Nibali aiming to become oldest Giro winner in open race

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MILAN — After last year’s start in Israel and British cyclist Chris Froome’s victory in Rome, this year’s Giro d’Italia is likely to be a far more Italian affair.

And, with only two previous champions competing, one of the most open races in recent history.

Froome has decided to focus on winning a fifth Tour de France title rather than defend his Giro crown. Vincenzo Nibali is back, though, after the 2013 and 2016 winner decided to skip his home Grand Tour last year. Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin, who won the race in 2017 and finished runner-up last year, is also looking for another victory.

The 102nd edition of the race runs from May 11-June 2 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,518.5 kilometers (2,186.4 miles) between the start in Bologna and the finish in Verona.

Here are some key things to know about the race:

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Nibali is looking to become the oldest Giro winner as he will be 34 years, 200 days when the race concludes in Verona.

The current oldest winner is Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 years, 180 days when he won the 1955 Giro.

Nibali, who has also won the Tour and the Spanish Vuelta, has finished on the podium each of the previous five times he has competed in the Giro and Bahrain-Merida general manager Brent Copeland has warned rivals he is in great form.

“We have worked hard to get to the start of this Giro with the best possible team,” Copeland said. “Vincenzo has worked tremendously hard to the buildup of this race and his physical condition is at one of the best I have seen in years before a Grand Tour.”

Nibali’s main rivals include Dumoulin, Colombian climber Miguel Angel Lopez, Mikel Landa of Spain, the in-form Slovenian Primoz Roglic and Britain’s reigning Vuelta champion Simon Yates, who led the race for 13 days last year.

Another pre-race favorite, Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal, had to pull out after breaking his collarbone in a training accident last week.

World champion Alejandro Valverde and Fabio Aru are also out with injury.

MOUNTAIN DRAMA

The Giro features three individual time trials and seven mountain finishes in a testing route which features the toughest climbs during the second half to the race.

In total the riders will have to climb 46,500 meters of elevation, in what organizers have called “one of the hardest courses in recent years.”

There is just one stage suitable for sprinters in the final week and three high difficulty stages.

The final week starts with a bang as stage 16 is a long, testing Alpine leg of 226 kilometers with 5,700 meters of climbing.

The riders will face the Presolana Pass, the Croce di Salven Pass, the Gavia Pass – the highest point of this edition – and the Mortirolo Pass from the hardest side of Mazzo di Valtellina.

That is one of the toughest days of this year’s race along with the 14th stage, which is a short but intense leg, with 4,000 meters of climbing packed into 131 kilometers from Saint Vincent to Courmayeur.

There are four steep climbs in quick succession before the final ascent up to the foot of the Monte Bianco Skyway.

That comes before the race’s longest leg: 237 kilometers from Ivrea to Como

ITALIAN STYLE

This year’s Giro will stay almost entirely in Italy.

The race will cross into another country just once – and briefly at that – as it visits the republic of San Marino for the uphill finish of the ninth-stage time trial.

The 34.8-kilometer leg could mark the start of the real battle for overall victory and every second lost will be tough to pull back as the race heads into the mountains.

That day is also the race’s “wine stage” as it celebrates the red Sangiovese wines of the area.

A number of important social and cultural references will be made over the course.

Stage seven finishes in L’Aquila, where the Giro will commemorate 10 years since the earthquake that devastated the city and its surroundings in 2009.

The Giro will also remember people that have impacted Italy’s history.

The third stage will start from the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, 500 years after his death. Stage eight finishes in Pesaro, the birthplace of the composer Gioacchino Rossini.

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.