Stage 1: Apeldoorn ITT, 9.8km
The Giro comes to the Netherlands for the third time in the new Millennium, and ever, with a short individual time trial around the city of Apeldoorn.
What's It About?
Like any grand departure of a grand tour, it's about creating a lovely and exciting spectacle, which in recent times has increasingly meant holding the Giro outside of Italy. Once upon a time the Giro had seen only four starts in its initial 80 years, and three of those were Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. Now, the race seems to venture outward on a routine basis, with eight of the last 21 years (all even numbered years) beginning abroad.
The Netherlands is a popular pick for all three grand tours. The Tour de France has launched six of its 22 foreign starts on Dutch soil, including Utrecht just last year, and the Vuelta a Espana -- only twice starting out of Spain -- launched from Assen in 2009.
Dutch fans are notoriously supportive, if nothing else because they like to be outside and bikes are as normal as air. The Netherlands is also the sport's biggest participant nation that lacks its own grand tour or monument race, so routing through the lowlands is also perfectly at ease with cycling life. As for Apeldoorn, the Gelderland region (which I'll talk about a bit more tomorrow) has a long and interesting history that gibes with what we think of for the country's image, and the city itself dates back to the Eighth Century, though it's still a regional municipality with under 200,000 residents. Most of whom will be dusting off a few words of Italian and shouting them at riders tomorrow.
Normally this would be a good place to insert the profile, but I think I can just draw one instead:
Start __________________ Finish
Here's a more interesting thing, the map:
Nothing terribly striking about it, though with a slight east-to-west orientation it's possible that changing winds could favor riders from one end of the day over the other. The forecast does call for a breezy day with winds from the southeast in the 18kph range (e.g. tailwinds!) but if it stays that way then it'll even out. Well, actually it will have the effect of shortening things a bit and keeping the gap from top to bottom in check.
But this is a glorified prologue anyway, whose purpose is to give fans a great view and sort out all the jerseys (except KOM). It'll be enough to do that.
Riders To Watch
Evolving. Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo was the name on everyone's lips, but he spent the day in bed with the flu, so it's unclear whether he will be up to his usual excellence. One last view of Tony Spartacus bombing through a prologue would be a real treat for the Dutch crowd (there's no prologue at the Tour this year), and maybe his body will rally.
If it doesn't, that sets up a possible dream scenario for the hosts, whereby the next most accomplished cronoman Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin takes the honors and parades around the home country in pink for three days.
Others to watch... Jos van Emden is another Dutch hope, on the Dutch LottoNL-Jumbo squad. Mathias Brandle of IAM Cycling is another rider whom we saw crush the 2015 Tour opener in Utrecht. Svein Tuft, Maxime Monfort, Ramunas Navardauskas, Matteo Trentin... I'm throwing names out there now. It's a short ITT, it'll come with its share of surprises.
Pick to Win: Jos van Emden, LottoNL-Jumbo. Unlike Dumoulin, this is his entire Giro.