Giro d'Italia 2012: Let the drama begin!

Call me Ishmael.

-- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

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With a spectacular spring classic season in the record books, and May just around the corner, it's time to turn our attention to the season's first grand tour, la corsa più bella del mondo (the most beautiful race in the world), the Giro d'Italia.

In contrast to the now-or-never immediacy of the great one-day races, grand tours offer a drama that plays out over three weeks' time. The start of a grand tour is like the first words of a novel. When we open the book to page one in Herning, Denmark, on May 5, we know that in the 21 chapters that play out over the next three weeks, we'll see things that are beautiful, and poignant, and dramatic, but we don't know what form they'll take, or on which days they'll happen, or which characters will be the protagonists.

Alla flippa...

This year's Giro lies before us in all its mystery. It's only as the three-week story unfolds that we'll find out which climbs will be the most decisive,

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what effect the individual and team cronos will have on the race,

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and what role the weather will play.

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Will the race be won by the strong legs of a young hotshot, or the cool head of a master tactician?

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Will the events of a single day blow the race wide open, as the stage to L'Aquila did in 2010?

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Will we see an exciting new star emerge, as "Baby Schleck" did in 2007?

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Will we watch a fan favorite bid farewell to the tifosi after riding his last grand tour stage, as Paolo Bettini did in Milano in 2008, and Gilberto Simoni did in Verona two years later?

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Who will have his moment in the sun?

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Who, his triumph over the elements?

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Who will move us with his struggle, as Christophe Le Mevel did in his quest to wear the maglia rosa last year?

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Who will touch us with his joy, as Eros Capecchi did in San Pellegrino Terme?

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Who will thrill us with his passion, as Denis Menchov did in Rome?

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Who will be the coolest?

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The hottest?

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The happiest?

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Tune in Saturday, May 5, for chapter one.

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