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What’s Cool About the 2017 Giro d’Italia
2017 signals the 100th edition of what’s generally the favorite race around PEZ-HQ, and the organizers hatched an ambitious plan to cover as much of the country as possible in the allotted 21 stages from May 5 – 28, 2017. Here’s what the PEZ Crew think is cool about it, and maybe some things you didn’t know…

GIRO’17:
Ed Hood – Top PEZ Giro Chaser:
How many years since the Giro was in Sardinia? It can’t be 10 years – a decade? But it is.

And Dave and I were there – we WERE those soldiers.  The people were great, friendly – out landlady for our first night of digs insisted upon meeting us at the airport so we wouldn’t get lost. And breakfast was amazing.

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Stage one was a TTT on an island off the coast, Garibaldi’s birthplace and a microcosm of Sardinia – hot, dusty, twisty, turny, hilly and not your average TTT course. We followed CSC but it wasn’t the percorso for big gear power beasts and Liquigas’s nimble roadmen took the win. And when you get dropped in a TTT at this level you are DROPPED!

La Madallena - Italie - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Caprera - La Madallena - team time trial - teamCSC - foto Marketa Navratilova/Cor Vos ©2007Ed followed the CSC team in 2007

There’s a lot of history on the island with ancient ruins in abundance and huge expanses of wild flowers in the big meadows in the interior. The roads will suit the breakaway but Robbie McEwen and Ale Jet Petacchi took two of the stages when we were there – those sprinters’ teams worked hard for the money. Bardiani will love it and every team will know that Aru will be desperate to win a stage so it’s gonna be a tough few days if you’re an Astana domestique.

Then Sicily – Etna, now that’s another story. . .

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Richard Pestes – Self-proclaimed Girophile:
Stages 4 & 5: The Sicilian Job
This Giro aims to discover new parts of the country – like the islands and southern tip of the boot we don’t see so often because:
a. they’re a pain to get to (they tee’d up the first rest day to transfer the race from Sardinia down to Sicily)
b. the generally poor economy down here does little to bolster the commerce of the whole undertaking

But for those of us who relish the helicopter shots and travelogue that will come from these gorgeous regions, seeing the race go through here couldn’t be better.  And the RCS have even added some decent stages to at least get our attention with that summit finish up the still active Mt. Etna volcano.

giro17st04-cefalu-viewThis view to the east from above Palermo looks to the stage 5 start in Cefalu beyond the bay in the distance.

I was in Sicily for the Giro start in Palermo in 2008 (back when they still printed the Giro Guide in Italian and French – not English like today).  Using the Giro as a great excuse to slowly visit every part of my favorite country that I don’t live in, I jumped at the chance to see what life was like on this beautiful island, and follow the race across the foot and over to the Adriatic – much the same as it does for 2017.

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The region’s days as the centre of an expanding modern civilization are long gone, but life on Sicily is as colorful as it looks.

Well known for its history – the island crumbles with ancient Greek ruins to visit, and sunshine, fragrant citrus trees and sparkling blue waters make it a perfect land of play and relaxation.  The island’s ties to the mafia are cause for uninitiated tourists to worry about safety, I found the people friendly and the streets of Palermo inviting and safe.  The biggest difference I noticed from the Italian of the north was how the Sicilian dialect made my school-class Italian almost unintelligible – I could barely understand a word anyone said.

giro17st05-pizzo08-arancia

The arancino is made throughout Italy, but several Italians I talked to all agreed that Sicily is THE place to get one. So after the stage 3 roll out in Catania (2008), I found a local bar and got down to business. The ‘arancino’ is a risotto ball, stuffed with meat, veggies and sauce, and then fried in a light breaded coating. It’s best served hot, and the waiter almost laughed at me when I asked for a knife and fork – “use-ah your hands!”

giro17st05-fishmarketYou’ll be eating fish – and lots of it – down here.

Stage 6 from Pedara to Messina will be a snoozer unless you fancy a sprint finish.  They had a similar plan back in 2008, when I saw a very dis-interested bunch roll past on the way up the coast. It was a strategic port in the Great Wars to control shipping through the Strait of Messina – Calabria and the Italian mainland are just a couple of kms across the water.

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I expect stages 6 & 7 across the toe and sole of the boot to be pretty non-descript racing, but my own time here was filled with memorable moments – thanks almost entirely to the people I met.  Stage 6 from Reggio Calabria to Terme Luigiane rolls along some typically azure beautiful azure coastline, and right past the town of Pizzo Calabro where I stayed for a stage start in 2008.

giro17st06-pizzo08-town

Lodged into another b&b in the very tiny town, I arrived late in the day to a locked front door.  My inquiries at a small bar in the equally small piazza revealed that my host for the night was 20 feet up, stringing a banner for the next day’s stage start.  He kindly tossed me his house keys, told me to let myself in, and that I’d be sleeping in he & his wife’s room (although I was unfamiliar with local customs, I was hoping I’d be alone…) .  The story had a funny ending at about 1:00AM the next morning  – that you can read about here.

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The run across the south of the boot crosses Calabria – (where Mr’s Pez’s mama & papa are from) – through towns and villages where not many people go these days.  Most of the young folks leave when they can, since jobs are scarce and life is less comfortable than in a lot of other places.  It wasn’t always like this, as the abandoned buildings remind us that it wasn’t such a bad place to live in the old days.  But this is the south of Italy, and that’s how it is.

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I’ll be watching stage 8 from Molfetta to Peschici as it follows the coast north along the Adriatic, because the finish town sits atop a steep little climb that comes after many kms of small winding roads – perfect for a breakaway.  I convinced a local resident to let me onto his rooftop to see Magnus Backstedt almost get the win here in 2008, and I discovered what a gorgeous part of the country this is.

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Uncrowded by tourists, the beaches are endless and the skies as blue as the water – I know I sound like a broken record but I guess I’ve run out of ways to describe skies and water as blue as these are.

giro17st08-peschici08-beach

Chuck Peña – Washington, US Bureau:
I know the PEZ himself and some of my PEZ colleagues will impart local knowledge about the centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia route as they’ve ridden in those regions — lucky sods! Me? I’ve vacationed in Italy on a couple of occasions but never with my bicycle. And the only cities I’ve been to on this year’s route are Florence, which is the start of stage 11, and Milan, where the Giro ends after 3,572 km of racing. Nonetheless, here are this Yank’s thoughts about this year’s race route.

I’m sure everyone and their mother is now wondering if the Giro race organizers deliberately had in mind designing a route that would tempt Chris Froome to attempt the ever elusive Giro-Tour double. They’ve apparently piqued his interest based on this Tweet:



Certainly, the 67.2 km of time trailing (versus only 36 km at Le Tour) favors a rider like Froome or perhaps a Tom Dumoulin. And if the GC is close, expect the final day 28 km time trial from the Monza Formula One race track to the Duomo in Milan to be a true race of truth. But I’d be surprised if Froomie gives the Giro a go. To begin, it’s just not the kind of stage race that the Skybots can control the way they do at the Tour (witness what happens at the Vuelta, albeit Sky doesn’t field its A team in Spain) And Froome well knows that racing for the Maglia Rosa in May puts at risk his donning the Maillot Jaune on the Champs Élysées in July (witness what happened to Alberto Contador in 2015).

But whether Froome races or not, the 2017 Giro would seem to suit more of an all-around than a pure climber. So I’d expect Nairoman to also pass on next year’s Giro. But hopefully not defending champion Vincenzo Nibali or his countryman, Fabio Aru. In fact, the 2017 route isn’t all that different overall than the 2016 Giro that Nibali won in that it’s relatively balanced with five summit stages and as many as six stages that could be contested by the sprinters — although some of those stages are lumpy enough to give breakaways, classics riders, and puncheurs a chance to shine. And many days that are climbing stages actually have descents to the finish — such as the 227 km stage 16 queen stage that climbs the Mortirolo pass and the Stelvio (from both sides) followed by a climb over the Umbral pass before a fast descent into the Bormio ski village. Watch then for the climbers who can descend, such as Nibali or Romain Bardet. Or perhaps Jarlinson Pantano.

One rider I’ll be rooting for and watching is American Joe Dombrowski who won the Baby Giro early in his still young career. He’s a local Virginia boy and the climbing profiles suit him. He ride well in the mountains in this year’s Giro, including a third place on stage 20. Would love to see him on the podium again on a mountain stage … perhaps on the top step.

With stages 16 through 20 all featuring heavy climbing, the 2017 Giro has all the makings of everything coming down to the last few stages of the last week — as it did this year when Nibali came back from nearly 5 minutes down. Hopefully, we won’t see the race leader crash as Steven Kruijswijk unfortunately did this year. But this is another Giro where we should see some great mano-a-mano racing.

Crash-out Kruijswijk:
Risoul - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Colle dell’Agnello - Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands / Team LottoNL - Jumbo) pictured during stage 19 of the 99th Giro d’Italia 2016 from Pinerolo to Risoul (162km) - foto LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2016
Alessandro Federico – PEZman in Italy:
When a new route is presented there’s always the risk to overestimate the difficulties. In reality a Grand Tour is then decided by 3-4 days, 2-3 climbs and no more. When I first looked the Giro 2017 I immediately thought it’s a typical Mr. Vegni (head of Giro organization) design: first and third weeks decisive. I will concentrate a bit on the end of the first week because I firmly believe that a trio of stages in the center of Italy will give a serious impact to the general standing.

giro17st09-appenines08
Stage 9 to Blockhaus heads into the high mountain that make up the Italian spine.

Sunday 14th May, the stage 9 to Blockhouse
Despite the name of this climb, that sound German, this is located in the center / south Italy in Abruzzi region. Lonely fields, sheep and fog. There’s nothing else than the climb in this stage, but please sign it in red color because it will be very hard. RCS choose in fact a secondary road, the so called Roccamorice side, that is really very steep and narrow. We will have one of the favorite in rosa jersey that evening.

giroaf-blockhouse-920Blockhouse, shot last May in Roccaraso (Abruzzi region)

Tuesday 16th May, the stage 10 to Montefalco ITT
This is another kay stage, the first ITT coming after the rest day. It will be not all flat, not that easy. Montefalco is on top of a climb and there are other 2 climbs coming earlier. It will be a selective ITT with minutes separating the riders, I expect something very close to what we saw last may in Chianti. May pick? I think Ilnur Zakarin will take his revenge on his crashes, unless… it will rain!

giro16af-zakarin-920Ilnur Zakarin riding the ITT of Chianti in the 2016 Giro when he was virtually in rosa but he crashed three times. Ilnur is my pic for next ITT in Montefalco

Wednesday 17th May, the stage 11th to Bagno di Romagna
This is the typical Apennine stage the Giro propose every year. Last May we had Sestola with a final climb, in Bagno di Romagna we won’t have a final climb but the stage will be also very interesting. I don’t think about many splits for the general standing riders but we will probably see someone attacking from far and we have not to forget that Monte Fumaiolo was “used” by Marco Pantani to train hard in the good old days.

Thursday 18th May, the stage 12th to Reggio Emilia
This will be an easy stage with no surprises for the best. The teams will be able to control all the day long and everybody will have the chance to relax a bit and enjoy some prosciutto and cheese. Reggio is the town of those foods!

More photos by Ale: @alefederico_cycling page in Instagram.

Passo della Consuma in the 2013 Giro. Consuma will be the first of four interesting climbs during stage 11 to Bagno di Romagna:
giro13af-consuma-920

Gordan Cameron – Reporter at Large:
A couple of years ago the Tour de France pulled the stunt of riding up l’Alpe d’Huez twice. The Giro d’Italia will take on the Stelvio twice on stage 16 next year.

That day promises to be a beast, with thousands of meters of vertical gain. I rode up the Stelvio with some of the crew back in 2012. Current Androni Giocattoli pro Davide Viganò was the stand-in DS in the ‘team car’, offering Pez himself a sticky bottle on the climb.

T16_S02_StelvioThe Stelvio climb

I was desperate to finish the climb without any outside help, so turned down the offer. I was just desperate by the time I got to the top. A couple of days before we hit the Stelvio, climbing from the Hotel Funivia in Bormio, Thomas De Gendt had triumphed up there. He’d ridden a lot further than us to get to the climb, and then summited in about half the time it took us. It gave me a whole new perspective on racing.

Next year, the riders hit the Mortirolo first then the Stelvio up the Italian side and then … yep, seriously … the Umbrailpass, up the Swiss side of the climb before dropping back down to Bormio. It’ll be epic, bringing back lots of happy/sad/painful/exhilarating memories.

Gordan giving it full gas for the summit of the Stelvio:
giro17st16-gordstelvio

Sam Larner – PEZ London Office:
This year the Vuelta cemented itself as my favorite Grand Tour. However, to steal from Godfather 3, just when I thought I’d chosen the Vuelta, the Giro pulls me back in. I love the 2017 Giro route, the 100th edition of the race, it’s the perfect mix of rolling hills, mountains, time trials and sprint stages. I’ve picked out three stages that I’m most intrigued by, but first, a complaint; I love the idea of starting in Sardinia but I don’t understand the need to have an early rest day and start on the Friday. From the island to the mainland is just an hour long flight and it seems overkill to add in the extra rest day.

The first stage which captured my attention is the stage four finish on Mt Etna. We’re in Vincenzo Nibali’s backyard on a stage that will draw out the GC contenders and immediately shake up the race for pink in Milan. The stage is a 180km slog across Sicily with the 1,524m Portella Femmina Morta climb acting as a softening blow before the rolling approach to the final climb. Whoever takes pink here should be able to cling onto it until stage eight without too much difficulty.

Stage 15 could go one of two ways; either a break goes and gains significant time and the stage is a sedate ride through beautiful scenery or a break goes and gains time but it’s kept close and the peloton erupts inside the hilly last 50km. Whatever the outcome of the stage, the first 149km will be largely devoid of interest but the last 50km will be almost impossible to control and the finale on the Bergamo Alta should be compulsive viewing. This finish has Diego Ulissi written all over it and with some lumpier stages in the first week he should be adding to his account rather than opening it in Bergamo.

Fabio Aru might not want to remember the road over the Mortirolo:
Aprica - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Fabio Aru (Team Astana) pictured during Giro d’Italia 2015 - stage-16 - from Pinzolo to Aprica - photo POOL/IB/LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2015

The triple challenge of Mortirolo, Stelvio and Umbrailpass, on stage 16, is delicious but, at 227km, this is going to be a cruel plod through Northern Italy. If the weather turns the stage will either be shortened or turn into a classic for the ages. However, the day in the final week which is most interesting is stage 18 from Moena to Ortisei, 137km of breathless action and a hilltop finish. There’s five climbs on the stage, the last two are less illustrious than the opening salvo of Passo Pordoi, Passo Valparola and Passo Gardena, each one topping out at more than 2,000m. There will be two more mountain stages to go after this one although neither offer as many sustained challenges to an exhausted peloton.

The final downhill time trial is a masterstroke to cap off what looks, on paper, to be the perfect Grand Tour route. It’s now up to the riders to create the excitement and for the weather to hold off and keep the higher stages open for business.

The downhill TT final stage 21:
T13_Jesolo_alt

Matt Conn – PEZ-Australian in Italy:
The second last stage from Pordenone to Asiago is local country for me. A few weeks ago I did the GF Prosecco Cycling, which started and finished in Valdobbiadene (68km into the Giro stage). Valdobbiadene is the home of prosecco wine and where they had the Giro’s last TT two years ago. Also, the first climb (37.3km) on the stage is the Muro Di Ca’ del Poggio. A short, sharp leg snapper at 1300m with an average gradient of 15% and a steepest section of 20%.

Here’s some video  from 2009:


When we rode it in the GF a few weeks back they had a prosecco and prawns feed station. I passed. The stage finishes in Asiago. I don’t know the climb but the cheese is great!

Happy Giro-ing (And as Ale and I know, it is the best race of the year!)

Home roads for Matt on stage 17:
T20_Asiago_alt

Alastair Hamilton – Editor, Spanish Office:
It looks like who ever designed the 2017 Giro d’Italia did two things. First he or she must have decided that as it is the 100th Giro, the course would have to cover as much of Italy as possible, which explains the journey from Sardinia to Sicily and then all the way north from the toe to the upper thigh of Italy.

Secondly; The Giro course designer probably had last year’s Vuelta a España in mind with summit finishes nearly every day and only one bunch sprint day. The final week has been described as ‘murderous’ and should have a worthy winner, but who will be on the start line is unknown at the moment. Aru and Nibali would be top favorites for the ‘Tifosi’ as they will both be on their home grounds of Sardinia and Sicily. It looks like the Giro will be the second best Grand Tour again this year, well ahead of the French race and coming close to the Vuelta for excitement.

The Giro climbed Etna in 2011:
Etna - Italie - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Giro D’Italia 2011 - 9e etappe Messina > Etna - sfeer illustratie - foto Cor Vos ©2011

On a personal level, Sicily is one of the best places you could ever visit. I was there as mechanic for the British team at the World road and track championships in 1994 and the road up Mount Etna is one to remember. The climb changes from lush green foliage to the barren lava flows from the active volcano. When I was there the summit was sun bleached, but when the Giro visits in May there will probably be snow. Of course one of the best memories was the food and wine of the island, not to mention the best coffee. It has been over 22 years since I was there, but I still have coffee beans sent from Palermo by Caffè Morettino. The people of Sicily are warm and friendly, when you make a friend in Sicily it’s for life. Once you’ve been to Sicily it never leaves you.

Bring on the Giro!
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