Races to Watch: Giro d’Italia

The Giro  d’Italia (May 5-28) is second only to the Tour de France in popularity, many of you are probably rolling your eyes that I’m even including it in this series.  There’s so much to love about the Giro, which is why I’m including it on the list for those of you relatively new to cycling. In fact, it’s my favorite race to follow each year thanks to the incredible drama it delivers. The  Giro  d’Italia has unbelievable climbs, a difficult route, and a great field of riders with fresh, early season legs. If that isn’t enough for you, it’s also the proving grounds for the best young talent.  It was the first grand tour that Nairo Quintana won, in 2014, Vincenzo Nibali in 2013 and local favorite and my former competition Taylor Phinney blasted the opening time trial in 2012.

Unlike the one day races I’ve covered recently, it’s tough to boil a three-week race down into one or two defining moments. Tours ebb and flow. There will be boring days, there will be breakaways, and there will be thrilling stage finishes.

My favorite recent edition has to be 2012. The race started with American Taylor Phinney in the  maglia rosa for three days after he won the prologue in Denmark. Fourteen stage winners were at the Giro for the first time in their careers. The pink jersey changed hands among six riders. Mark Cavendish secured three sprint wins and the locals (Italians) won six stages by six different riders to keep the crowds cheering.

The Giro’s most iconic moments usually occur in the Dolomites, the  elevation  gain  in these mountains  is insane. Stage 16 in this year’s edition  will showcase the intensity of  the climbs. The day will put riders over Mortirolo, Stelvio, and Umbrail passes  for a total of  more than 17,000 feet of climbing over 140 miles of  riding.

The Giro d’Italia also tends to be a bit wild and a lot of riders find themselves lying on the pavement. The roads are narrow, the peloton a bit rough around the edges and the sprints are always a little hairy.

Another thing to watch for, the weather. It’s still fairly early and bad weather, like snow, can make things very interesting for the peloton. Take a look at 2014’s stage 16 for example:

Nibali and Quintana are the riders to watch in the 2017 edition of the Giro d’Italia. Both riders have won the Giro before and they both love to attack the mountains with reckless abandon. The edge probably goes to Nibali for this Giro as this race is his  sole focus.