The Giro announced their 2016 route yesterday. The official Giro site gives details of every stage here.
Don't worry, this article is no mountains preview - we're still 7 months away from the race. But here's a quick glance at the three "high" stages: Stage 14, 19, and 20.
Two of three stages include super high climbs in France. Remember the last time the Giro tried altitude in France? In 2013, The Col du Galibier (2642m) stage had to be lowered a few kilometres due to snow.
But high can be fun, and there are some monster climbs here. In 2015, Colle delle Finestre was the Cima Coppi (highest point of the race) at 2178 metres. In 2016, the Giro will have seven climbs higher than Finestre. So get ready to become a weather expert next spring as these three stages all run the risk of running into snow. And yes, there will be Youtube videos of snow ploughs trying to clear Colle dell'Agnello, and Col de la Bonette weeks earlier than usual.
Number of 2000m+ climbs on 2015 Tour de France route: 4 Number of 2000m+ climbs on 2016 Giro d'Italia route: 10— Daniel Friebe (@friebos) October 5, 2015
My biggest concern? If there are weather issues, these stages will be difficult to re-route. It is not
easy possible to get between France and Italy at that stretch of the Alps without altitude. I suppose the organisers must have a back-up plan?
But let's stay positive. Here is a quick glance at each stage.
In the heart of the Dolomites, with some sunshine, this may become one of the most beautiful stages we've ever seen. These passes may look familiar to some of you. According to The Inner Ring, Giro organisers worked with the Maratona dles Dolomites cyclosportive to design this stunning loop.
The stage starts differently than the Maratona, but once it gets half way up the first climb, Passo Pordoi, it looks identical. The first four passes make an almost complete loop of the Sella Ronda. Beautiful:
Passo Giau is super steep but stunning:
This will be tough - easily the Queen stage from a beauty point of view - and despite a non-technical final descent, the last several kilometres are slightly uphill.
At 2744 metres, Colle dell'Agnello is the 3rd highest paved mountain pass in Europe, just slightly lower than Col de l'Iseran (2770m), and Passo dello Stelvio (2757m). Its summit is the border between Italy and France (Col Agnel in French).
Welcome to France:
The Giro will climb the brutally challenging Italian side. This looks to me the toughest climb in the 2016 Giro:
The stage then enters France and will finish at Risoul ski station - reasonably challenging. Recall, Risoul was a mountain top finish in stage 14 of the 2014 Tour de France.
This looks like one of those short stages with nothing but mountains that have provided some great racing in recent Grand Tours. Col de Vars and Col de la Bonette are both still in France. The race will re-enter Italy via Colle della Lombarda (Col de la Lombarde) - again the summit is the Italy / France border.
Many of you will have heard of Bonette - often (erroneously) called the highest paved road in Europe. Even the local road signs claim this. But note, the Giro will skip the little loop to Cime de la Bonette (2802 metres) and will just pass over Col de la Bonette at 2715 metres. Why? Perhaps to keep Agnello as the Cima Coppi?
Bonette must be one of the most frequently misspelled alpine cols - see the official Giro profile above. There is only one "N."
Regardless, this is a huge climb. In photo: Col de la Bonette down low. Cime de la Bonette is above:
Col de la Lombarde, at 2350 metres, is another very high pass. It appeared in the 2008 Tour de France, although climbing the Italian side. The Giro will climb the less interesting French side, although the top few kilometres above Isola ski station are superb:
At the pass they will descend briefly then take a side road up to Santuario Sant'anna di Vinadio. Recall, in 2014, the Giro had a stage finish at Oropa. That was the largest santuario in the Alps. Sant'anna di Vinadio is the highest. The 2.3 kilometre climb will add some bite to a giant and perhaps decisive Giro stage.
Let's be positive. Lot's of sun and snow-lined alpine roads will make for fun racing.