Running from Friday May 6 to Sunday May 29, the 105th edition of the Giro d’Italia starts in Hungary before shifting south to Sicily, with the riders then edging north towards the usual high-altitude showdowns in the Alps and Dolomites ahead of a final-day time trial in Verona.
Playing out over 3,410 kilometres and including a total of 51,000 metres of climbing, the route favours attacking riders who are strong both against the clock and going uphill.
Grande partenza in Budapest… finally
5 key stages of the 2022 Giro – perfect for Bernal to defend title?
Two years later than first scheduled, Hungary finally gets its grande partenza. The global pandemic put paid to the original plans in 2020, while this year’s race stuck to the script by starting in Turin. But landlocked Hungary is back on the agenda next May – and an atypical program means we’ll probably see…
A puncher in pink
Filippo Ganna got his inaugural Giro off to the perfect start in 2019 with a maglia rosa at the first opportunity by winning the opening time trial. The Italian pulled off the same trick one year later – but even he will struggle to make it a hat-trick. That’s because the race’s first time trial in 2022 comes on day two after an opening stage that culminates with a punchy climb.
Starting in the capital city of Budapest, the 195km stage is a largely flat affair save for the final sting in the tail: a 5.5km climb to the imposing citadel overlooking the town of Visegrad. An average gradient of 6% will snuffle out the chances of the sprinters and give a puncher an early chance to wear pink.
Time trial on day two
Back in Budapest – unable to host a city centre stage on a busy Friday – the 9.2km race of truth follows a similar pattern: pretty much flat all the way until a 1.3km climb to the line. It’s a technical route that twists through the centre of Budapest and features some tight turns either side of the Danube. The riders then tackle the ascent to the old city on Castle Hill, with a picture-postcard finish in Holy Trinity Square. While the average gradient is 5% the early slopes hit double figures. Will hot-favourite Ganna win back enough time to move into pink? Only time will tell.
Six sprint stages
Whoever is in the maglia rosa after Stage 2 should take the jersey south to Sicily given the third and final leg in Hungary – the joint longest in the race at 201km – is a flat affair that will give the sprinters their first chance to shine and steal a march in the ciclamino classification.
There are five more predominantly flat stages dotted out over the course of the race which should prove the canvas for some thrilling bunch sprints. Stage 5 (172km, Catania to Messina) has a challenging Cat.2 ascent slam in the middle but this comes early enough for everything to come back together in time for the finale.
Back on the mainland, Stage 6 (192km, Palmi to Scalea) is all but guaranteed to be a ciclamino showdown, while Stage 11 (201km, Santacangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia) is a pizza-flat schlep along a roman road that doesn’t so much as kink for the best part of 100km.
Ahead of the Alps there’s Stage 13 (157km, San Remo to Cuneo) before Stage 17 (177km, Borgo Valsugana to Treviso) breaks up the final bank of climbing in the final week.
Four mountain-top finishes
If we discount the opening day rise to the citadel of Visegrad, the first of four summit finishes comes on the opening leg in Sicily with the almost ubiquitous showdown amid the black volcanic ash of Mount Etna. The 166km Stage 4 includes 3,590m of climbing and tackles some rolling roads ahead of the final slog to the Rifugio Sapienza. The climb starts by rising via Ragalgna – the approach where Estaban Chaves won in 2018 – before switching to the Nicolosi side for the final 14km, mirroring Alberto Contador’s victory in 2011.
“The first uphill finish on Etna will be important and could really cut out from the GC those who are not at 100% on form for the first week of the race,” said the 2021 winner Egan Bernal.
The next uphill finish comes back on the mainland and in the Apennines on the second Sunday of the race, with the 187km Stage 9 culminating on the fearsome Blockhaus, which is being used for the first time since Nairo Quintana’s victory in 2017. The stage features almost 5,000m of climbing including an unprecedented double ascent of the Blockhaus: first via the Passo Lanciano and then from Roccamorice, where the final 10km boasts an average gradient of 9.4%.
It’s another week until the third summit finish atop the second-category climb to Cogne in the Valle d’Aosta in the Western Alps. The 177km Stage 15 also features ascents of Les Fleurs and Verrogne before a final, gradual ascent last used in 1985, when the American Andy Hampsten took the win.
The fourth and final summit showdown takes place on the penultimate day of the race between Belluno and the majestic Marmolada glacier. A daunting day in the Dolomites plays out over 167km and features tough slogs up the Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Pordoi ahead of the final battle on the Passo Fedaia.
For many, Stage 20 is the queen stage or “tappone” of the race with the steep San Pellegrino coming after an opening 60km on valley roads. The Pordoi is the Cima Coppi, the highest point of the race, and is tackled from its easier side, but there’s nowhere to hide on the last climb, where the gradient hits 12% for a three-kilometre stretch of narrow, straight road before another double-digit segment near the snow line.
Two further mountain stages, including Mortirolo return
The final week of the race kicks off with back-to-back mountain stages with downhill finishes. The 200km Stage 16 is a beaut – a rip-roaring affair through the Sforzato wine region that starts near Lake Garda and features as its focal point the infamous Mortirolo.
First up, the riders tackle the challenging Goletto di Cadino for the first time in 24 years. The so-called easier side of the Mortirolo is followed by a short but steep climb to Teglio and then the 13.5km slog of Santa Cristina where Marco Pantani dropped Miguel Indurain and Evgeni Berzin on his way to securing the maglia rosa in 1998.
The final six kilometres have an average gradient of over 10% and they’re followed by a fast 6km descent to the line at Aprica.
Stage 17 starts with a climb from the gun with the riders taking on the Passo del Tonale before a long and gradual descent towards Trento for over 70m. After a short climb to Palu di Giovo, some rolling roads are followed by the Cat.1 Passo del Vetriolo tackled from a new side and then the picturesque Salita del Menador, which averages 11.2% over the final two kilometres. Seven klicks of rolling road and downhill precede a slightly ramped finale in Lavarone.
“With these six high mountain stages it is clear that the 2022 Giro d'Italia will be another tough one,” defending champion Bernal said.
Six hilly stages for the breakaway
Stage hunters will get their chances in six stages where breakaways could do the distance and potential ambushes could come into play.
Stage 7 (198km, Diamante to Potenza) features four categorised climbs – including the twin challenges of Monte Sirino and Monte Scuro – for a total of 4,450m of altitude gain over Calabrian terrain similar to where Filippo Ganna won in 2020.
The very next day, Stage 8 is a 149km circuit race in and around Naples features five ascents of Monte di Procida and should entertain some aggressive riding.
Stage 10 (194km, Pescara to Jesi) is a tale of two halves: the first 100km are pan-flat before the intermediate sprint precedes an undulating finale that features three fourth-category climbs passing through Filottrano, the hometown of the late Michele Scarponi.
Stage 12 (186km, Parma to Genoa) has a hilly second half with the Cat.2 Monte Becco a potential launchpad ahead of a fast finish on the Tyrrhenian coast. Earlier in the stage, the peloton will go up the Passo del Bocco, where Wouter Weylandt tragically lost his life in the 2011 Giro.
Three ascents of the Cat.3 Colle della Maddalena provides the backbone to an intriguing Stage 14 which crams 3,470m of climbing in just 153km between Santena and Torino.
And finally, there’s an uphill finish at the Santuario di Castelmonte in the 178km Stage 19 which spirits the riders into Slovenia via the Passo di Tanamea before returning to Italy via the tough Cat.1 ascent of Monte Kolovrat.
Final day TT showdown
If we have already touched on the second stage time trial in Hungary, the final day's race of truth should prove to be far more integral in the fight for pink with the riders – off the back of a difficult final week – taking on a 17.1km route in Verona that includes the Cat.4 rise to Torricella Massimiliana right in the middle.
Who does the route suit best?
It’s way too early to tell who will be lining up at the start of the 105th Giro d’Italia although some names are already pretty much guaranteed to be there at Budapest. Two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali should feature for Astana and could well be supported by another returning rider in the Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez.
While defending champion Egan Bernal will no doubt focus on the Tour de France in 2022, his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Richard Carapaz, the 2019 champion, will look to add another maglia rosa to his palmares. Portugal’s Joao Almeida will probably spearhead UAE Team Emirates following his switch from Deceuninck-QuickStep and the 23-year-old certainly has both the experience and armoury to put up a big fight for pink. We may also see Dutchman Tom Dumoulin target the race he won in 2017 in the next phase of his return for Jumbo-Visma.
Other second tier GC riders who may well see the Giro as a more realistic race for success than the Tour are Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe). After a rather subdued debut in 2021 following his injury hiatus, Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) will hope to return stronger and in better nick - both physically and mentally.
And finally, with the race starting in Budapest, keep a look out for the Hungarian tyro Atilla Valter, who finished an impressive 14th last year for Groupama-FDJ after enjoying three days in the maglia rosa.
Giro d’Italia 2022 route – From Hungary to Verona
Giro 2022 full route revealed as race set to finish in Verona