Giro unveils 3-stage island start on Sardinia for 2017

Next year's Italian grand tour will be the 100th edition of the race, and organizer RCS Sport will kick off the race island style.

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MILAN (VN) — Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport is planning an island start to the 2017 edition with three road stages in Sardinia. Next year’s Italian grand tour, the 100th edition, will kick off from Alghero and showcase the rugged landscape above the emerald sea.

Wednesday at the Big Start presentation in Milan, RCS Sport pulled the veil on three road stages running clockwise from the island from Alghero in the northwest to Cagliari in the south. It is the first time since 2007 that the Giro is visiting the island and only the fourth time in history after 1961, 1991, and 2007.

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“It is a great pride for me to know that the Giro is starting from my land,” Sardinian Fabio Aru (Astana), second in the 2015 Giro and winner of the 2015 Vuelta a España, told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It would be great to line up and to participate next year. In November, we will make plans for 2017.

“In 2007, I was in Alghero. I did a mountain bike race and stopped to see the passage of the Giro.”

Aru is only one of six professional riders from Sardinia, along with with Domenico Uccheddu, Antonio Laconi, Giovanni Garau, Emiliano Murtas, and Alberto Loddo.

Along with Aru and Vincenzo Nibali, who will ride for Bahrain – Merida next season, Sky’s Chris Froome is also thinking about racing the Giro.

The Giro will start with a bang on Aru’s island. Going back to the 2013 format, the race will kick off with a road stage instead of a time trial. As a result, a group of around 10 to 20 sprinters should be elbowing their way to the race’s first pink jersey in the port town of Olbia on Friday, May 5.

The maglia rosa will likely already change hands on the second day with the Genna Silana Pass near the race finish in Tortolì. Stage 3 will run on mostly flat roads along the southeast and end after 148 kilometers in Cagliari. RCS Sport will have purposely decided on the distance and location to fly the cyclists out of the local airport early for the rest of the 100th Giro d’Italia.

The organizer will present the complete route October 25.

The race is expected to head toward the heel of Italy’s boot in the Puglia region. It could first stop on the island of Sicily for a stage to Messina and then pass the Basilicata region.

As with 2014 and 2016, the Giro seems to have permission for a third rest day, given that the race starts on Friday. Likely following the Sardinian start, the race will use the first of those rest days for a transfer and give the cyclists their other two after the first and second week of racing.

The extra day off may not be needed so much for riders because they’ll fly, but for the rest of the caravan that will need to take a 13-hour journey by boat to reach either Sicily or the mainland.

The Giro does not island-hop often, especially to Sardinia, due to distance and the logistics that come with it. In 1961, perhaps the most demanding Giro, the race — marking 50 years of Italy’s unification — visited both of Italy’s big islands in Sardinia and Sicily. In 2007, ferries with teams arrived late and ones with their equipment arrived later from Sardinia. The rest day became a long day of travel and complaints.

The 2017 race should travel north and, after a few climbs in the Apennines Mountains and a time trial in the Franciacorta wine region, will spend much of the second half in the Alps. Likely to be on the menu are summit finishes to the Oropa Sanctuary, the Stelvio Pass, the Pordoi Pass, and the Piancavallo ski resort in the Dolomites.

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