You know, in my day (by which I mean three or four years ago), the Giro didn’t sneak up on you like this. It certainly didn’t find itself three days away by the time I realised “Hmm, I should probably start thinking about the Giro.” However, dear reader, that is the situation in which I have lamentably found myself, m’colleagues having had their shot at their three favourite stages, and I left with the scraps. I would indeed not presume to try and give you a better account of the stages than Jens, Chris, Andrew or Shawn have, so I shall choose three as yet unloved days to bring into the modest spotlight.
[Looks through the stages]
Wait, no, damn it all to hell, you’ve taken all the best ones. Oh well, I’ll try to maintain a trace of originality. No Zoncolan or Finestre for me.
Stage 16: Trento-Rovereto, 32.4km (ITT)
I had to include the time-trial, because like it or not, this is going to be the most influential stage of this race. The fact that the Grand Tours of the 1990s contained one hundred kilometres of time-trial kilometres has unconsciously biased us to see any amount less than fifty kilometres as a “balanced” race, whatever that means. No, any more than ten kilometres is a significant amount, capable of turning a race on its head no matter who is competing. The presence of Froome in this race to challenge Dumoulin seems to have led many to believe that nobody can forge too much of a lead on this stage, but that may just be a mistake — I’ll remind you that even if this race does turn out to be a straight shootout between the pair of them, the last comparable relevant time-trial in which the two of them both competed was stage thirteen of the 2016 Tour de France. In which Froome was on top form, with, you know, a race program and no doping positive hanging over his head. And yes, Dumoulin was geared up for the Olympic time-trial, but I think that those circumstances at least cancel each other out. Anyway, that’s not even the point — a good few other riders are going to be completely left in the dust after this stage, for better or for worse. It will be a key, if not the key day — thus I must include it here.
Alright, now I’ll pick my own stages.
Stage 1: Jerusalem-Jerusalem, 9.7km (ITT)
Chris dealt with all of what I will heretofore refer to as “the Israel stuff,” I’m ignoring it. As it is, this is fairly fun, as opening time-trials go. I’m glad it’s individual, not team, and also glad that the race is beginning in a manner that will give us at least a small glimpse into the form of the individual riders. Dumoulin smashes it and has a thirty-second lead on anyone of relevance? That’s interesting. Froome loses ninety seconds? There’s a question answered. Miguel Angel Lopez gets a high placing? We sit up and take notice. All sorts of little plots might begin to make their presence felt on the very first day. Not to mention the comforting notion that it’s the start of the Giro, meaning three weeks of great racing.
Christ, two time-trials. What has happened to me? I should be grouching about the fact that not every stage is a sprint up the Zoncolan or something, shouldn’t I.
Anyway...my final stage...
Stage 20: Susa-Cervinia, 214km
Three categorised climbs and ending on the Matterhorn, one of us had to pick this stage. Its preceding day, stage nineteen, has gotten most of the attention thus far but I’d just like to challenge that with one observation — in 2015, the final two mountain stages were very similar to the final two mountain stages of this race — a Colle delle Finestre stage with a summit finish, and a stage ending with the Col Saint-Panthaléon and Cervinia, the only difference being that the Cervinia stage on that occasion came before the Finestre stage. And if you cast your mind back to that Giro (Contador’s last ever Grand Tour win, just to note), the Finestre stage was where all the drama came about. On the Cervinia stage, Aru got away, but he was six minutes back on GC anyway, and the minute a tiring Contador ceded to him didn’t really look like meaning much...until the Finestre stage dealt Contador a harsh blow, and we had anarchy in the Cottian Alps. Now, I’m not saying that merely switching these stages around can change where the more exciting stage is likely to come. I’m just saying that the Cervinia stage being decisive is more likely than it was in 2015. Let’s face it: if the GC is still up for grabs, which it very well might be, you’re not going to want to give this stage a miss, are you?
So there you have it, my three stages of the Giro. I didn’t mean the clown remark.