Less than 24 hours after the 2011 season – at top level at least – came to an end with the Giro di Lombardia, on Sunday Milan played host to the presentation of the 2012 Giro d’Italia route.
Organisers promised a kinder Giro this year following last year’s race, which was also overshadowed of course by the death of Wouter Weylandt. The Leopard Trek rider was honoured at today’s presentation, amid promises that the Giro will not forget him.
The Belgian sprinter won Stage 3 of the 2010 Giro, and was killed in a crash on Stage 3 of this year’s race; in 2012, Stage 3 will be dedicated to his memory, and the number 108, which he sported last year, will never be worn in the Giro again.
Compared to the Tour de France, the Giro may sometimes seem like a younger sibling with something to prove, as manifested by the difficulty of last year’s route, or the fact that this week it has stolen a march on the Tour by officially unveiling its plans 48 hours before organisers reveal the full route of that race.
Some aspects of the presentations are similar – the stars of cycling watching attentively as the route is revealed, or the race organisers explaining the features of specific stages – but the Giro presentation very much takes its cue from Italian TV’s plethora of light entertainment shows.
To give just one example, where else would you see Alberto Contador lowered into the studio, clutching the Giro d’Italia trophy, inside a cage apparently made from the same mirror tiles they use on disco balls?
If he made a similar entrance at the Court of Arbitration for Sport next month and the panel were as bedazzled as the studio audience seemed to be today, all bets would be off as to whether the appeals by UCI and WADA against his acquittal on doping charges would stand a chance of succeeding.
Even if he’s still racing in 2012, Contador in all probability won’t be around to defend his title – his big aim next year, assuming he’s not banned, will be to add a fourth Tour de France title.
However, his Saxo Bank-SunGard team will be guaranteed star billing in the opening days of the race, which gets under way in their home country, Denmark. Indeed, Contador has already tried out the time trial route in Herning, the Danish town that is the birthplace of his team manager, Bjarne Riis.
It will be the tenth time that the Giro has started outside Italy, with three stages – including the opening days prologue – in Denmark.
Following a rest day to allow the transfer back into Italy, racing resumes with a Team Time Trial in Verona on the Wednesday – a similar pattern to that adopted when the race started in the Netherlands in 2010.
The following day sees a flat stage that more or less follows the Via Emilia, the third sprinter-friendly stage of the race after the two road stages in Denmark, but things are shaken up a bit more on Stage 6 from the hills of Umbria to the Adriatic Coast.
That stage features climbing on gravel roads including ramps of up to 20 per cent, although it is classified as a medium mountain stage, as are four of the seven stages that follow. The South of Italy misses out this year, with the race coming close to Naples before swinging back up towards the northwest.
The other three of those opening 13 stages give yet more opportunities to the sprinters, who are no doubt looking on the 2012 itinerary – or at least the first two thirds of it – much more favourably than they did last year’s, when opportunities for them were few and far between.
That changes from Stage 14 onwards, however, with five of the final seven road stages designated as high mountain, including what is likely to be a decisive Stage 20 on the final Saturday that takes in the Tonale, the Aprica and the Mortirolo ahead of a summit finish on the Stelvio.
Other highlights of what promises to be a thrilling final week in the mountains includes a stage finish at the ever-chic ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites on Stage 17, while the race comes to a finish, as it did this year, with an individual time trial in Milan.
You can find full details of the 2012 Giro on the Italian version of the race website – scroll through the individual stages at the top of the page and click through for details – once you are on a particular stage, clicking on ‘Planimetria’ will give you the stage map, ‘Altimetria’ the stage profile, and ‘Dettaglio salita’ the profiles of individual climbs (if applicable).
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.