Giro d’Italia 2023: 5 key stages that will light up the race

There's lots to digest following the unveiling of the 2023 Giro d'Italia route, VeloNews takes a look at what are likely to be the most important stages for the GC.

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The 2023 Giro d’Italia route has been unveiled with plenty of time trialing, climbing, and long days on the bike planned for next May.

Kicking off in Ortona, the route will weave its way around Italy for three weeks before finishing in Rome less than three hours from where it all began.

The parcours is five kilometers longer than this year’s offering at 3,449km and takes in a massive 51,300 meters of climbing. More than 15,000 of those are packed into just three days of racing.

Also read: Giro d’Italia 2023 route revealed: three time trials, cruel climbs, and an eye-watering finale

Time trials will form a definitive part of the fight for the pink jersey, too, with three individual tests against the clock — two alone in the first week — totaling over 70km.

There’s a lot to digest from Monday’s announcement but VeloNews has broken down the 2023 Giro d’Italia route into bite-sized chunks with five key stages.

Stage 7: Capua to Gran Sasso d’Italia

Giro d'Italia 2023 stage 7
Giro d’Italia 2023 stage 7 (Photo: RCS Sport)

Distance: 218km
Elevation: 4,000m

The opening week of the 2023 Giro d’Italia is packed with climbs, but stage 7 will be the biggest foray into the mountains so far. At 218km, it is also the equal longest stage of the entire race, alongside the much more rolling stage 11, and takes the riders over 2,000 meters for the first time.

Starting in Capua the route heads northeast along a gently rising road toward the base of the first climb. The first ascent of the day is actually unclassified but it’s not an insignificant rise that lasts some 15 kilometers. A small descent follows before the riders hit of the official opening climb of the day to Roccarasso. The short, but steep climb tops out after 100km of racing and is followed by a lengthy plateau before the riders can head back into the valley.

The road starts to rise again with just over 30 kilometers to go with two classified climbs packed into that distance. The first is the 14.8km Calascio, which is a relatively steady climb that hovers at about six percent in gradient with a maximum of 10 percent.

A short plateau follows for some respite before the final grind up to Gran Sasso d’Italia. The 26km ascent has featured in the Giro d’Italia six times (five times as a finish) with Simon Yates the last winner on it in 2018. The climbs toughest gradients come in the final five kilometers with a maximum of 13 percent near the top.

Stage 13: Borgofranco d’Ivrea to Crans Montana

Giro d'Italia 2023 stage 13
Giro d’Italia 2023 stage 13 (Photo: RCS Sport)

Distance: 208km
Elevation: 5,100m

Unlucky for some, stage 13 is the first of the three stages with over 5,000 meters of climbing packed into it. The profile looks like a sawblade and crams in plenty of tricky descending as well as climbing.

Setting out from Borgofranco d’Iverea, the route will picks its way north toward the border with Switzerland. France is also very close here, but the race will not nudge across the border. There are just three climbs to deal with but they are doozies with two of them going over that formidable 2,100m mark and one of those will be the highest point of the race, the Cima Coppi.

Why not start with the most challenging? The riders will hit the Cima Coppi ascent, the Col de Grand Saint Bernard after 62km of racing, and by the time they reach the top they’ll have almost 100km in the legs. The Gran Saint Bernard is 34km long and averages 5.5 percent with a maximum of 10 percent about six kilometers from the top. It tops out at almost 2,500 meters and sees the riders sent down a 30km descent.

The Croix de Coeur is the second ascent of the day and comes just five kilometers after the foot of the Grand Saint Bernard. It is far shorter at just 15.4km but it is steeper with average gradients of 8.8 percent and a maximum of 13 percent. Once again, it will bring the riders over 2,000 meters of altitude.

Another lengthy descent follows, as does a flat run through the valley, and takes the riders into Switzerland before the kick-up to Cans Montana. After two brutal climbs beforehand, there will be some very tired legs by now. The toughest section comes near the bottom with a stint at 13 percent, with an average gradient of 7.2 percent.

Stage 16: Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone

Giro d'Italia 2023 stage 16
Giro d’Italia 2023 stage 16 (Photo: RCS Sport)

Distance: 198km
Elevation: 5,200m

The next 5,000-plus day of climbing comes at the beginning of the final week. As is often the case at the Giro d’Italia, the last week is stacked with brutal days and 2023 will be no different. It’s packed in over several slightly smaller ascents with five classified climbs along the route, climaxing with the iconic Monte Bondone.

The Passo di Santa Barbara and the Passo Bordala are the first climbs of the day and come in quick succession with just over six kilometers separating the two peaks. A long run down into the valley takes the riders over the halfway point of the day and is followed by the Matassone climb.

The Serrada is the final climb before the riders get Monte Bondone in their sights, a 21.4km climb that averages 6.7 percent hand hits a maximum gradient of 15 percent. The Bondone first appeared in the Giro d’Italia in 1956 and saw the riders battling through a snow storm with Charly Gaul taking the stage win by eight minutes, a margin that would catapult him up to the top of the overall standings.

Though it has featured as a mid-stage climb, it is 16 years since it was used as a summit finish. Ivan Basso won on it when it was last used as a finish in 2006, while other winners include Miguel Poblet, Wladimiro Panizza, and Giorgio Furlan.

Stage 19: Longarone to Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Giro d'Italia 2023 stage 19
Giro d’Italia 2023 stage 19 (Photo: RCS Sport)

Distance: 182km
Elevation: 5,400m

This could well be described as the queen stage of the 2023 Giro d’Italia with more climbing meters than any other along with three visits over 2,000 meters. Setting out from Longarone, the stage starts benignly enough, but it isn’t long before the road starts rising. There’s hardly a section of flat road as each new climb blends almost seamlessly into the descent of the previous one.

The Passo Campolongo kicks this climb-fest off. Officially, it’s only six kilometers long but the riders will have been climbing for around 60 kilometers by the time they hit the top. There’s only a short descent before the riders hit the bottom of the Passo Valparola, a climb that has featured in the Giro d’Italia seven times before, most recently in 2017.

Following the Valparola, which takes the riders up to nearly 2,200 meters, the Passio Giau comes quickly afterward. It’s short at just under 10km but it packs a punch with an average gradient of 9.3 percent and a maximum of 14 and takes the riders well over 2,00 meters again. The Passo Giau is a regular feature in the Giro d’Italia and this will be its 10th appearance.

The Passo Tre Croci is the penultimate ascent before the painfully steep finale on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. By the time next year’s Giro rocks around, it will have been a decade since this climb was last ridden at the Giro with Vincenzo Nibali winning at the top to confirm his overall victory in 2013. With two visits to 18 percent, there will be some big gaps on this final ascent.

Stage 20: Tarvisio to Monte Lussari

Giro d'Italia 2023 stage 20
Giro d’Italia 2023 stage 20 (Photo: RCS Sport)

Distance: 18km
Elevation: 1,050

You don’t often see over 1,000 meters of elevation packed into a time trial. This 18km test will be the final real opportunity for the general classification riders to make some changes in the overall standings. It is the last, and most challenging, of the three TTs.

It is very much a TT of two halves with the rolling opening section followed by the tough climb to the finish. We’re likely to see riders heading out on a full TT setup before switching over to a lighter road bike for the second half of the ride. This swap over will be a key moment as a bad switch could see a rider losing a lot of time.

The climb to Monte Lussari is 7.5km long and it averages 12.1 percent. If that wasn’t enough, then there are two sections that hit 22 percent. After three weeks of racing, almost anything could happen on this climb and the general classification is likely to see some big changes in this penultimate stage.

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