The Giro is one of the three Grand Tours of cycling. Along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, it forms one of the key focuses of many riders’ seasons.
The Giro may not be as high profile as the Tour de France, but for purists, it is generally the more exciting, challenging and interesting race. The leader is denoted by a pink jersey (’maglia rosa’), with the best sprinter wearing a jersey of pale pink (‘maglia ciclamino’).
Riders race in teams of eight, with each rider getting their own time, but playing the part for the team leader. The leader of the race is the rider with the lowest cumulative time, generally an elite climber and a solid time trialist.
The 2021 edition is the 104th edition of the race, with last year’s winner Tao Geoghegan Hart not returning to defend his title. Australian Jai Hindley was the dark horse last year, coming from obscurity to finish second, and will be one of the riders to watch in this year’s edition.
The 2021 edition of the race starts in Turin on May 8, with a short time trial to get the riders going. Over the following three weeks, the riders will race 21 stages, with the finish in Milan on May 30.
Over the 21 stages, the riders will cover 3,479km, with seven ‘mountain stages’, two time trials, and visits to Slovenia and Switzerland.
The climbers and contenders will be waiting for the second and third weeks, with Stage 16 earmarked as the Queen Stage, with a 212km day, with more than 5,700m of vertical climbing on the day.
The race will be decided on the final day, with a 30.3km individual time trial around the streets of Milan before the finish in front of the picturesque Duomo.
There are eight Australians taking to the start line, including four for Team BikeExchange (an Australian based team), and three for Team DSM. Most of them will be pressed into team service and assistance, rather than contending.
With both coming from a track background, they are powerful riders who are a chance to stay away if they can get into an attacking position.
Jai Hindley (Team DSM) is the defending second place rider. After coming from relative obscurity, he held a strong position for much of the race last year, and drew much attention from the cycling world.
The 25-year-old is facing a far more accomplished field this year, but after a breakout last year, he will be optimistic of repeating the feat of a podium finish.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) is the big ticket item. Widely considered one of the fastest men in the world on flat road, any time there is a flat finish, Ewan will be a red hot chance at winning the stage.
Ewan already has three stage wins at the Giro, and five stages at the Tour de France. He’s shown good form this season with a second place at the one-day classic, Milan-San Remo. Ewan and Hindley aren’t just Australians to watch, they will be facing the focus of the whole cycling world every time they get close to the front.
The Giro is wide open this year.
Bernal has previously won the Tour de France, but has struggled since that 2019 victory with a back injury.
He rides for the strongest team, and the team that last year helped Geoghegan Hart to victory. His 2021 form so far suggests Bernal is riding well at the moment.
Yates has previously led the Giro for 13 days, and has won the Vuelta a Espana. There are concerns about the strength of the team, but Yates has shown he can climb and ride with the best in the world.
Evenepoel is one of the young up-and-comers of world cycling. The 21-year-old will be making his debut in a three week race when he starts the Giro. The last 21-year-old to debut at a Grand Tour ended up winning it (Slovakian Tadej Pogocar won the Tour de France in 2020).
Evenepoel will likely race with youthful abandon, and has the talent to ride away from just about anybody. If he struggles to hold form over the three week race, his team has one of the better second options.
Almeida finished fourth at the Giro last year. He faded in the last week and will be hoping that he is better for the experience in this edition.
Vincenzo Nibali (Trek Segafredo) is widely considered to be past his best, aged 36. He is however, the only previous winner of the race to be lining up this year, so there’s a chance he could shake things up.
He and Hindley are both in a large pack of outsiders who could yet surprise.
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Caleb Ewan is the fastest man on two wheels in the race. He will be considered the hot favourite for a number of stage finishes.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has been a dominant sprinter over the past few years, with his tactical nous and strength making him a chance at every sprint.
Sagan has had a few years of weaker form, but appears to be back to his best in 2021.
Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) is returning to the bunch. Groenewegen was suspended in 2020 for causing a crash at the Tour of Poland.
Groenewegen has been one of the fastest sprinters going around previously, but there are questions as to his form, as he hasn’t raced in almost 10 months.
Nizzollo has been crowned the best sprinter twice, and finished on the podium of 15 stages, while Viviani has five stage wins to his name.
There are eight stages that are expected to end in a bunch sprint, so there will be plenty of action to watch for these men.
Moments to Watch
Stage 14: Cittadella to Monte Zoncolan (205km) – May 22
This endurance masterpiece will tackle one of the most famous climbs in Italy, with a finish of 14km up Monte Zoncolan, including a maximum gradient of 27% (where its almost easier to walk than ride).
Stage 16: Sacile to Cotrina d’Ampezzo (212km) – May 24
This is one of the longest days in the race this year, and climbs over 5,700m vertical gain. The stage will pass the highest point on the race this year (2,239m at the Passo Pordio), and includes a downhill finish.
The downhill finish will encourage an attacking contender to try and take some time over the top of the final climb, and then multiply that time on the descent down to the finish.
Stage 20: Varbania to Alpe Motta (164 km) – May 29
This will almost certainly be the day the Giro is decided, with three massive climbs and over 4,200m of climbing. It will be the final chance for the climbers to make their mark on the race.
Expect the shorter stage (comparatively) to encourage fireworks and attacking, and the stage could come down to the final 7.3km climb (about 15-20 minutes of maximum effort for the contenders).
This year, the Giro will have two stages with gravel on the map, including an uphill finish on Stage 9 and a picturesque ride through the Florentine hills on Stage 11.
New Zealander George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) usually pops up in the mountain stages to show off a bright future as a contender. This year he will be riding for himself and hoping to win some stages and secure a top 10 finish.
This year’s Giro course is considered one of the most difficult routes in a while, with brutal climbing and potential pitfalls in every week. This year’s winner may not be in the lead until the final arrival in Milan.
Watch this year’s Giro d’Italia on SBS throughout the race.
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