The 2011 Giro d’Italia, the first of the 3 Grand Tours of the cycling season, starts on Saturday. Known for its unpredictability and excitement, not to mention the rabid tifosi, last year’s Giro will be a tough one to outdo. Don’t remember the crashes, lead changes and climbing exploits that led to Ivan Basso’s victory of the final pink jersey last year? Then check out this race highlight reel to get caught up on what happened:
This year’s route promises more outstanding bike racing, with a route celebrating the Risorgimento, or unification of Italy in the 19th century. This year’s Giro will roam all over Italy, in a wide-ranging route from the Alps all the way down to the slopes of Mount Etna on Sicily.
Many people are proclaiming this edition of the Giro as one of the toughest Grand Tours in history, and one look at the stage profiles bears out that assessment. With 8 mountain stages on tap, including an uphill time trial, this is a Giro for the climbers (not that Tyler Farrar, Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi won’t battle it out in the sprints when they get the chance!). Alberto Contador has said that this Giro would be the hardest 21-stage race of his life.
And yes, and we did say Alberto Contador; participating in his first Grand Tour since his infamous drug test during the Tour de France, Contador will be vying for his 6th Grand Tour title. But he’s not the only one with a shot at the final maglia rosa in Milan this year. Ivan Basso may have opted not to defend his title this year, but his young teammate Vincenzo Nibali (seen below in the pink jersey) will try to build on his triumph at the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, while Italian Michele Scarponi and former winner Denis Menchov will also be contenders for the overall (and don’t rule out Menchov’s Geox-TMC teammate and 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre).
But knowing the Giro, all we can be sure of is that the race will be filled with the twists, turns and surprises that make the Giro d’Italia so entertaining. If you want to dress the part while watching the race, you can always pick up a pro jersey from Katusha, Vacansoleil or (a personal favorite) the always distinctive Lampre-ISD kit:
So are you excited for this year’s Giro d’Italia yet? We sure are, and we hope to have so extra-special, behind-the-scenes footage and stories to share with you during the second week of the race! Stay tuned for details!