage. The descent will bring the riders down to the town of St.Vincent, and after 7 km of valley they will start the second climb, Col St.Pantaleon (GPM1, 16.5 at 7.2%), much more regular than the Tsecore, being always between 7-8% besides a couple of short respites. Here we follow the same route as the 1997 and 2015 Giros. After the descent, the last climb of this edition is the road to Cervinia (GPM1, 18.2 km at 5.3%), the town at the foot of Monte Cervino (aka Matterhorn), which is quite an irregular climb, never too hard and with many false flat sections. This fits the golden rule of (good) stage design: first a hard climb, then an easy one. Here we have three climbs in the right order, so if anyone needs time and has some energy left, there's plenty of room to do whatever needed. Especially considering this is the last chance for everyone.

Final km

The Climbs:
Col Tsecore (GPM1, 16 km at 7.7%)
Never used before in the Giro, this climbstarts with 11 km always between 5-8%, before ramping up for a section of 3 km at 11.4% and finally closing with 2 km at 8.1%. A very tough climb.

Col de St.Pantaleon (GPM1, 16.5 at 7.2%)
Without having super-steep ramps, this is a very consistent climb, with just two short false flat section dividing 3 long sections always around 7-9%. Mostly famous for deciding the Giro 1997. Can it also decide the Giro 2018?

Cervinia (GPM1, 18.2 km at 5.3%)
An irregular climb that alternates good ramps with many false flat sections. Ridden last time in 2015, and before that in 2012. I guess next time in 2021...

What to Expect:
The final GC showdown, if it did not happen yesterday (or even before). A team effort would be probably easier, but even a solo attack can work here.

Monte Cervino
STAGE 21: Roma – Roma 115 km

May 27th

Technical Overview:
Final parade in Rome. The shortest stage of the race, 10 laps over a 11.5 km flat circuit. At least the scenery should be pretty. And then the celebrations will begin.

Final km

What to Expect:
The colosseum, glasses of Spumante, a bunch sprint and finally the trophy.

Jun 30, 2014
Always one of the best threads of the year (It's usually between this one and the Giro route rumours thread).
I'm already looking forward to the Giro, I'll probably watch stage 15 on the Passo di San Antonio.