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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia preview: The climbs, the weather, and the tifosi, here’s the go-to guide for the season’s first grand tour

Monster climbs, crazed tifosi, a dash of old-school glamour, and the season's first grand tour — what's not to love about the Giro d'Italia?

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106th Giro d’Italia

Dates: May 6-28

Key points: 21 stages, 3,448km (2,142 miles)

Decisive stages: Three time trials, six summit finishes

Defending champion: Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Monster climbs, crazed tifosi, a dash of old-school glamour, Italian drama, and the season’s first grand tour — what’s not to love about the Giro d’Italia?

Every spring, the corsa rosa delivers some of the season’s most dramatic and entertaining moments. Though the Tour de France might pull rank in terms of pure prestige and world audience, the Giro is one for the real stage-racing fan.

The 2023 edition should be one of the most interesting and hard-fought in recent history. Not so much that the others haven’t delivered, but more so about who’s lining up on May 6 to race for the maglia rosa.

Three of the peloton’s biggest stars, in the form of Remco Evenepoel, Primož Roglič, and Geraint Thomas, coupled with a time-trial-heavy course (at least by modern standards) set against the Giro’s trademark brutal third week, and all the ingredients are there for a wonderful month of racing.

So grab some prosciutto, fill up your flask of chianti, and let’s get ready to Giro.

Evenepoel vs. Roglič vs. the peloton

The Giro route always takes in the best of Italy. (Photo: Gruber Images/VeloNews)

Not to take anything away from the depth and quality of the field, but the 106th edition is being billed as a clash between the ascendent star Evenepoel versus the ever-efficiency racing machine that is Roglič.

Both are at the top of their respective games, with Evenepoel flying high in the rainbow jersey and Belgium’s first grand tour victory in four decades at the Vuelta a España in 2022.

Hot off another spectacular solo victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Evenepoel returns for his second Giro start very different than the rider who abandoned his grand tour debut at the 2021 Giro debut.

Version 2023 is leaner, more mature, and even more ambitious. The Giro is seen as the next major challenge toward a likely Tour debut in 2024.

An equally determined Roglič returns to the Giro also with some unfinished business. In 2019, he was the peloton’s ascendant rising star but was stymied into third place after Richard Carapaz rode away from him and Vincenzo Nibali.

Roglič has since finished second at the Tour and won three-straight Vuelta titles. No one knows if Evenepoel would have won the 2022 Vuelta last year if Roglič had not crashed out.

Their destinies will collide all month, but it’s not just a two-horse GC race.

Thomas, too, has some unsettled Giro business, and his third place in the 2022 Tour confirms he still has the motor to go the grand tour distance.

Alexsandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Damiano Caruso and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), and Jay Vine and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) will all be scrapping for the podium.

Cavendish’s last Italian gallop?

Astana brass remain confident Cavendish will find his groove in the sprints. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The Giro’s long sprinting tradition continues this year with the return of Mark Cavendish.

With 16 Giro stage wins, he’s the most successful Giro rider among active racers and will be hunting for at least one stage victory in the mass gallops.

He should have a good chance. Second at Scheldeprijs confirmed Cavendish still packs a punch, even if he’s been winless so far in 2023 since joining Astana Qazaqstan. And the sprinter field isn’t as deep as last year’s, so Cavendish should be in for at least one win.

That’s not to say it will be easy. Mads Pedersen, making his debut for Trek-Segafredo, will be keen to win, as will Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla), Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), and Alberto Dianese (DSM), among a few others.

The clock will tick

Primoz Roglic
Roglič is hoping to master a climbing time trial this time in his favor. (Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images)

The Giro is a time tribalist’s delight, with no less than three tests against the clock for a total of 70.6km.

The Giro opens with a mostly flat 19.6km course from Fossacesia Marina to Ortona that’s long enough to mark some serious time splits in the GC.

The even longer 35km course from Savignano sul Rubicone to Cesena in stage 9 could torpedo the hopes of the pure climbers, or at least set things up for some final-week Hail Mary’s in the mountains.

A third TT is a climbing test against the clock in the 18.6km course from Tarvisio to Monte Lussari, where only the strongest will survive.

Behind Evenepoel and Roglič, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma), and Matteo Sobrero (Jayco-AlUla) will be fighting for the spoils.

The mountains will crown the winner

The final week decides everything. (Photo: Gruber Images/VeloNews)

It’s the Giro’s final week that inevitably decides the winner.

Though much is being made about the TTs in this year’s edition, the final time trial isn’t really a race against the clock, but should rather be considered a climbing stage.

Every experienced hand in the peloton knows that the final week can make or break any GC aspirations. The suffering starts in earnest in stage 16, with Monte Bondone at 20km at 6.7 percent

Stage 18 is another rollercoaster to Zoldo Alto, with the five-climb “queen stage” the next day ending at the historic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The climbing TT to Monte Lussari will decide everything.

The North Americans: Chasing stages, making debuts

Kuss will be a key helper in the mountains in the GC battle. (Photo: Gruber Images / VN)

North American riders have a rich history with the Giro, though Andy Hampsten’s legendary victory remains the lone one by a U.S. rider.

This year’s field doesn’t see a GC favorite, but there is plenty of talent heading to Italy this month.

Sepp Kuss is being tapped to help support Roglič at Jumbo-Visma, and will play a key role in the mountains. If things are going the team’s way, Kuss might have freedom to chase a win in the final week.

Kuss is among six Americans and one Canadian racing the Giro.

Promising North American talents Matthew Riccitello and Derek Gee make their respective grand tour debuts with Israel Premier Tech.

The 21-year-old Riccitello has been impressing so far in his rookie season, with a top-10 on GC at the Vuelta a San Juan, and was swinging with the top climbers at the Tour of the Alps.

Gee will take the Canadian time trial jersey into the Italian grand tour.

Will Barta (Movistar), Larry Warbasse (Ag2r-Citroën), Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan), and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) are also slated to race.

McNulty is back for his second Giro start since his grand tour debut with 15th in the 2020 Giro, his career-best so far in grand tour racing. With a strong GC squad also including João Almeida and Jay Vine, McNulty could ride into the top-10 with his strong TT skills.

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The Giro dive into the heart of Italy for nearly the entire month of May. (Photo: Gruber Images/VeloNews).

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