Giro d'Italia 2021, Giro d’Italia 2021 Preview
Photo by LUCA BETTINI / AFP

Giro d’Italia 2021 Preview

The 104th edition of the prestigious Giro d’Italia 2021 from 8 to 30 May will be held under a special sign. Last year, for the first time in the history of the Italian “Grand Tour”, the race was moved from the original date in May to October. Accordingly, the second winner within half a year will be determined in May 2021.

The route profile is particularly attractive for mountain riders this year. Only two relatively short time trials and seven mountain finishes are on the programme. Read the article to find out who the favourites for overall victory are. A British rider is also a hot contender for the podium.

Who are this year’s favourites at the Giro?

One thing is certain: the pink jersey will be worn by a new overall winner in Milan on 30 May. Last year’s British winner Tao Geoghegan Hart of Ineos Grenadiers will focus on the Tour de France, as will team-mate and 2019 Giro winner Richard Carapaz.

Egan Bernal

Instead, the most expensive team in the world is led by Egon Bernal. At just 22 years old, Bernal became the youngest winner of the 2019 Tour de France in what was then 110 years. He was also the first South American to wear the yellow jersey in Paris. Experts agreed that the Colombian would shape a new era.

Admittedly, it is not too late for that. But after a year to forget in 2020, Bernal has definitely disappeared from the spotlight. He had to retire from the Tour with back problems and also missed the Vuelta. In addition, Bernal was pushed into the background by the furious rise of the two years younger Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour in 2020.

Nevertheless: In spring, Bernal achieved good results with fourth place overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, as well as second place at the Trofeo Laigueglia and third place at Strade Bianche. Results that give his fans hope to see the “old” Egan Bernal at the Giro 2021.

According to recent reports, the now 24-year-old has recently suffered a setback regarding his back injury. His racing team denies these rumours and the Columbian has also made it to the start list. Hence, it is expected that he is able to compete. Should Bernal arrive at the Giro d’Italia 2021 in good shape, he is undoubtedly the absolute top favourite for the overall victory.

Vincenzo Nibali

Bernal is not the only big name who is struggling with injuries. Vincenzo Nibali had an unintended fall in training in mid-April and suffered a wrist injury. However, the “Shark of Messina” immediately underwent surgery and was recently able to train again with a specially made carbon band. The biggest Italian asset will therefore definitely throw his hat into the ring, when the Giro kicks off in Torino on Saturday.

Nibali has already triumphed twice at the Giro (2013, 2016). Last year, however, he disappointed with seventh place overall. After two second and one third place in the prior three years, the 36-year-old will have to prove that he has not yet passed his zenith, should he become fit. In spring, the Trek – Segafredo rider finished Tirreno-Adriatico in ninth place and the UAE Tour in 17th overall.

Emanuel Buchmann

It could be the Giro of comebacks. Emanuel Buchmann has chosen Italy and its mountainous route over the Tour de France, whose profile is more suited to time trialists. Similar to Bernal, Buchmann experienced his career highlight in 2019 when he was one of the best riders in the mountains and finished the Tour in a sensational fourth place overall.

Also simultaneously to Bernal, Buchmann wants to tick off 2020 as soon as possible. Shortly before the Tour, the rider from Ravensburg crashed and lost decisive percentages in the fight for the peak of form. In fact, after the dream start with victory at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, he did not finish a single Tour.

This season’s results so far are rather mixed. He finished the UAE Tour in twelfth place and the Itzulia Basque Country in thirteenth. His team Bora – hansgrohe will support both Buchmann and Sagan in flatter stages. The Austrian Felix Großschartner and the Italian Matteo Fabbro could turn out to be important helpers in mountainous terrain.

Pello Bilbao & Mikel Landa

Another team aiming for victory is Bahrain – Victorious. With the Spanish double front Pello Bilbao / Mikel Landa, the racing team has two highly interesting riders in its line-up.

Mikel Landa, who finished the 2015 Giro on the podium and has already won three stages, is the nominal leader of the team. The 31-year-old has often had to subordinate himself to his captains in the past. Among other things, he helped Carapaz win the Giro in 2019 and Froome being victorious at the Tour de France in 2017. He also finished both races in fourth place overall himself.

Last season, he came in at a strong fourth place overall in the Tour de France as Bahrain – Victorious’ leader. The Giro d’Italia 2021 could be his big breakthrough. Third place at Tirreno-Adriatico shows that his form is right.

Competition could come from within his own racing team. Experts speculate that Pello Bilbao, who finished the Giro last year in fifth place and was one of the best riders in the mountains, has overtaken Landa in terms of performance. Most recently, Bilbao finished sixth in the Itzulia Basque Country, while Landa was eighth. At the Tour of the Alps, the 31-year-old was only beaten by Simon Yates and also won the queen stage.

Bilbao has improved steadily in recent years and is a serious GC contender.
The situation in the Bahrain – Victorious team will therefore be watched with interest: Two strong classification riders hoping for a very big result. Moreover, they are compatriots and in the same age.

Further riders of interest

The peloton is completed by some good sprinters like Peter Sagan, Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani. Although the route is not necessarily designed for sprinters, we can expect an exciting fight for the cyclam red jersey for the points classification.

In addition, we can look forward to the classics and breakaway specialists Diego Ulissi, Tim Merlier, Giacomo Nizzolo and Bauke Mollema as well as promising talents regarding the overall classification, such as Remco Evenepoel, Joao Almeida, Jai Hindley (finished second last year) or Aleksandr Vlasov.

British riders

Only 5 British riders will take place in the Giro d’Italia 2021. However, two of them have good chances of finishing on a podium spot.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates from Team BikeExchange is in top form. Yates won the Tour of the Alpes with ease a few days ago after setting the course with a solo victory in the mountain finish on the second stage.

Before that, the 28-year-old also presented himself in rising form at the Volta Cicilista a Catalunya (9th place) and Tirreno-Adriatico (10th). With Esteban Chaves, Yates also has a resurgent noble helper at his side. Chaves could also have his own ambitions should Yates fail to keep his form. In 2016, the Spaniard finished the Giro in second place. If Yates confirms his latest performances, on the other hand, he may be the main contender for the “maglia rosa” next to Bernal.

Yates already has plenty of experience in the Giro: 13 days he was in pink and three times he was celebrated a stage winner. With his overall victory at the Vuelta Espana 2018, he also proved that he can do three-week tours. At that time, he secured the red jersey of the overall leader and relegated Enric Mas and Miguel Angel Lopez to the places.

Hugh Carthy

Hugh Carthy from EF Education – Nippo was one of the shooting stars of last season. At the Vuelta a Espana the man from Preston kept up with Richard Carapaz and Primoz Roglic in the mountains. At times he even made a better impression than the two topstars. In the end, he snatched a stage win and third place in the overall classification.

With eighth place in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, twelfth place in the Itzulia Basque Country and fifth place in the most recent Tour of the Alps, he has shown an upward trend.

The profile of the Giro 2021 will suit Carthy, who has often been able to show his strengths on steep ramps so far. He will be supported by Simon Carr from Hereford

The other British riders are James Knox (Deceuninck – Quick Step) and Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Giro d’Italia 2021 route

The profile of this year’s edition of the Giro is made for climbers. A total of 47,000 metres of altitude are covered over the 3,479.9 kilometres. In contrast, there are only two time trials and a total of 38.9 kilometres against the clock.

Easy start to the first week

The race starts on 8 May in Turin with an individual time trial over 8.6 kilometres. The second stage leads from Stupinigi to Novara and might be one of the few opportunities for the sprinters to make their mark.

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Stage 1. Source: giroditalia.it

On the third day it is already slightly hilly. On the way to Kanale, one surge of the third and two of the fourth category have to be overcome. There is also another, uncategorised climb to Guarene. From there it is about 15 kilometres to the finish line. Consequently, classic specialists could sense their chance here.

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Stage 4. Source: giroditalia.it

On the following day, the first uphill finish is likely to be the first small exchange of blows between the favourites. The final climb Colle Passerino is assigned to the second category. Afterwards, the route leads a good 2 kilometres onto an ascending finishing straight to the Piazza Passerini in Sestola. On the fifth stage from Modena to Cattoloca the sprinters will have another go before stage 6 awaits with the first real mountain finish.

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Stage 6. Source: giroditalia.it

At the end of the stage, the route climbs up San Giacomo over 10.4 kilometres and an average of 7.4%. Before that, there is already a climb of the second and third category to overcome. The following day, the route from Notaresco to Termoli will be 181 mostly flat kilometres.

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Stage 8. Source: giroditalia.it

Classics specialists will have their sights set on stage 8 around its juicy final climb up to Guardia Sanframondi. The undulating profile is especially suitable for explosive riders on short mountain finishes.

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Stage 9. Source: giroditalia.it

Stage 9, on the other hand, should be aimed at the GC riders. The profile includes two second category climbs and one third category climb. The race ends in a steep first category mountain finish to Rocca di Cambio with passages of up to 14% gradient on the last kilometres. Here, at the latest, it will become clear who does not have the legs to compete for the overall victory.

Zoncolan: The highlight of the second week

The tenth stage leads through central Italy and is mostly flat. The finish in Foligno near Perugia offers another stage win opportunity for sprinters.

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Stage 12. Source: giroditalia.it

After the first rest day, the classics specialists also get to try again. The sections 11 (Perugia – Montalcino) and 12 (Siena – Bagno di Romagna) are made for attacking riders because of their relatively short climbs shortly before the finish. Day 13 awaits a flat stage from Ravenna to Verona. After that, there is not much to smile about for the sprinters.

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Profile of the Zoncolan. Source: giroditalia.it

The mountain battle is heralded by a steep finish on one of the most difficult and epic climbs in the cycling calendar: Monte Zoncolan. Ramps of up to 27% await on the last 3 kilometres of the climb. Even the absolute mountain specialists will reach their limits here.

No end of altitude metres in the third week

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Stage 16. Source: giroditalia.it

After the undulating profile to Gorizia on the 15th stage, which could again offer breakaways a chance to win the day, the queen stage in the Dolomites follows. Four first category passes – La Crosetta, Passo Fedaia, Pordoi Pass (with 2239 metres the highest point of the tour) and Passo Giau – have to be overcome before the descent to the finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

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Stage 17. Source: giroditalia.it

The following rest day will be welcomed by the riders, as the next thriller is already waiting on stage 17: two first category climbs, including the final climb to Sega di Ala, which is 11.2 kilometres long and 9.8% steep on average.

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Stage 19. Source: giroditalia.it

It will be flat one last time on the 18th stage from Rovereto to Stradella. Four small hills shortly before the finish could once again make escapees and classics specialists fight for the day’s victory.

The following day, the Giro enters its final stage. On the 19th stage, the pink jersey will be contested again. From Abbiategrasso to Alpe di Mera there will be one 3rd category climb (Passo de la Colma) and two 1st category climbs (Mottarone and Alpe di Mera, maximum 14%).

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Stage 20. Source: giroditalia.it

We expect a Giro with epic mountain stages. And the “grande finale” is on stage 20 – the last mountain stage of 2021. It is not quite as steep as on some of the stages in the days before. Nevertheless, the riders have to suffer during three 1st category climbs within the last 60 kilometres. The first climb (Passo San Bernardino) stretches over almost 24 kilometres.

But even at the Alpe Motta after 164 kilometres, the overall winner of the Tour has not yet been decided.

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Stage 21. Source: giroditalia.it

The 21st stage includes a 30.3-kilometre individual time trial from Senago to Milan. Only those who face this last hurdle and remain steadfast in the fight against the clock will be allowed to put on the “maglia rosa” of the overall winner on 30 May after three highly demanding weeks.

Winners of the past 10 years

2011: Michele Scarponi

2012: Ryder Hesjedal

2013: Vincenzo Nibali

2014: Nairo Quintana

2015: Alberto Contador

2016: Vincenzo Nibali

2017: Tom Dumoulin

2018: Chris Froome

2019: Richard Carapaz

2020: Tao Geoghegan Hart

Giro d’Italia 2021 live

The Giro d’Italia 2021 will be broadcasted by Eurosport. Find more information here.