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An extra-ordinary Grande Partenza


An entire region of Italy is ready to smarten up and go pink as the host of the Grande Partenza of the 2023 Giro d’Italia. The flag will be dropped in Abruzzo, and the 106th edition of the Corsa Rosa will kick off in a marvellous part of Italy that overlooks the sea and shines in simplicity – the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi. This stunning stretch of the central Adriatic coast boasts lovely beaches and dazzling blue seas, and is renowned for the ancient ‘trabocchi’ – traditional wooden fishing machines. The opening stages of Grand Tours usually take place in major cities and on large roads. This, conversely, will be an uncommon, innovative and pristine setting.

As a matter of fact, the route of stage one will almost entirely skip by any road open to traffic – with the exception of a few hundred metres. The opening stage of the 2023 Giro will be an 18.4-km individual time trial from Fossacesia Marina to Ortona, which will run for a full 17 km along the Via Verde-Costa dei Trabocchi cycle route. Created from the former ‘Ferrovia Adriatica’ railway line, this bike path stretches 50 kilometres across 8 municipalities, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and it also serves as a year-round recreational corridor for cyclists and runners. The ITT will home in on a slight incline, and the finish arch will be set below the Spanish Castle (Castello Aragonese), so the first stage will be extremely interesting from a technical point of view as well.

Coming up the following day, to wrap up the opening weekend, is a 204-km stage from Teramo to San Salvo. Featuring two uncomplicated categorised climbs in Silvi Paese and in Chieti, halfway through the course, this will be the first testing ground for sprinters. Giulio Ciccone (a native of Chieti) will be riding on home roads, surrounded by the love of his people throughout the route, and even if the features of this stage don’t really suit him, this will be a special day for him.

Stage 3 will also take place in Abruzzo, starting in Vasto and heading south, but it will be detailed further on. The full route of the 2023 Giro d’Italia will be unveiled at the Teatro Lirico Giorgio Gaber in Milan on October 17.

After dipping south, the race will begin to head back north, and back to Abruzzo. Stage 7, a 2,135-m high mountain finish atop the Gran Sasso, at Campo Imperatore, will be the first real test for GC contenders. The mountain stages in Abruzzo were key over the last two editions, and stage winners Egan Bernal (at the off-road summit finish of Campo Felice in 2021) and Jai Hindley (at Blockhaus in 2022) eventually went on to take overall victory. In other words, those ascents were decisive in revealing the true worth of the field of contenders. Before the closing climb up to Campo Imperatore (which crowned Marco Pantani in 1999 and Simon Yates, in the overall leader’s jersey, in 2018), however, the peloton will also have to tackle climbs up to Roccaraso (another legendary ascent, which Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault and Moreno Argentin had conquered) and Calascio.

The race will touch all the provinces of Abruzzo – L’Aquila, Pescara, Teramo and Chieti – and these stages may provide interesting clues about who may or may not win the 106th edition. The first and only other time that the Giro started in Abruzzo, back in 2001, was a record-breaking edition. Belgium’s Rik Verbrugghe won the opening 7.6-km prologue from Montesilvano Marina to Pescara at a blazing pace of 58.874 km/h, a record average that remains unbeaten and which Filippo Ganna missed out on (by just a tiny margin) in the opening ITTs in Palermo and Turin. Everything’s in place now for an amazing show.

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