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Top 10 things to know about Giro d’Italia

NSWV Mercurius

As you might have heard or read already, the Giro d’Italia 2016 will start in the Netherlands. 

Pandeia has asked us, N.S.W.V. Mercurius to give you some local articles about the Giro d’Italia. The Nijmeegse Studenten Wieler Vereniging Mercurius is a cycling association for students at the Radboud University and HAN University of Applied Sciences in the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Preceding the Giro d’Italia itself, we will provide you with some basic information about the Giro d’Italia, but also about local side events such as the ‘Voerweg Time Trial’, our very own ‘Giro Koppeltijdrit’ and much more.


The Giro d’Italia is coming to Gelderland. From Friday 6 May until Sunday 8 May some of the world’s best cyclists will be conquering the roads around Apeldoorn, Arnhem and Nijmegen. To be prepared, here are ten things you DO have to know about this big event.

What is the Giro?

The Giro d’Italia – also known as il Giro, or, in English, Tour of Italy, – is a big cycling event for the major pros. Together with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, the Giro is one of the ‘Grand Tours’ that lasts three whole weeks, consisting of twenty-one stages and two rest days.

The Giro is part of the UCI World Tour Calendar and by that it welcomes all the major cycling teams from all over the world.

Who organises it?

The organiser of the race is RCS Sport. Along with the Giro, RCS organises another couple of pro cycling events in Italy like Milan-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Lombardia. Recently stage races in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were added to the portfolio of the Italian family company.

RCS is the big Italian counterpart of the even mightier French ASO, organiser of the Tour de France and many other big events of the UCI calendar in Europe and the Middle-East.

What is it all about?

Giro d'Italia21 teams with nine riders each are battling during three weeks in 21 stages, covering 3,383 kilometres, with three time trials and seven mountain stages.

Alongside the general classification, there are several other prizes to win. Every stage has a winner and there are classifications for climbers, sprinters, youngsters and teams. Moreover there are classifications for the most combative rider, intermediate sprints, most kilometres in breakaways and even one for fair play.

The most important and therefore hardest prize is winning the general classification.

How does it work?

To win the Giro, you have to stand first in the general classification (GC) after three weeks. Every day the time one cyclist needs to finish the stage is added to his total amount of time. The rider who takes the smallest amount of time to finish all the stages wins the GC and, by that, the Giro. Most of the time the cyclists ride in a peloton and it takes them the same amount of time to finish the stage as all their contenders. There are some stages however in which there will be some time differences. Mostly mountain stages and time trials.

No single cyclist is able to win a grand tour by themselves. Even the best cyclists can’t fight against 199 others. As outlined above, the riders are competing in 21 different teams. Every team has its main GC contender, the other eight, so called ‘domestiques’, help their leader to win by pacing, forming a wind shield, providing water bottles and many other tricks to help.

There are some teams who don’t care about the GC, but aim for stage wins. Some teams that have a sprinter, who is able to win stages without time differences, so called bunch sprints. For teams without a GC contender winning a couple of stages is just as important as winning the GC for other teams.

What are the skills to win the race?

Giro d'ItaliaTo be the best cyclists after the three weeks the Giro lasts, you have to be an all-round cyclist. Given the fact the final result is a sum of all the 21 stages, you have to perform well every day.

Supposing all the main GC contenders are able to follow the pace of the peloton during ‘normal’ stages, the time differences are made in the mountains and kilometres against the clock. By that, the winner of the Giro needs to be a cyclist that climbs well, and is good at time trials.

Sprinting isn’t really necessary for winning the GC, because finishing in the same group (that’s when you have to sprint) gives the same amount of time as all the others in the group. On the other hand, sprinting is one of the main skills to win stages.

The Tour of Italy in Holland?!

Like the name says, normally the Tour of Italy takes place in Italy. Of course, most of the time the riders are cruising around in Italy, but sometimes a stage makes a visit to neighbouring countries like France, Austria and Switzerland. However since the mid-1960s the organisation of the race decided to do some of the first stages abroad.

Monaco was the first to host the big start in 1966. Since then several cities and countries hosted the start of the race, for example the French cities Verviers (1973) and Nice (1998). But also more distant cities like even Athens (Greece, 1996), Herning (Denmark, 2012) and Belfast (Northern-Ireland, 2014) already had the honour of hosting the start of this big event.

The Netherlands already had a couple of starts as well, with Groningen in 2002 and Amsterdam in 2010. The main reason for the Italian organisers to make these international excursions is money. Hosting cities have to pay a lot of money to the organisers to get a start in their country, city or sometimes province, like now in Gelderland.

On top of that, for RCS, organiser of the race, a foreign start also improves the popularity of their race in the concerning region.

Why pink?

What’s with the pink all over the place? And why are all the riders wearing tight suits and shaving their legs?

Pink is the colour of the Giro d’Italia because of its leaders jersey. The current leader of the GC wears a pink jersey, like the leader of the mountain classification wears blue, the best sprinter is wearing red and the best youngster is riding in a white jersey.

The leaders of classifications are wearing a clear coloured tricot to recognise them in the race. Still the question, why pink?

The reason the leader’s jersey is pink, is because of a newspaper. Gazzetta dello Sport is the main Italian sports newspaper and partner of the Giro from the early start. Given the fact the newspaper is printed on pink paper, the organisation thought it was a good idea to give their leader’s jersey the same colour, as a form of sponsoring.

The same thing happened in France with the yellow newspaper ‘l’Auto’ and the Tour de France, by the way.

History of ‘il Giro’

Giro d'ItaliaThe idea of organising the Giro d’Italia arose in 1908 when the Gazzetta dello Sport needed a counterpart of the successful car racing event concurrent Corriere della Sera was organising.

The first Giro d’Italia was organised in 1909 and since then is organised every year (except the five years during World War II). In the first edition, the cyclists covered a distance of 2500 kilometres in only eight days. The winner of the 1909 edition was Luigi Ganna.

It took until 1950 for the first Giro to be won by a foreigner; Swiss rider Hugo Koblet got the scoop. Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx are the big heroes that has won the Giro five times, a record.

Since 1909 the stages got shorter, the pelotons bigger and more international, the materials and equipment more professional and aerodynamic and the amount of prize money higher. The race has grown and will now be held for the 99th time, starting in Apeldoorn, Arnhem and Nijmegen, Gelderland, Holland.

So the start is in Holland, but where does it ends?

Traditionally the last stage of the Giro ends in Milan, in the north of Italy.

This year however, the 21st stage finishes 140 km west in Turin. The peloton does a local circuit of 7.5 km for eight laps in the city centre of Turin, concerning the Chiesa della Gran Madre, Villa della Regina, Corso Moncalieri and Parco del Valentino.

Who are the big favourites to win the race?

The favourites for winning the GC this year are: Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa and Rigoberto Uran.

The sprinters aiming for stage wins are: Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Elia Viviani, Caleb Ewan and Sacha Modolo.

Local favourites during the first three stages in the Netherlands are: Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Maarten Tjallingii, residing in Arnhem.

Words by Joost van Wijngaarden

Pictures by: Anders, Gert Jan Kole and Giorgio Montersino.

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