After being announced in grand style at the Teatro Lirico Giorgio Gaber in Milan, the route of the Giro d’Italia 2023 has been public for quite a few days now. The experts are now breaking it down, trying to figure out the decisive stage of the 106th edition, the one that could re-shuffle the general standings first off, the unexpectedly trickiest ones, and trying to anticipate who may or may not take it to the start line. There has to be some order among the available information, to try and see what lies ahead in the long run-up to the Grande Partenza from Abruzzo. There is no way to know how the peloton will have shaped up some months from now.
The big start from Abruzzo was the only thing that had already been unveiled. We knew there would be an opening time trial of 18.4 km on the cycle path along the Costa dei Trabocchi, and we knew that stage two – running for 204 km from Teramo to San Salvo – would be a sprinter’s thing. We still didn’t know where stage three would home in, but we do, now. The 210-km route will take the peloton from Abruzzo to Basilicata, from Vasto to Melfi, beginning on flat roads. In the stage finale, two challenging ascents up the Valico dei Laghi di Monticchio and the Valico La Croce will make things hard for sprinters.
Stage four – a 184-km ride from Venosa to Lago Laceno (Campania) – will probably open hostilities among GC contenders. There will be not a single flat metre, rather, challenging ascents up the Passo delle Crocelle and the Valico di Monte Carruozzo, before the closing climb to Lago Laceno (Irpinia), where Roger De Vlaeminck, Alex Zülle and Domenico Pozzovivo were past victors. Coming up next, the 172-km stage from Atripalda to Salerno will be a sprinter’s thing, again. The climbs up Monte Serra and Guardia dei Lombardi are, as a matter of fact, too far to scare away the fast wheels.
After last year’s successful and spectacular experience, Naples will be start and finish city once again. The route will be different and less challenging this time, but nonetheless thrilling. The stage will hit the Amalfi Coast and Pompei, undulating constantly in the central part, before a likely sprint finish along the Via Caracciolo seafront. The following day, the race will travel back from Campania to Abruzzo, before continuing straight north, with a 218-km stage from Capua to Gran Sasso d’Italia that is expected to re-shuffle the standings. The peloton will tackle the (in)famous ascent to Roccaraso, and the gruelling 45-km climb leading to the finish atop Campo Imperatore, with KOM points up for grabs 14 km into the climb – across Calascio – and at the finish. After a lengthy false-flat drag, the four final kilometres with average gradients exceeding 8% will most likely be forcing a selection among the top GC riders at the end of such a long stage.
Stage eight, running 207 km from Terni to Fossombrone, once again over the 200-km mark, also deserves special attention. The stage finale will be an intricate one, with tricky climbs that sting the legs, such as the Monte delle Cesane and, especially, the Muro dei Cappuccini. Coming 6 kilometres before the finish, this 1,500-metre ascent with 12% will be the perfect launch pad for climbing specialists. Expect attacks aplenty! The ITT from Savignano sul Rubicone to Cesena will be closing off the first week. Even if the route, a pan-flat ride of 33.6 km, is tailor made for pure sprinters, the fast wheels who can sustain high speeds for a long time, overall contenders shouldn’t lay down their arms nonetheless.
By the first rest day, much action will have been going on already.