Roundtable: Is the Giro d’Italia route a boon or a bore?

The 2020 Giro d'Italia route packs a huge punch in week three, and features three individual time trials. What do we make of this course that bucks the current trend for short and punchy stages? Let's roundtable!

Photo: Getty Images

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On Thursday, RCS revealed the route details of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, and at first glance, the race appears to buck the trends seized upon by pro cycling’s other two grand tours. Shorter stages? Punchy climbs? You won’t find any at the 2020 Giro. Instead, the race features 58.8 kilometers of time trialing, spread out over three individual time trials, plus six summit finishes, and yet another brutal final week in the mountains.

What do we make of this Giro route, and which riders are best fit for it? Let’s roundtable!

The 2020 Giro d’Italia route includes as many long stages and high mountains as ever. Is the Giro stubbornly confirming its identity after the 2020 Tour de France revealed a route similar to that of the Vuelta a España?

Estaban Chaves attacked on the slopes of Colle dell’Agnello drawing out Kruijswijk and Nibali. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Andy Hood @eurohoody: In many ways, yes, and thankfully so. The Giro has done a fine job over the past decade carving out its unique identity. Organizers are not trying to be better or different than the Tour de France, just being the Giro is good enough. That confidence of the Giro’s place in cycling is revealed in this route.

The Tour and Vuelta a España  have both been doing a lot to rewrite the script for a grand tour, with innovation and originality as their calling card. The Giro is a like a well-aged bottle of chianti — sometimes the old ways of doing things just needs a different presentation, not an entirely new recipe. This Giro route is old-school in the best ways — it’s balanced, it’s difficult and it has its fair share of exclamation points. Bravo!

Fred Dreier @freddreier: Wake me for week three.

Look, I applaud the Giro d’Italia for choosing a traditional route for 2020, and to be sure, this final week of the race is a monster. Sure, there are a few stages to watch in weeks one and two, but I’m not seeing the type of day-in, day-out excitement that makes the Vuelta a España must-watch TV every day. This is a Giro where no GC lead is safe before stages 17, 18, and 20. We could see another repeat of 2016, when Vincenzo Nibali mounted an offensive in the final two stages to win the overall. That’s great, and I cannot wait to watch those stages. But I may take a few days off in weeks one and two.

Jim Cotton @jim_c_1985: The Giro’s determination to stick to its guns is part of its charm I think. You can’t brand yourself ‘the toughest race in the most beautiful place’ by filling the route with four-hour stages like the Vuelta or next year’s Tour. Let’s face it, the Giro just wouldn’t be the Giro without riders racing past six-foot snowbanks in the mountains or those relentlessly long days.

The huge stages don’t make for great viewing though, especially when it’s wet – that 250km pan-flat stage in the final week has better have some nice castles or something to look at. If the weather holds out and all the mountains are passable, bring on the old-school parcours and indulge in how epic it is. If the weather turns, then hey, at least I’m not the guy on TV who has to do the commentary all day.

What does Peter Sagan’s plans to start the Giro say for his Tour green jersey and Olympics ambitions?

Sagan will make his Giro d’Italia debut in 2020. Photo: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Andy: Well, first off it, it says the Olympics are not much on Peter Sagan‘s radar. The hilly, challenging route in Tokyo is too hard for Sagan’s characteristics, and since he’s already said he won’t be trying to race mountain bikes like he did in Rio de Janeiro, he’s all but throw in the Olympic towel.

For the Tour’s green jersey, Sagan will still have a good chance of winning it even with racing the Giro, but it won’t be easy. Stacking up the classics, Giro and Tour is an exceedingly big challenge. My hunch is that Sagan might not finish the Giro to give him time to recover before the Tour. Just having him at the start in Hungary is a big win for the Giro.

Jim: With the Giro falling just two weeks after the close of classics season, and given the huge final week in Mauro Vengi’s race route, I doubt Sagan will race the entirety of the Giro. Grinding through the successive 200km days in the mountains in that last week will do no good for a shot at the Tour’s green jersey, and I think that extending his margin of ‘most green jerseys ever’ will mean more to him that the Giro’s ciclamino points jersey. He probably just wants to score some stage wins for the trophy cabinet in the first week or two and then cool his jets for the Tour.

And does Sagan harbor serious hopes for Tokyo? I doubt it, given there’s three big’ol climbs in the route.

Fred: The Giro d’Italia ends on May 31 and the Tour de France starts on June 19. Yep, 20 days is not enough time to thoroughly recover from a grand tour of this size and scope. Also, Sagan is racing his first Giro, so this will be his first time taking in these huge stages with zillions of meters of climbing. My guess is Sagan bails after the second rest day. Or, at some point Sagan announces that he is only targeting stage wins at the Tour and not the green jersey. My guess is that winning the points jersey in both races is simply a bridge too far.

With nearly 60km of time trialing and long, steady climbs on the menu, which riders are favored to win?

Could Thomas win the Giro? Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Andy: None other than Tom Dumoulin. The big Dutchman finds himself in a similar quandary as 2019, when the Giro was better suited for him than the Tour. At first glance, the same could be said for 2020. Sending Dumoulin back to the Giro would help smooth things over, especially if Primoz Roglic wants a run at the yellow jersey in July.

The route suits any one of Ineos’s big three, so sending one of them — most likely Geraint Thomas — to the Giro would make room for Chris Froome and Egan Bernal. Who else? Jakob Fuglsang and Emanuel Buchmann. Both are solid against the clock, and have the motors to go the Giro distance.

Fred: Geraint Thomas gets another opportunity to win a grand tour, and this Giro is the perfect test for him. The 60km of time trials—and yes, that all-too important time trial at the end—cater to his strengths in the race against the clock. He’s definitely a good enough climber to survive the brutal days in the mountains.

The only question is whether Team Ineos’s Giro d’Italia curse is finally over. We all remember Froome’s victorious raid in 2018, but let’s not forget that terrible luck befell Ineos’s Giro teams from 2013-2017. Guess what Team Sky’s best GC finish was during that period: Leopold Koenig, 6th place in 2015.

Jim: As Fred and Andy say, Dumoulin and Thomas will be liking what they see. With plenty of time against the clock and less of the steep climbing that’s sprinkled into this year’s Tour, this is their dream.

Like Thomas, Egan Bernal had said that he was waiting to see both Giro and Tour routes before coming to any decisions for his 2020 schedule. Though Bernal isn’t a weak time trialist and will certainly be at home in the high-altitude final week, he could ship minutes to someone like Dumoulin in the mid-race 33.7km time trial. I can imagine seeing Thomas and defending champion Richard Carapaz at the Giro with Froome and Bernal going to the Tour.

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