All you need to know about Giro d’Italia 2016

From the Netherlands, with King Willem-Alexander attending the start in Apeldoorn, to Turin, the city of the House of Savoy. This is going to be a royal Giro. The 99th edition of the Corsa Rosa kicks off from abroad for the twelfth time to satisfy a growing craving for top-quality cycling outside of our borders.

Mauro Vegni and his staff at Rcs Sport have designed a fair, balanced and apparently more “humane” route, with short transfers, less mountains and plenty of opportunities for all: sprinters, finisseurs, time trialists and climbers. But don’t let the appearance fool you. There will be mountains anyway, but climbs will be spread out evenly. Every single moment of the three race weeks can either settle or reopen the game.

In the Netherlands, the opening time trial (9.8 km) and the following two sprinter stages will start to shape the general classification. Beware of the wind, however. Losing focus for just one moment might turn a simple bridge crossing into a serious obstacle.

What is in store when it comes to racing against the clock? Three time trial stages, adding up to approximately 60 kilometres, distributed evenly and accurately over the three race weeks. In addition to the opening stage in Apeldoorn, the course will offer a now-traditional time trial among the vineyards (40.5 km), running from Radda to Greve across the lovely Chiantishire, and an uphill time trial (10.8 km) from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi, to let climbing specialists have their say.

Speaking of climbs, the course features at least 4 high-mountain and 7 medium-mountain stages. Most importantly (from a technical point of view), the harshest climbs will be either at stage finishes, or shortly before. An epic day across the Dolomites will take centre stage, with the peloton climbing up and down six passes (Pordoi, Sella, Gardena, Campolongo, Giau and Falzarego-Valparola). Next, let us get ready for a thrilling finish in Andalo, after a fierce climb up Fai della Paganella; an exciting finale on the Colle dell’Agnello Cima Coppi, preceding the Risoul summit finish on the last Friday; a stage running from France to the province of Cuneo, featuring the highest Giro finish in Sant’Anna di Vinadio on the last Saturday, and a triumphant grand finale in Turin.

Overall, the 99th edition of the Corsa Rosa is a well-balanced race that gives everybody a chance. A contemporary Giro, with just the right amount of strain. A race that is tailor made to suit the best all-round champions who master at once the art of climbing and of racing against the clock. A route that is designed especially for those riders who will fight for each stage as if it were the decisive one.

Present champion Alberto Contador will not defend his title, but will instead focus on winning the Tour de France, meaning a new champion will be crowned in 2016.

Spaniards Mikel Landa (Team Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) have got their eyes on a victory in the Italian Grand Tour, with their respective teammates Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana focusing on a resumption of their rivalry at the Tour.

Astana have headed off any internal rivalries early by pointing Vincenzo Nibali towards the Giro and will give Fabio Aru a tilt at the Tour. Nibali suffered in France last year, despite eventually finishing fourth overall and taking a stage win, but will be hoping to recapture some better Grand Tour form at his home race.

Following some tough mountain stages at the 2015 Vuelta a España, the Giro has followed suit and there are three stages – stage 14, 19 and 20 – in particular that look especially brutal, including a pass over the 2016 Cima Coppi on the Colle Dell’Agnello.

Not only that, but the race will feature three time trials – favouring the likes of Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) – with a particularly horrendous outing for the riders on an entirely uphill effort on stage 15’s TT up the 10.8km Alpe di Siusi.