94th edition of race to celebrate 150th anniversary of Italian unification

Next year’s Giro d’Italia will help celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification with an itinerary that starts in Turin and ends three weeks later in Milan.

The 94th edition of the race starts on Saturday 7 May with a 22km team time trial from the former royal residence of Venaria Reale, one of Europe’s largest Baroque palaces, to the centre of the city.

Visited 84 times by the Giro, the city, capital of Piedmont and as former seat of the royal house of Savoy the first capital of the newly unified Italy, has only hosted the departure of the race once before, when Italy celebrated its centenary in 1961.

"I’m convinced that Turin will be able to do even better than Amsterdam,” said race director Angelo Zomegnan, referring to the Dutch city that hosted the Prologue of this year’s race, where Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky took the maglia rosa.

Zomegnan, talking to the Gazzetta dello Sport, added that it had taken two years to finalise the plans to host next year’s departure in Turin, adding that former president of Italy Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, chairman of the Italia 150 committee which is co-ordinating celebrations, had played a pivotal role in making it possible.

While there was no team time trial in this year’s Giro d’Italia, there had been one 12 months earlier in the opening stage of the centenary edition of the race at Lido, across the lagoon from Venice, won by HTC-Columbia, with Mark Cavendish crossing the line ahead of his team mates to become the first Briton to don the maglia rosa.

The format, which is also being adopted in the opening stage of the Vuelta later this month in Seville, is not without its critics, however, given the fact that it can skew the general classification towards a particularly strong time-trialling team, particularly when it comes at the beginning of the race.

Three weeks after that departure in Turin, the Giro will conclude with another time trial, this time an individual one, in Milan, which will start from Piazza Castello outside the imposing fortress built by the ruling Sforzesco family in the 15th Century and finishing in Piazza Duomo in front of the city’s cathedral.

The announcement marks a return to favour for the Lombard capital, home to the Gazzetta dello Sport, the newspaper behind the launch of the race 101 years ago – hence the pink leader’s jersey – which was left out of this year’s race in a move that some saw as a snub to the city following chaotic organisation of Stage 9’s circuit race there in 2009, which was effectively neutralised by the riders.

The city has hosted the final stage of the Giro in 74 of its 93 editions, the last time being in 2008 when Marco Pinotti of HTC-Columbia won the closing day’s individual time trial.

"The Giro was born here,” said Milan’s mayor, Letizia Moratti, who added: “This is a city that is passionate about cycling. It will be a race of great symbolic value in a year of public celebration of Italian unification.”

Andrea Monti, editor of the Gazzetta dello Sport, claimed that “It will be a true race, not a parade,” in line with Zomegnan’s aim that the Giro will be decided on the last day, in contrast to the celebrations seen on the way into Paris during last Sunday’s final stage of the Tour de France, with Alberto Contador sipping the traditional glass of Champagne as he headed towards the French capital in the yellow jersey.

“It’s a happy return to tradition for a Giro d’Italia that wants to preserve and celebrate all the warmth and colour of our glorious history,” added Monti.

The rest of the itinerary has yet to be revealed, and as yet it is unknown whether further stages will tie in with the 150th anniversary theme, but if they do that could mean that the race might visit Florence, which briefly succeeded Turin as capital, the present capital Rome, and Sicily, where Garibaldi landed with 1,000 troops to launch his campaign that would lead to unification of the country.

Another intriguing possibility might involve the race heading across the French border to Nice, Garibaldi’s birthplace, for centuries under influence of various Italian states but ceded to the French, much to the soldier-patriot’s dismay, in 1860.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.