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92nd Giro d'Italia - GT
Italy, May 9-31, 2009
December 14, 2008
Venice to Rome
By Gregor Brown in Venice, Italy
The 2009 Giro d'Italia, presented today in Venice's Teatro Fenice, celebrates 100 years since its birth with a route as bella as the host country. The Italian stage race, May 9 to 31, will start on the Lido of Venice and finish three weeks later amongst the historic sites of Rome.
Organisers RCS Sport revealed a route that will start in the north – briefly touching countries Austria, Switzerland and France – and finish in the south. It is the first time the Giro d'Italia has not finished outside of Milan since Laurent Fignon won in 1989.
"To create this Giro we used our hearts and passion... We are looking to the globalisation and future of the Giro," said race director Angelo Zomegnan. "It is a special Giro. We hope this is the continuation of another 100 years."
The 21-stage, 3395.5-kilometre race will have six mountain top finishes, the first on stage four, and three time trials. It starts with a 20.5-kilometre team time trial on the waterfront of Venice and ends with a 15.3-kilometre time trial in Rome. Midway, stage 12, riders face a long 61.7-kilometre time trial in Cinque Terre that appears tailor fit for the race's star participant, Lance Armstrong.
The seven-time Tour de France winner joins one of the Giro's most prestigious start lists in recent years. Armstrong, who will compete in his first Grand Tour after almost four years, will fight Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca, Marzio Bruseghin, Denis Menchov and others for the right to wear the overall leader's maglia rosa.
The race for pink
The first pink jersey, or maglia rosa, will be decided on Venice's lido (the island that separates the mainland from the Adriatic Sea). The seaside along one of Italy's most famed cities will provide the backdrop for Armstrong and Basso's first head-to-head battle in a Grand Tour since 2005.
The stage will be fast with only five turns along the parcours that shoots straight down the waterfront and back up the other side towards the starting point. Conditions could be slippery in the city known for flooding.
The mountains appear after intermediate stages to Trieste and Valdobbiadene in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. Stage four to San Martino di Castrozza and stage five to Alpe di Siusi are both mountaintop finishes and will provide the first gaps in the overall classification.
Besides San Martino di Castrozza (stage 4) and Alpe di Siusi (5), there are four other mountaintop finishes: San Luca (14), Monte Petrano (16), Block Haus (17) and Vesuvio (19).
The mountaintop finishes, combined with two rest days – May 18 and 26 – and less transfers than the long drives of 2008 mark next year's course. There are not many finishes, six, for the sprinters. The most prestigious day for the fast men will be a circuit based around Piazzale Loreto in Milan.
Piazzale Loreto saw the first Giro d'Italia depart on May 13, 1909 – Milano to Bologna, nearly 397 kilometres. One-hundred years later, Sunday, May 17, it will host the start and end of 155-kilometre stage nine.
The biggest curiosity of the 2009 route is the longer than normal time trial mid-race. The stage from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore has a distance of 61.7 kilometres, the longest in 13 years and nearly double the 'long' time trial of 2008.
RCS Sport appeared to have presented Armstrong a gift with the stage. The American based his seven Tour de France's victories on the race's time trials – he won 11 in total. He will definitely be able to leave a mark on the overall classification in Liguria region.
Four more mountaintop finishes and other tricky stages will allow for allow opportunities to gain back lost time as the Giro heads south. Stage 14 to Bologna features four climbs through the Apennine mountain range before the run up Colle di San Luca, the climb which marks the end of the Giro dell'Emilia.
The Marche region hosts a tricky tappone. There are three climbs before the uphill finish of 10.4-kilometre Monte Petrano, at the end of what should be a testing 237-kilometre stage.
Following the second rest day, the riders will face a short – 79 kilometres – and punchy stage in Abruzzo. The Giro d'Italia will feature the seldom-used climb of Block Haus. The 22.5-kilometres climb, at 2064 metres, was the spot in 1967 where cycling legend Eddy Merckx won his first ever mountaintop finish in any race.
The last arrival in altitude appears in stage 19. After a run up Amalfi peninsula, the riders will climb the 13-kilometre Vesuvio to close a 164-kilometre day. The winner on that Friday, May 29, should be able to see Rome's Imperial Fora.
The final 15.3-kilometre time trial starts and ends next to the Imperial Fora and passes some of Rome's famed sites – Porta Pia, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Venezia and the Coliseum. A beautiful end to celebrate bella Italia and 100 years of the Giro d'Italia.