Giro d'Italia 2011 Preview and Predictions
The 2011 Giro d'Italia will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.
The 2011 Giro d'Italia will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. In honor of this epic event, the racers will ride 3,522.5 km. They will tackle nine mountain stages with 21 Category 1 or 2 climbs and seven mountaintop finishes. In addition, the riders will take on three time trials. The race might be as epic as the event that it celebrates.
The 2011 Giro will begin in northern Italy with a 19.3-km team time trial from Venezia Reale to Turin. The course will be flat and a little technical, but a well-drilled squad should post a good time. The stage will provide an early test of team strength.
Stage 2 will be a flat, 244-km run from Alba to Parma. The GC contenders will not show their faces at the front, but the sprinters will. The day will come down to a cavalry charge, which a sprinter such as Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) or Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) should win.
Stage 3 will be a little hillier than Stage 2, but probably nothing that the sprinters cannot handle. The 173-km ride from Emilia to Rapallo will feature a Category 3 and a Category 4 ascent in the last 40 km. A sprinter who can climb, such as Mark Cavendish, should take this one.
Stage 4 will be about as hilly as Stage 3. In other words, a sprinter should dominate the 216-km run from Quarto del Valle to Livorno. They will have to get over a Category 4 ascent 20 km before the finish, but they should do so and fight for the win.
Stage 5 should be won by someone whose name is not Cavendish, Farrar, or Petacchi. The 191-km ride from Piombino to Orvieto will feature two Category 3 ascents, along with a host of smaller climbs and an uphill finish. Someone who is not a sprinter should be able to take this one.
Escapees should snare Stage 6. The 216-km run from Orvieto to Fiuggi Terme has only one categorized climb--a Category 4--but the rolling terrain will facilitate escapes, and one of these should stay away. A no-hope worker bee is likely to win the day.
Stage 7 will end with the 2011 Giro's first mountaintop finish. The 110-km ride from Maddaloni to Montevirgine di Mercogliano will feature two Category 2 climbs. The finish line ascent will see the GC contenders test each other, but no one will gain much time on the others. A no-hope climber might take this stage.
Stage 8 will be another sprinters' stage. The flat, 217-km run from Sapri to Tropea will feature no categorized climbs, so teams such as Garmin-Cervelo and HTC-Highroad should dominate the finish. And yes, someone named Cavendish, Farrar, or Petacchi should win.
Stage 9 will be the first stage in which the road turns seriously skyward. The 169-km ride from Messina to Mount Etna will feature two Category 1 ascents. The riders will tackle Europe's tallest active volcano twice--once in midstage and once at the end. The second of the 2011 Giro's mountaintop finishes will take place on this stage. Anyone who is serious about winning this year's Giro must be in the lead group at the finish. The day after this stage will be the 2011 Giro's first rest day.
Stage 10 will be a sprinters' stage. The flat, 159-km run from Teroli to Teramo will have only one categorized climb, a Category 4, which will occur 30 km into the stage. Nothing will prevent the sprinters' teams from controlling the race so that their fast men can win it.
A breakaway should take Stage 11. The 142-km ride from Teramo to Castelfidardo will feature four Category 4 ascents, which should facilitate breakaways. One of these breaks will stick, and a GC contender could be in it.
Stage 12 will be a sprinters' paradise. The flat, 184-km run from Castelfidardo to Ravenna will have no categorized climbs. The sprinters' teams will have few problems reeling in breaks and setting up their men for the win.
Stage 13 will be the first of three days of racing that could be decisive. The 167-km ride from Spilimbergo to Grossglockner will take the racers into Austria, where the stage will end. After tackling two Category 2 climbs and one Category 3 ascent, the riders will battle to the summit finish. A no-hope climber might take the stage, but the fight among the GC contenders will say much about who will win the 2011 Giro.
Stage 14 will return the riders to Italy. The 210-km ride from Lienz, Austria to Zoncolan will feature six categorized climbs, the last of which, the Category 1 ascent to the finish, will be the hardest. Again, a pure climber might take the stage, but the real race will be among the GC contenders behind him.
Stage 15 will be the 2011 Giro's queen stage. The 229-km ride from Conegliano to Gardeccia Val di Fassa will feature four Category 1 climbs, the last of which will be the ascent to the finish. A daylong break full of climbers might take the day's honors, while behind, the GC contenders brawl for the maglia rosa. The race's second rest day will follow this stage.
Stage 16 will not be as dramatic as the three stages preceding it, but it could be just as important. The 12.7-km mountain time trial from Belluno to Nevegal will give those who combine time trialing and climbing a chance to take time out of their rivals. A rider such as Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) could have an advantage in this stage.
After the four stages before it, Stage 17 will seem easy to the riders. It will not be a picnic, however. The 230-km ride from Feltre to Tirano will feature a Category 2 and a Category 3 climb that will permit no hopers to escape. After the four stages before Stage 17, the peloton will be happy to let them go.
Stage 18 will be another stage that a breakaway will decide. The 151-km ride from Morbegno to San Pellegrino Terme will feature one Category 1 ascent followed by a descent to the finish. Look for the escapees to be far ahead of the peloton when they reach the climb, and look from them to fight for the day's honors on the descent and the run to the finish.
Stage 19, a 209-km ride from Bergamo to Macugnaga, will feature a Category 1 ascent to the finish. An early break will form, and its members will attempt to stay away to fight out the finish. With a much harder stage the following day, the GC contenders might permit this. However, if the race is close, the heads of state might decide to ride the break down. If that happens, then they will fight for the day's honors.
Stage 20, the 2011 Giro's final mountain stage, will feature a Category 1 ascent followed by a Category 2 climb to the finish. The GC contenders will not be generous. One of them will win. If the race is close, the stage winner could take the race lead.
Stage 21, the race's final stage, could decide the outcome. The flat, 31.5-km time trial in Milan will decide a close Giro. In addition, it will sort out final GC positions that are still in doubt. Look for a spirited battle among those who are still in contention.
Who will win the 2011 Giro? Three years ago, Alberto Contador won the Giro d'Italia without training for it. With the race being one of his season's foci, the Spaniard will be the strongest man in it. He combines excellent climbing with very good time trialing, and those abilities should bring him victory. Pencil him in for first.
Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) won the 2009 Giro d'Italia. His climbing and riding against the clock make him a rider to be respected. If Contador falters, Menchov could win his second Giro.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) who finished fourth in last year's edition, could repeat the feat this year. The mountain stages and the mountain time trial will suit him, but the flat time trial will not. In 2011, Scarponi will finish fourth--exactly where he finished last year.
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) will take on his first Giro in 2011. He has had a good spring, winning a stage of the Giro del Trentino and riding well at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. A top-five finish looks feasible for him.
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) has had a good spring with second place finishes in the Amstel Gold Race and La Fleche Wallonne and a win in the Tour of the Basque Country. He loves hard climbs, and the Giro will serve up plenty of them. For him, too, a top five finish is possible.
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