Britain’s Chris Froome starts the 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia looking to become just the third rider to win three successive Grand Tours.
The Team Sky rider won his fourth Tour de France title last July and followed that with victory in the Vuelta a Espana.
Should he win the Giro, he will emulate French great Bernard Hinault who won all three in 1982-83, while Belgian legend Eddy Merckx won four on the trot in 1975-76.
The 21-stage, 3562.9km (2,214 miles) race starts in Jerusalem, finishes in Rome and features two individual time trials, six sprint stages, six ‘hilly’ stages and seven mountain stages.
Fellow Briton Simon Yates, who finished seventh at last year’s Tour de France to win the best young rider’s white jersey, is also chasing the overall win and the Mitchelton-Scott rider takes us through each stage…
Stage 1: Friday, 4 May – Individual time trial, Jerusalem – 9.7km
Winner: Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb)
Chris Froome’s quest to win a third Grand Tour on the trot takes an early blow when he crashes on a pre-stage recce of the route. Defending Giro and world time trial champion Tom Dumoulin goes out last and comfortably beats his rivals, also eclipsing long-time leader Rohan Dennis to take the stage win and maglia rosa. Simon Yates is the strongest of those chasing GC honours, finishing seventh, just 20 seconds back
Stage 2: Saturday, 5 May – Haifa-Tel Aviv, 167km
Winner: Elia Viviani (Ita/Quick-Step Floors)
Elia Viviani lives up to his favourite billing by winning the bunch sprint in Tel Aviv, despite losing his lead-out men in the closing stages. All the race favourites finish in the peloton, while Rohan Dennis picks up three bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint to take the overall race lead.
Stage 3: Sunday, 6 May – Be’er Sheva-Eilat, 229km
Winner: Elia Viviani (Ita/Quick-Step Floors)
The ‘Big Start’ comes to its conclusion with the expected finale as Elia Viviani wins the sprint for the line by Red Sea. He is nearly dumped into the barriers by Ireland’s Sam Bennett but nudges his way through to complete a superb start to the race.
Stage 4: Tuesday, 8 May – Catania-Caltagirone, 198km
Winner: Tim Wellens (Bel/Lotto Fix All)
The first stage in Italy serves up an exciting race as Tim Wellens breaks clear to win on a testing uphill finish. Simon Yates impresses by finishing fourth in the same time as Wellens to move up to third overall. But Chris Froome struggles and loses 21 seconds, slipping to almost a minute behind Rohan Dennis, who retains the pink jersey.
Stage 5: Wednesday, 9 May – Agrigento-Santa Ninfa, 153km
Simon says: There could be a few riders eyeing the break again today but on the difficult Sicily roads it won’t be without effort. Any stages like this, with technical and/or steep ascents to the line require attention from a General Classification rider – get caught behind the wrong guy and you can easily lose a few seconds that you could need in the weeks to come.
This stage could go either way, regardless we will have to stay attentive.
Simon’s one to watch: Diego Ulissi – the Italian knows how to win on home roads, having picked up six Giro stage wins during his career.
Stage 6: Thursday, 10 May – Caltanissetta-Etna, 164km
Simon says: Etna. The first real test for the General Classification riders and we expect it to be just that. There’s no reason to hold back. Everyone is still relatively fresh and this stage is followed by a flat day so I predict it will be aggressive – who knows, we might catch someone out that thought they could ‘ride into form’ these three weeks.
It’s the first stage in ‘our terrain’. We know we have to be aggressive at some point to make up for the time trial that has been and the one still to come, and today will have to be one of those days.
Simon’s one to watch: Miguel Angel Lopez – the 24-year-old Colombian won two stages at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, riding away from the favourites on ascents to summit finishes.
Stage 7: Friday, 11 May – Pizzo-Praia a Mare, 159km
Simon says: Two things have the potential to shape today – how deep we all went yesterday and the wind. We basically follow the coast all day. No wind equals a standard sprint day for the likes of Quick-Step and maybe throw Bora in there to spice it up with Sam Bennett. Wind equals a stressful day in the bunch. We rely on our big riders to keep us in a good position and we will be happy to make it through with all of the contenders.
We are promised wide roads and we basically ride in a straight direction all day so we are hoping for the former.
Simon’s one to watch: Sam Bennett – the Belgian-born Irish sprinter delivered his best result in 2017 with a stage win at Paris-Nice.
Stage 8: Saturday, 12 May – Praia a Mare-Montevergine di Mercogliano, 209km
Simon says: The second summit finish of the race but it’s not as hard or long as the first one. With another summit finish tomorrow. I expect a select group of General Classification guys and the best of the climbing stock to be in the mix. It could go either way, a group of non-GC riders steal the show or the favourites battle it out.
Simon’s one to watch: Thibaut Pinot – this is the Frenchman’s second tilt at the Giro, having finished fourth last year. He won the warm-up Tour of the Alps, where Chris Froome was fourth.
Stage 9: Sunday, 13 May – Pesco Sannita-Gran Sasso d’Italia, 225km
Simon says: The day before a rest day usually makes for the best General Classification days and this is a solid day indeed, the first of only two stages that take us over 2,000m in altitude.
With the last 40km being pretty much all uphill we will certainly have a good idea by the end of today’s stage who the real favourites for winning the Giro are.
Simon’s one to watch: Estaban Chaves – my Colombian team-mate is a brilliant climber and finished second at the Giro in 2016, winning a stage en route.
Monday, 14 May – rest day
Simon says: This is a real rest day, without travel, and we will certainly need one. I like rest days but we are all different with some guys needing to push a bit harder to keep the body functioning mid Grand Tour but I am pretty relaxed. Easy spin, rest, and as little media as possible!
Stage 10: Tuesday, 15 May – Penne-Gualdo Tadino, 239km
Simon says: The day after a rest day has two outcomes depending on the rider – fresh as a daisy or heavy legs! Expect a hard start with a climb straight from the off. The stage is designed for a strong breakaway to escape early and it will probably survive until the finish line. If it happens, most teams will be happy – including us.
Simon’s one to watch: Tim Wellens – the Belgian won stage six of the 2016 Giro after joining a breakaway and this terrain looks ideal for him.
Stage 11: Wednesday, 16 May – Assisi-Osimo, 156km
Simon says: Another uphill start that could provide a platform for a breakaway, or we could see some teams control the race for their punchy guys. It looks like a bit of a rollercoaster finish, with some pave (cobbles) and 16% gradients thrown in there – we need to be careful as always.
Simon’s one to watch: Simon Yates – am I allowed to say myself?! It may be a stage I am given the green light to target and that final climb suits me. I’ve had a good start to the year, finishing second in Paris-Nice.
Stage 12: Thursday, 17 May – Osimo-Imola, 214km
Simon says: Another flat day along the coast and the standard two possibilities – easy to control or the opposite if there’s wind. We are really confident with our team for these stages. We have a great climbing team, but also some of the best in the business like Svein Tuft and Sam Bewley for days like today.
Even if it’s a day for the sprints, the final stages are always hectic. I’m not sure we’ll have time to savour our arrival on the famous Imola race track, but it’ll be a spectacle for fans and hopefully an easy day for me.
Simon’s one to watch: Andrea Guardini – the Italian won his solitary Giro stage back in 2012, pipping Mark Cavendish to the line in a sprint finish.
Stage 13: Friday, 18 May – Ferrara-Nervesa della Battaglia
Simon says: A carbon copy of yesterday, minus the coastal roads. A day for the whole team to conserve as much energy as possible. The onus will be on Quick-Step, and maybe Bora and a couple of others, to bring the breakaway back for the sprint.
Simon’s one to watch: Elia Viviani – I’ve picked him already to win a couple of stages and given the backing of his Quick-Step team there’s no reason to suggest he can’t win more than one.
Stage 14: Saturday, 19 May – San vito al Tagliamento-Monte Zoncolan, 186km
Simon says: Pencil this in as one stage not to miss. Monte Zoncolan is brutal thanks to the steep gradients. Anytime you see 22% anywhere, you know it’s a day you want good legs. I don’t think we fear climbs like this, but we know they are important.
A bad day on a climb like this can decide your Giro. You won’t lose seconds but minutes. Today will sort out the men from the boys.
Simon’s one to watch: Chris Froome – how will the four-time Tour de France winner be coping with the pressure of going for three Grand Tours in a row? We might find out today.
Stage 15: Sunday, 20 May – Tolmezzo-Sappada, 176km
Simon says: One for the breakaway. It’s prior to a rest day so there might be the odd General Classification rider who thinks he can make a difference, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the best day for it. There’s a lot of descending and we need to be careful of this and weather conditions will influence a lot with team tactics.
We want to finish this week with time up our sleeves on some of our key rivals with a big final week to come.
Simon’s one to watch: Ruben Fernandez – could this be a breakthrough race for the Spaniard? His Movistar team should have Carlos Betancur chasing the overall win and if that is not working out, Ruben may be allowed to attack.
Monday, 21 May – rest day
Simon says: After a long transfer we will normally sleep in as long as possible. We’ll take a look at stage 16’s individual time trial course in the morning but rest is just as, if not more, important. So, after we have ridden over what is a reasonably straightforward TT we will retreat to the team hotel and just lay low and focus on what surely will be one of the most crucial show downs of the entire Giro.
Stage 16: Tuesday, 22 May – Individual time trial, Trento-Rovereto, 34.2km
Simon says: Survival day. Before the race even started we knew today was our danger day. Days like today are made for Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin – the difference they can make on a time trial like this is why they started the Giro as the favourites.
For smaller guys like me and my team-mate Esteban Chaves, we just hope that the work we did on the time-trial bike in the off-season is enough to minimise the damage and keep us in striking distance of the podium.
Simon’s one to watch: Chris Froome – will the Team Sky cyclist, looking to become the third rider to win three Grand Tours in a row, be playing catch-up – or extending his race lead?
Stage 17: Wednesday, 23 May – Riva del Garda-Iseo, 155km
Simon says: The last chance for the real opportunists. The sprinters and their team-mates will all be fatigued so who will control a stage like this that will surely involve an aggressive start? A breakaway looks certain because all the key teams and riders will be thinking of three incredibly heavy days to come.
Simon’s one to watch: Luis Leon Sanchez – the Spaniard is a breakaway specialist with all four of his Tour de France stage wins coming in this way.
Stage 18: Thursday, 24 May – Abbiategrasso-Pratonevoso, 196km
Simon says: The first of three big days to decide the Giro. I really see two races developing on a stage like today, one for the lucky climbers who make the break and the other between the key General Classification guys on the final and only climb of the day.
Simon’s one to watch: Carlos Betancur – the Colombian climber is yet to win a Grand Tour stage but has numerous top-10 finishes on mountain stages and to add to his pedigree, he was the best young rider at the Giro in 2013.
Stage 19: Friday, 25 May – Venaria Reale-Bardonecchia, 184km
Simon says: This is the hardest day of the race – the Queen stage – and I expect it to be won by a General Classification rider, although you could see big gaps between them. There’s a lot of GC players starting the Giro who need to be aggressive and if you have good legs you can really make a difference on a day like today.
The break might go to collect King of the Mountain points but I predict it will most likely come back together on the final ascent.
Simon’s one to watch: Chris Froome – will he be defending the maglia rosa, or needing to attack to take hold of it? This promises to be an exciting day regardless of who is in the lead.
Stage 20: Saturday, 26 May – Susa-Cervinnia, 214km
Simon says: The final chance. The General Classification battle will determine how this final stage is raced, but I guarantee it will be action-packed and you will see a lot of key guys marking each other. With only the procession in Rome to follow, our winner will be decided today.
This could play into the hands of somebody slightly off the radar on GC for the stage win.
Simon’s one to watch: George Bennett – the New Zealander is yet to win a Grand Tour stage but comes into the race in decent form having finished fifth in the Tour of the Alps last month.
Stage 21: Sunday, 27 May – Rome, 115km
Simon says: Emotions on this day depend on how the previous 20 days have panned out, but there’s always a sense of relief. Your body is on the brink of exhaustion and everyone is looking forward to stepping off the bike, having a rest and spending some time with family and loved ones.
What an incredible city to finish off our epic three weeks of racing. A short, sharp circuit race in the city of Rome is our last stage. A day for the surviving sprinters who have endured an arduous third week with one eye on victory.
Simon’s one to watch: Elia Viviani – it’s hard to back against the Italian who will be keen to impress in his capital city, particularly if he’s not delivered earlier in the race.