Getty Images

Aru’s Sardinia, Nibali’s Sicily feature in 100th Giro route

Leave a comment

Sardinia for Fabio Aru. Sicily for Vincenzo Nibali.

The 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia will pay homage to the country’s two top riders with a start that will include stages on both of Italy’s largest islands.

Revealed Tuesday in Milan, the May 5-28 race will start with three stages in Sardinia to honor Aru, followed by two legs in Sicily for Nibali.

Aru last year became the first Sardinian to wear the Giro leader’s pink jersey, when he finished second to Alberto Contador, while Nibali, a Sicilian, won in 2013 and 2016.

Aru and Nibali were teammates at Astana the past four years but Nibali recently left to lead the new Bahrain-Merida team, setting up a duel in the Giro.

After crossing the Strait of Messina by boat, the race will climb north through Calabria and Puglia and eventually visit all but four of Italy’s 20 regions.

“To celebrate the 100th edition we have to celebrate all of Italy,” race director Mauro Vegni said.

Next year’s race will also include many of the legendary climbs from the Giro’s history, including a finish at Oropa in the northwest region of Piedmont, where Marco Pantani won in 1999, and two ascents in a single stage of the high-altitude Stelvio Pass, near the Swiss border.

There are two time trials – a 39.2-kilometer (24-mile) route through the Umbrian winemaking region of Sagrantino in Stage 10 and a 28-kilometer (17.4 mile) concluding leg from Monza’s Formula One track to Milan’s cathedral.

With four mountain-top finishes and a total of 67.2 kilometers (42 miles) of time trialing, the route could be more challenging than the recently announced 2017 Tour de France, which has only three mountain-top finishes and 36 kilometers (22 miles) of time trialing

Still, Tour winner Chris Froome, 2014 Giro champion Nairo Quintana and two-time Giro winner Alberto Contador have all indicated they plan to focus on the Tour next year.

But the time trials could attract rising Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin, who is a specialist at racing against the clock.

Here are some aspects of the 2017 race:

VOLCANIC SLOPES:

After a rest day to transfer from Sardinia, Stage 4 on May 9 starts in the coastal town of Cefalu and features the race’s first uphill finish on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna – where Contador won in 2011.

Stage 10 sets up for sprinters with the finish line in Messina, Nibali’s birthplace, having started in Pedara on the slopes of Etna.

“The finish is really tough, and there’s little vegetation so it can be windy,” Nibali said of the Etna stage. “Getting the pink jersey going into my hometown would be great, but let’s take it step by step.”

Organizers had already announced details of the three stages in Sardinia.

The Giro will set off from the port town of Alghero on an undulating 203-kilometer (126-mile) route along the island’s northern coast to Olbia.

Stage two is a hilly 208-kilometer (129-mile) leg from Olbia to Tortoli, which could also end in a sprint, while the final day in Sardinia is a mainly flat 148 kilometers (92 miles) from Tortoli to Cagliari.

IN VINO VERITAS: For the third consecutive year, the Giro will feature a time trial dedicated to one of Italy’s top winemaking regions.

This year it’s Stage 10 from Foligno to Montefalco through the Umbrian vineyards where the bold, red variety Sagrantino is produced.

Nearly 40 kilometers (25 miles) in length, the undulating stage could have a big impact on the overall standings.

Along the same lines, a 2015 stage from Barbaresco to Barolo celebrated Piedmont’s top wines and a rainy leg this year from Radda to Greve in Chianti traversed the heart of the Tuscan red winemaking region.

HEROES AND LEGENDS

Italian cycling icons Gino Bartali, Ercole Baldini, Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani and others will be remembered with stages in their honor.

Stage 11 runs through the Appenine Mountains after beginning in Pont a Ema, where Bartali was born – directly in front of the museum dedicated to the 1936, `37 and `46 winner.

The next day’s stage starts in Forli, where 1958 champion Baldini was born.

Stages 13 and 14 are dedicated to five-time winner Fausto Coppi. The 13th leg ends in Tortona, where the “Campionissimo” died in 1960 and the next leg starts in Castellania, where Coppi was born in 1919.

Stage 14 concludes with a climb to Oropa, where Pantani posted one of his more memorable victories in 1999.

DECISIVE DOLOMITES

The race will likely be decided in the Dolomites Range in the final week.

Stage 16 figures to be one of the race’s toughest challenges. The stage begins with an ascent of the steep and narrow Mortirolo then the Stelvio is climbed both from the Italian and Swiss sides before a final descent into Bormio. At an altitude of 2,758 meters (9,050 feet), the Stelvio’s peak will represent the race’s highest point – traditionally known as the “Cima Coppi” (Coppi peak).

Stage 18 could be even tougher. While only 137 kilometers (85 miles) long, the race’s showcase stage will take the peloton over four major mountain passes – Pordoi, Valparola, Gardena and Pinei.

The next day features the fourth summit finish at Piancavallo, while the penultimate leg from Pordenone to Asiago includes a difficult climb to Monte Grappa – the scene of fighting in both world wars.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

AP Photo
Leave a comment

BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

AP Photo
Leave a comment

ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.