GIRO’16: The Course Close-Up!
Race Preview: The 2016 Giro d’Italia route was announced in early October in Milan, Ed Hood ran an educated eye over the percorso to give us his view of the Italian Grand Tour. Three individual time trials, seven sprint stages, seven medium mountain stages – two with uphill finishes – and four high mountain stages – three with uphill finishes – and a total of 3,383 kilometres, with 42,200 metres of climbing.
Let’s start with the official videos; the race’s own vid has some wonderful images – but the voice-over is dire, as if from a 60’s ‘Sword and Sandal’ B movie.
The Gazzetta video starts with a cool clip from the new James Bond movie, ‘Spectre’ and is actually a commercial for Gillette’s new razor which coincidentally is called ‘Spectre’ and reminds us that as well as history, pink and passion, the Giro is about moolah/dosh/sawbucks/Euros. That’s why the race starts in The Netherlands – a huge number of Euros having been electronically transferred into the RCS bank account to facilitate this spectacular but loathed by the support staff side show.
There’s a 9.8K FRIDAY chrono in Apeldoorn – home to a nice velodrome – to kick things off followed by two sprinter stages with the Stage Two start/finish towns of Nijmegen and Arnhem reversing on Stage Three. Arnhem being the scene of the World War Two’s most glorious failures/utter disasters – it’s still debated – by the Allies.
Next up there’s the dreaded ‘early rest day’ where riders are just beginning to find their legs then get stuck on a plane for their muscles to fill up with fluid and for them to try and find some fluency all over again. The early rest day means there are three rest days and the race lasts for 24 days, not 23 as is the norm. And for the support staff it’s a horror; all the way to Catanzaro in the ‘toe’ of Italia – about as far away as you can get from The Netherlands in Europe. But it’s the start of a symbolic long march northwards through la Bella Italia to the arrivo in Torino via the Apennines and every mountain range that Italy – and some that France – can offer.
Stage Four is ‘medium mountain’ – what’s that?; ‘wouldn’t it have been better to have a sprinter stage and let the guys find their legs?’ No! You don’t want to be doing human stuff like that – make them suffer!
Stage Five is one for the sprinters, shunning the coast to finish in Benevento.
With Stage Six the first foray into the high mountains, 165K, no flat, three GPM’s and a finish at 1572 metres on Roccaroso – ‘gruppetto!’
Stage Seven is another for the fast men albeit there are two GPM’s along the way and the squabbles for points will be savage – but the finish in Foligno after 210K with the last 40K downhill or flat make is one for the fast twitch boys.
It’s back into the mountains for Stage Eight with two GPM’s but a downhill finish into Arezzo after 169K – this will be one for the Italian Pro Conti teams as the big guns keep their powder dry for what comes on the morrow. . .
Stage Nine is a chrono through the beautiful vineyards of Chianti – Jered and Ashley Gruber are drooling about those photo ops already. It’s no ‘boulevard blast’ and offers plenty in the way of drags and corners so it’ll be an exhausting 25 miles of work for the men setting out to get close to 50 minutes.
But the next day is rest day number two, a gentle potter with a coffee stop or spend the day in bed, just getting up to eat – or maybe use room service?
It’s a real saw tooth job for Stage 10, not an inch of flat, four GPM’s and a mountain top finish into Sestola after 216K with the sprinters way, way down.
Stage 11 is classified ‘medium mountain’ but is actually pan flat – until the last 20K into Asolo when one of those nasty GPM’s spoils the sprinters’ fun – damn it!
It’s beautifully, seductively flat into Bibione next day for Stage 12 though with the highest spot on the percorso just 38 metres above sea level – Super Mario may come out of retirement for this one.
‘Medium mountains’ for Stage 13 and a breakaway day over four GPM and 100 miles into Cividale del Friuli.
‘Horrific,’ there’s no other word for Stage 14 with six GPM and an uphill finish within it’s 210 K; the Passes of the Pordoi and Giau are in there – this is the ‘Queen Stage’ and will see riders miss the time cut as well as the ‘Bigs’ chances of victory cemented or depth charged. The region is known for it’s tough tough climbs, and PEZ has been up close with ’em a few times, like this day over the Giau. Or maybe it will be a damp squib with everyone paralyzed by fear and leaving it to the last ascents – let’s hope not.
A distance of 10.8 kilometres out of a percorso of some 3383K doesn’t seem like much; but when it’s a mountain time trial with an average grade of 8.3% with maxima of 11% it makes Tappa 15 crucial. Not the day for a ‘giornato no.’
The third and final rest day gives opportunity to lick wounds or finalise the grand scheme to make the podium.
Stage 16 is short but sharp, just 133K from Brixen to Andolo but three GPM’s and a mountain top finish.
Start at 840 metres in Molveno, finish at Cassano D’Adda at 133 metres after 196K just one GPM and the last 100K downhill or flat – those sprinters still standing will be buoyed by the percorso of Stage 17.
The initial kilometres of this breakaway Stage 18 are flat but the ‘sting in the tail’ in these 234K to Pinerolo means the sprinters have to be patient.
Stage 19 in a nutshell?
Up, up, up from Pinerolo to the Cima Coppi – the race’s highest point – atop the Colle dell’Agnello at 2744 metres, down then back up to a mountain top finish at Risoul after 100 miles – simple but savage. Pez previewed the climb to Risoul here.
The Franco-Italian penultimate stage is short on horizontal distance but monstrous on the vertical axis, cramming the Col de Vars (2108 metres), Col de la Bonnette (2715 metres), Col de la Lombarda (2350 metres) and a mountain top finish at Sant Anna di Vinadio into just 134 kilometres – it just may all come down to this day. . .
But there’s a happy ending for the sprinters in Stage 21; a gentle drop of 300 metres from Cuneo to Torino over 150K – that’s if they haven’t all gone home. . .
Tom Dumoulin will love the chronos but those ‘death days’ in the montagna were made for Astana and Fabio – or is it Vincenzo?
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.