Will the 2015 Giro feature fewer summit finishes?

Rumors are swirling ahead of the October 6 route announcement for the 98th edition of the race

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MILAN (VN) — Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport will unveil the 2015 race route on Monday, but two points are already coming into focus: fewer mountaintop finishes and team Neri Sottoli’s automatic invitation.

The 2014 Giro featured seven high-mountain finishes and a mountain time trial that favored the Colombian climbers. The 126-pound Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the race over fellow Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) placed third overall.

The 2015 Giro, slated for May 9-31, could include six mountaintop finishes, according to leaks in local Italian newspapers. RCS Sport already announced the coastal region of Liguria in Italy’s northwest will host the Grand Départ of the 98th edition. It also revealed the race would return to Madonna di Campiglio, located in the Dolomites, on May 24 for the first time since 1999.

The rest of the Corsa Rosa remains a mystery that is unravelling in the local press as the October 6 presentation in Milan approaches. If the reports are correct, the Giro will include summit finishes at Abetone, Aprica, Cervinia, and Sestriere, in addition to Madonna di Campiglio and another high-mountain stage on May 23.

Like Madonna di Campiglio, the Giro has visited those climbs in its previous 97 editions. Aprica and Sestriere go hand-in-hand with Mortirolo and the Colle delle Finestre, respectively, and logic has it that they will be included as antipastos to the finishing climbs.

The route is rumored to head south down Italy’s west coast before turning north up the eastern side to reach the Alps. Once in the mountains, the Colombians and Spain’s Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) — who confirmed in September he will return to try to repeat his 2008 win — will have their chance. After the Sestriere stage, the race is supposed to conclude with a flat stage from Turin to RCS Sport’s home in Milan.

Contador has a guaranteed ticket to ride the 2015 Giro d’Italia because his team is one of the 18 in the UCI WorldTour with automatic invitations. It is the same for 2014 Tour de France and 2013 Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who has yet to decide if he will participate.

Pro Continental, or second division teams, must apply for one of the four wildcard invitations up for grabs. MTN-Qhubeka, IAM Cycling, and team Alonso, if it exists and races in the second division, will likely ask to attend. Another avenue for Italy’s second division teams is to win the 2014 Coppa Italia, a series of Italian races. Gianni Savio’s Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela team won in 2013 and automatically received the first of four invitations for the 2014 Giro.

RCS Sport is ready to award the first 2015 invitation with the close of this season’s Coppa Italia, which Neri Sottoli leads by 10 points over Bardiani-CSF after Wednesday’s Milano-Torino. Three more races remain in the cup, ending with the GP Beghelli on October 12.

A Neri Sottoli invitation, however, would cast a dark shadow over the pink race. The team had two doping positives stemming from the 2013 Giro d’Italia with Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio. This 2014 season, its cyclist Matteo Rabottini failed a test for EPO.

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