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Roundtable: Is the Giro d’Italia the best grand tour in cycling?

The Giro d'Italia continues to deliver drama and innovation, so how does it stack up against the Tour de France and Vuelta a España? Our editors dig in.

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Giro d’Italia officials recently unveiled course details for the 2022 edition, and it’s a real doozy.

Starting in Budapest and ending with a decisive, final-day time trial, the 2022 route delivers all the bells and whistles that everyone has come to expect from a modern Giro.

There are “impossible” climbs, a brutal final week, and a menu of early climbing stages and uphill finales mixed across the course to deliver an exciting and unpredictable race start to finish.

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So where does the Giro rank?

The Tour de France still gobbles up most of the oxygen, but has the Giro caught up in the hierarchy of grand tour racing? Our VeloNews’ European team digs in.

Sadhbh O’Shea: The Giro is always a ‘grande casino’

Cycling : 91E Giro D'Italia, Stage 15Illustration Illustratie, Peleton Peloton, Passo Pordoi, Dolomite Mountains Montagnes Bergen, Landscape Paysage Landschap, Snow Neige Sneeuw /Arabba - Passo Fedaia, Marmolada (Dolomiti Stars) (153 Km), Tour Of Italy, Ronde Van Italie, Etape Rit /(C)Tim De Waele (Photo by Tim De Waele/Getty Images)
The Passo Pordoi is one of the iconic climbs of the Giro. (Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

It’s hard to try and pick your favorite grand tour, but the Giro d’Italia is probably the top one for me.

It has all the drama and unpredictability of the Vuelta with the top-notch field of the Tour de France. OK, it might not always have the five-star grand tour riders of the grand boucle, but with a small number of riders and teams — from Team Sky to Tadej Pogačar — maintaining a lockdown on the maillot jaune over the last decade, a growing number of big-name riders are turning their focus to the Giro for GC success.

The Giro d’Italia has delivered us some fantastic duels over the years, and every day has the air that something big is going to happen. With changeable weather, long stages and some brutal terrain, nothing is certain at the Italian race. If the right field turns up, next year’s route looks like it will give us a GC contest that will last until the final day.

In the immortal words of Primož Roglič: “Grande Casino.”

Jim Cotton: The Giro ‘oozes dreamy charisma’

Peter Sagan won the maglia ciclamino at the Giro d'Italia by 18 points
The Giro brings the drama and emotion, just ask Peter Sagan. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

In terms of prestige in the peloton, the Giro would be below the Tour, but above the Vuelta.

The Giro has history, and its romantic allure makes it a hit with the racers, but in terms of sponsor payoff and worldwide hype, it’s way below the big-billing Tour de France. The rich recordbooks of the “corsa rosa” and its place in the heart of European racing gives it the edge over the relative grand tour newcomer that is the Vuelta, however.

From a fanboy perspective, I’d like to make the hipster’s choice and place the Giro at the top of the three.

The Italian Alps are stunning, the brutal weather adds attrition, and the race oozes a unique dreamy charisma. As the first grand tour of the season, it’s the one that we all get most amped for after a winter of cyclocross and spring of one-dayers.

But the Giro’s proximity to the Tour and its old-school style can play against it.

Many of the biggest GC names save their legs for the Tour and look toward the Vuelta as a second grand tour option, meaning the startlist can be slim. And the near-inevitability of at least a handful of waterlogged, six-hour sprint slogs can dampen the enthusiasm for us on the couch just as much as it does for those in the peloton.

I would possibly put the Vuelta at the top of my grand tour list for its firecracker racing and end-of-season send-off vibes. The Giro and the Tour share honors in equal second.

Andrew Hood: The Tour de France is ‘still the king’

The crowds, the drama and the passion make the Giro d’Italia unique in the world of sport. (James Startt/VeloNews)

Little more than 20 years ago, all three grand tours were stuck in autopilot. There wasn’t a lot of innovation in terms of route design, and the racing became relatively predictable as a result. There were prologues, a few time trials, a handful of mountain-top finishes, and lots and lots of sprint stages.

Thanks to the Giro, things started to change, and the sport boldly pedaled into a new century adapting to a new media landscape where fans can watch a race off a smart phone slipped into their pocket.

Organizers brought on Monte Zoncolan, which ushered in a new era of “impossible climbs” that continues to rattle across the sport. Backed by RCS Sport, the Giro was on the leading edge of innovation and brought the grand tour concept to such far-flung places as Belfast and Jerusalem.

That energy helped reinvigorate the entire sport, and all three grand tours are better off because of it.

Where does it rank? As former Giro boss Angelo Zomegnan said, he compares the grand tours to the grand slam in tennis or the major championships in golf. Indeed, the Giro’s profile has improved dramatically in the past two decades.

Yet for better or worse, larger economic forces, questions of calendar and media still leave the Tour de France in a class of its own within professional cycling.

Rather than be equals in galaxy of stars, the Tour remains the sun that everything else in the peloton revolves around. If a team or a rider misses out on the Giro, it’s not the end of the world. That’s another story for the Tour.

As much as I love the Giro and sometimes moan about the colossal mass of the Tour, the Tour is still king.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.