Now, as the Eurosport commentators used to say in 2008, moments after announcing the latest positive test or doping scandal (ah, those were the days), ‘Anyway, back to the racing…’
So, what’s the 2023 Giro route like, and who does it suit?
Well, Remco Evenepoel, that’s who.
Nevertheless, RCS Sport’s charm offensive towards the world champion perhaps isn’t as overt as one may have expected.
There are three individual time trials totalling 71km, of course – a relative rarity in the modern era – but the quantity and nature of the kilometres against the clock can hardly be compared to the Tours de France of the Jean-Marie Leblanc era.
The race kicks off with a surprisingly long 18.4km TT, with a slight drag to the line, in the Abruzzo region. The next siren song for Vuelta winner Evenepoel – who has yet to confirm his participation in the Giro, but will almost certainly be spending next May in the bel paese – is stage nine, a pan-flat 34km time trial to Cesena, seemingly tailormade for the powerful, super-aero Belgian.
The third and final time trial of the race, however, is something completely different – and could have the potential to upend the entire race right at the last moment.
The first eleven kilometres of stage 20 may be gently rolling, but the final seven to Monte Lussari are anything but – averaging 12.1 percent to the summit (and over 15 percent for the first five kilometres). And all after three weeks and 3,500km of racing. Ouch.
Of course, the Giro – unless you’re Francesco Moser – is never just about time trialling. In many ways, the 2023 Corsa Rosa is a typical Giro, if a touch more backloaded than usual.
Week one takes on a varied, rolling and sometimes jagged tour of Italy’s east and west coasts, featuring the kind of in-between terrain favoured by a certain Wout van Aert, who is rumoured to be interested in making his Giro debut ahead of an earlier-than-usual world championships next year in Glasgow.
Following stage seven’s Apennine summit finish on the Gran Sasso d’Italia (a gentle slog with a sting in the tail) and the time trial two days later, week two will begin with some more classic breakaway fodder and possible sprint days, before the real mountains start.
Stage 13 to Crans Montana in the Swiss Alps – taking in, weather permitting, the 2,500m-high Col du Grand Saint-Bernard and the fearsome and almost as high Croix de Coeur – will no doubt rearrange the GC, while a Tour of Lombardy-style trek to Bergamo on stage 15 could produce some explosive racing.
Then we head into classic Giro territory. Stage 16 features a string of relatively low but tough climbs on the way to Monte Bondone, while the following stage offers a small bone to the remaining sprinters before three decisive days in the Dolomites.
The 19 percent gradients of the Coi climb on stage 18 could blow the GC group apart, ahead of a potentially myth-making stage 19 to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the scene of newly retired Vincenzo Nibali’s 2013 triumph and Eddy Merckx’s grand tour coming of age in 1968.
While some legendary Giro climbs may be missing from the 2023 route, such as the Gavia, Stelvio, and Mortirolo, stage 19 more than makes up for their omission – packing in the mighty Valparola and Giau on the way to the Tre Cime.
And if that hasn’t wrapped things up in the battle for the pink jersey, race director Mauro Vegni will be crossing his fingers for a Planche des Belles Filles-style twist on the Monte Lussari.
Just don’t mention the transfer to Rome…