What's Cool In Road Cycling

GIRO’21 The PEZ Preview: Chi ha la Forza?

Who's hot for the Italian Grand Tour?

2021 Giro d’Italia Preview: The first Grand Tour of the year – the Giro d’Italia starts on Saturday. The ‘Tifosi’ know what a real race is all about and so does PEZman Ed Hood, it wouldn’t be a Grand Tour without his route insight, race stats and ‘who’s HOT for the pink race’.

Possibly the best Grand Tour starts on Saturday

Okay, you’re on the spot; Giro or Tour as the best Grand Tour on the planet?
Hang on ‘til I uncork this Peroni Gran Riserva. That’s better. As my amigo Dave would tell you, they are obviously both ‘special’ races but very different beasts and you can’t compare them.

Italia in Rosa

However, a couple of points I might make:
Many of the staff on the Tour take their holidays to work on the Tour as volunteers and the ‘power’ goes to some of their heads; ‘janitorial’ is the word my buddy Stevie uses – the Pink Race is much more ‘simpatico’ to work on.
# Many of the spectators at the Tour are not French people but a cosmopolitan mix on their summer holidays; that’s not the case at the Giro – the ‘Tifosi’ are all Italian, knowledgeable and passionate, giving the race a special vibe.
# For me, the Gazzetta dello Sport gives a harder edged reporting take on the race than L’Equipe does – and those pink pages are SO evocative.
# It’s hard to get a bad coffee in Italy, as a wise man once said; ‘you go into a little gas station and get the best cappuccino of your life.’ In the interests of Anglo-Gallic relations we’ll make no comment on French coffee.
# France is beautiful but the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, those vineyards, active volcanoes. . .

giro etna
Where could you see this in France?

Bore us with some stats then. . .
‘Recordmen; on five wins are all – naturally – Campionissimo. But Fausto Coppi is top with two second places to add to his five wins, whilst Alfredo Binda had one second spot in addition to his five wins, Eddy Merckx finished five Giri and won five [let’s not mention the 1969 one he had ‘stolen.’] The most days in pink belongs to Merckx on a stunning 78 maglia rosas in total.

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Merckx in the pink

Despite Merckx’s intrusion the race is very much Italian dominated with 68 home winners from the 103 editions thus far. The most starts, 18 with 16 finishes between 1967 and 1985 belongs to the late Wladimiro Panizza.

42 stage wins for Super Mario

The record for stage wins is held by ‘Super’ Mario Cipollini on 42, one ahead of Campionissimo Binda’s score.

Fastest Giro stage ever

The average speed for the fastest ever road stage came just last year, Stage Seven was won by Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) at 51.234km/h.

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Rik Verbrugghe starting the fastest Giro TT stage in 2001

For a time test, Belgian, Rik Verbrugghe in 2001 won the 7.6 kilometre prologue time trial at a staggering 58.874 km/h.

Costante Girardengo
430 kilometre stage for Costante Girardengo

The longest stage of all time was Lucca-Rome in 1914 at 430.3 kilometres; Girardengo won in 17 hours and 29 minutes.

Roma - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Fausto Coppi stockphoto BC - photo Cor Vos © 2013
The youngest winner – Fausto

The youngest winner was Coppi at 20 years-of-age – he was also third oldest winner at 33 years-of-age – the oldest was three time winner, Fiorenzo Magni at 34 years-of-age. Is that enough stats?

Giro’21 route video

Tell us about the stages for 2021:
Stage 1: Torino, 9.0 km (Individual Time Trial)


Torino again hosts an opening chrono, last time it was a TTT, back in 2011 with HTC winning and ‘chronoman’ Marco Pinotti taking the jersey – another specialist will win this one and it should be Ganna in pink.

street banners in torino
Torino is a great city – close to the Alps, big enough and small enough to spend some time on either end of a cycling trip to Alps

Stage 2: Stupinigi (Nichelino) to Novara, 173 km
For the sprinters with Big Fillippo still in pink; Cipollini to win – what’s that, he quit, when?

Come back Cipo

Stage 3: Biella to Canale, 187 km
A little lumpy towards the end but the sprint trains will still be fresh and hungry and some of the sprinters will know they ain’t gonna make those mountain time cuts so they must ‘make hay. . .’

The Giro d’Italia 2021 will start from Piemonte:
8/05 – Stage 1: Torino – Torino TISSOT ITT, 9 km
9/05 – Stage 2: Stupinigi (Nichelino) – Novara, 173 km
10/05 – Stage 3: Biella – Canale, 187 km

Stage 4: Piacenza to Sestola, 186 km
Is for the breakaway BUT the GC boys just might probe on that climb to the finish?

Stage 4

Stage 5: Modena to Cattolica, 171 km
PAN flat for the sprinters – Minali hasn’t quit too, has he?

giro21st5 minali
Minali – Where are you now?

Stage 6: Grotte di Frasassi to Ascoli Piceno (San Giacomo), 150 km
That’s one big ‘hump’ in the middle then a mountain top finish to give 3,400 meters of climbing, the pencil sketch of the GC is forming by now.

Stage 6

Stage 7: Notaresco to Termoli, 178 km
A doomed breakaway and sprint stage with the requisite crazy finale.

Stage 7 from Notaresco

Stage 8: Foggia to Guardia Sanframondi, 173 km
A breakaway stage for sure – but will they survive that GC onslaught to the finish?

Stage 8

Stage 9: Castel di Sangro to Campo Felice (Rocca di Cambio), 160 km
One for the climbers with four categorised climbs and a mountain top finish – seasoned with a little gravel.

Gravel – Nothing new

Stage 10: L’Aquila to Foligno, 140 km
The sprinters get an even break before the first rest day – despite the early lumps and bumps for the breakaway.

Break or sprint?

Stage 11: Perugia to Montalcino, 163 km
This one includes 35 kilometres of gravel, a climb at the end but a downhill finish – for the strongman/baroudeur today. The climbers best be on their guard on that gravel – Martin and I were ‘those roadside soldiers’ when Cadel Evans won a similar stage in horrific weather conditions back in 2010, it’s one tough day at the office.

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Strade Binache

Stage 12: Siena to Bagno di Romagna, 209 km
For the breakaway and a good day to garner montagne points with four categorised climbs.

Stage 12

Stage 13: Ravenna to Verona, 197 km
Pan flat and made for Ivan Quaranta, he was World Junior Sprint Champion and Marco Villa reckons he’s quicker than Mario – eh, he’s retired too?

giro21 st13 quaranta
Stage 13 – One for Quaranta

Stage 14: Cittadella to Monte Zoncolan, 205 km
The Zoncolan is one of those climbs which PEZ soothsayer and mentor, Viktor say shouldn’t be included – preposterously steep and suiting only a handful of the skinniest of men. But the TV and tifosi love it – and Vik will be watching it just like everyone else. A day you can lose the Giro.

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Stage 14 – Zoncolan

Stage 15: Grado to Gorizia, 145 km
For the breakaway and pops into Slovenia whilst the GC guys get their breath back.

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Stage 15

Stage 16: Sacile to Cortina d’Ampezzo, 212 km
A monstrous, as in 5,700 metres, Dolomites stage with Passeos Pordoi at 2239 metres ‘Clima Coppi’ as the highest point in the race and the Giau not far behind it at 2233 metres but with a long downhill run to the finish.

giro21st16 pordoi
Depending on the weather

Stage 17: Canazei to Sega di Ala, 193 km
Another hard day at the coal face with a mountain top finish allowing no scope to make up lost ground as there was on Stage 16.

Stage 17

Stage 18: Rovereto to Stradella, 228 km
For the Velocisti who’ve made the time cuts and a difficult day for the commentators. . .

Stage 18 from Rovereto

Stage 19: Abbiategrasso to Alpe di Mera (Valsesia), 178 km
Bernal has already been out to recce this new climb to Alpe di Mera – will this be the day the race is won and lost? Ah, sorry, no, that’s tomorrow. . .

Monster stage 19

Stage 20: Verbania to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta, 164 km
Out of beautiful lakeside Verbania – another ‘monstro tappa’ with three mega ascents in the second half, two of them topping 2,000 metres; a total of 4,800 metres climbing on this penultimate day.

Stage 20

Stage 21: Senago to Milano, 29.4 km (Individual Time Trial)
Good to see a final time test rather that a ‘procession’ – the organisers will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s chrono race decider.

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Final stage 21

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2021 Giro d’Italia route map

It doesn’t look ‘sprinter friendly’?
That’s true but several notable fast men will, ‘face the time keeper.’
With possibly the fastest around present, small but rapid Aussie, Caleb Ewan [Lotto Soudal] there to ‘tune up’ for le Tour.

ewan groenewegen
Ewan and Groenewegen – Let battle commence

Dylan Groenewegen [Jumbo Visma & The Netherlands] comes back from suspension, he’ll be race rusty but on his day he’s on a par with aforementioned Mr. Ewan.

Tim Merlier has a strong sprint

Belgium’s Tim Merlier [Alpecin Fenix] has been flying this early season with le Samyn, GP Monsere and Koksijde all notches on his FN revolver.

Euro champ Nizzolo

Home Boy and European Champion, Giacomo Nizzolo [Qhubeka ASSOS] has twice won the Giro points jersey but with all the vertical metres this year a hat trick looks unlikely, however, a stage win is very possible.

Elia Viviani – Not the same rider in recent years

Formerly the fastest Italian around, Elia Viviani [Cofidis] finally grabbed a win in Cholet-Pays de la Loire back in March but it’s unlikely he can add to his five career Giro stage wins.

Back to his winning ways in Romandie – Peter Sagan

A man who can add to his burgeoning palmarès though, courtesy the tough finishes which see off the ‘pure’ sprinters is Peter Sagan [BORA-hansgrohe & Slovakia]; his solo stage win here last year was a thing of beauty.

Waiting for 2021 Giro d’Italia

What about the GC?:
The experts – that’s the bookies, folks – see it this way:

Is Egan Bernal over his back problems?

1: Favourite @ 9/4, Egan Bernal [INEOS – Grenadiers & Colombia] and that’s despite on-going rumours that the 2019 Tour winner’s back problems continue. His early season was strong with a surprising second spot in Strade Bianche saying much about his form and grinta.

Simon Yates – Unfinished business in Italy

2: ‘Brit’ Simon Yates [Team BikeExchange] is at 7/2 and comes off an excellent win in the Tour of the Alps. He has unfinished business here; he lead the race in 2018 with final victory his to lose – which he did.

He’s been training, but no race miles

3: Belgium’s ‘wonder kid’ Remco Evenepoel [Deceuninck – Quick-Step] has been ‘oot the game’ – as they say in Glasgow – since his horror crash in Lombardia, last year. However, the men with the algorithms remember that before that crash he started four stage races and won them all, 7/2 they say.

Outside bet – Emanuel Buchmann

4: At 10/1 they have Germany’s Emanuel Buchmann [BORA – hansgrohe] in our book he’s just, ‘difficult to drop’ but setting the odds isn’t our job. . .

Vlasov – Strong in Paris-Nice

5: Russia’s Ivan Drago lookalike; ‘if he dies, he dies,’ Aleksandr Vlasov [Astana] is at 12/1; second in Paris-Nice and third in the Tour of the Alps the form is certainly there – but three weeks is three weeks.

Landa – Any chance?

6: ‘Mickey’ Landa [Bahrain Victorious & Spain] is at 14/1; year on year he’s touted as a Grand Tour winner but third in the 2015 Giro was as close as he’s been – we can’t see that changing.

Could it be Hugh Carthy’s time?

7: Hugh Carthy [EF Education Nippo & GB] despite his beautiful stage win on the Angliru and third on GC in the 2020 Vuelta, is rated at 16/1, we’d have thought shorter odds than that – but then, as Harold Melvin said; ‘the bookies getcha for every cent you got.’

Second man for INEOS?

8: Pavel Sivakov [INEOS Grenadiers & Russia] the bookies rate the man with some of the best genes in the peloton – both parents raced at a very high level – at 16/1; and if Egan should stumble then he’ll have the might of INEOS behind him.

Almeida was impressive in the 2020 Giro

9: Joao Almeida [Deceuninck – Quick-Step & Portugal] despite his brilliant 2020 Giro where he wore pink for 15 days, the bookies say 25/1 – and if Remco isn’t back to where he was then he’ll have a strong team to back him.

Jai Hindley made the race with Tao Geoghan Hart last year

10: Jai Hindley [Team DSM & Australia] is another who the bookies give little store to his 2020 performances; the 24 year-old was second in last year’s Giro and in pink until usurped in the closing chrono by Londoner, Tao Geoghan Hart but 28/1 is what they say.

Vincenzo has been thinking about the Giro…

No mention of Vincenzo Nibali?:
There was doubt that the 36 year-old past winner would be able to start the Giro after breaking his wrist in a training crash, but the ‘Shark of Messina’ has eventually decided he will be in Torino – 66/1 say the bookies. There’s no sentiment with those dudes; Dan Martin is also on 66/1 with Domenico Pozzovivo at 125/1.

Dreher, Peroni, Moretti or Menabrea?

What should we be drinking as we sit on the sofa, watching the race on the tube?:
My current fave brew is aforementioned Peroni Gran Riserva but Peroni blue and red labels are nice as are Moretti and Menabrea – and whilst it’s actually Hungarian, Dreher is popular in Italy and takes one back to the days when Patrick Sercu and Roger De Vlaeminck wore that splendid red and white jersey. But remember; ‘a Grand Tour is won in the last week,’ there’s no merit in checking into rehab before the final chrono. . .

giro 21

# Stay PEZ for ‘Daily Stage Race Reports’ and the ‘Race Breakdown’, plus the news catch-up in EUROTRASH Monday and Thursday. For live action go to SteepHillTV. #

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