The route of the 2023 Giro d’Italia was announced on Monday with the race organisers seemingly doing their utmost best to court the Belgian Remco Evenepoel. Three time trials for a total of 70km against the clock will favour the world champion – although the 22-year-old will have to prove himself over far tougher climbs than he did when winning La Vuelta this September.
Seven summit finishes include Lago Laceno on day four; the Gran Sasso in Abruzzo, where Simon Yates last won in 2018; Crans Montana in Switzerland; the first visit to the legendary Monte Bondone in 17 years; back-to-back days in the Dolomites, culminating with the queen stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo; and then the penultimate day’s time trial up the spectacular Monte Lussari.
Gaps in the general classification will be established from the outset with the Grande Partenza in Abruzzo kicking off with a 18.4km time trial along a coastal bike path that is pan-flat save for a punchy rise to the finish in Ortona in the last kilometre. A second, entirely flat time trial plays out before the first rest day and – at 30.7km long – could put a serious dent in the aspirations of many pink jersey hopefuls.
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While defending champion Jai Hindley has described the 70.6km of racing against the clock over three separate TTs as “probably three more than I would like”, he will be appeased by the final test culminating with a tough 7km climb up Monte Lussari in the picture postcard Julian Alps.
Let’s now take a closer look at the six key stages that could well decide the 2023 Giro d’Italia.

Stage 7: Capua to Gran Sasso d’Italia, 218km
Three days after the race’s first uphill finish at Laceno Lake – the Giro’s answer to the often-visited Mende airstrip finish in the Tour – the riders will tackle the first major summit finish of the 106th edition. After the early ascent of Roccaraso, the so-called “endless” 45km slog up the Gran Sasso d’Italia will play host to what could be the first GC showdown with a finish in Campo Imperatore, where Jai Hindley won the Baby Giro in 2017.
Since making its debut in the Giro in 1971, the Gran Sasso has featured on six occasions with Britain’s Simon Yates the most recent winner in 2018 ahead of Thibaut Pinot and Esteban Chaves. Before that, Marco Pantani last won back in 1999. On paper, the gaps should not be huge. But with the opening week of the race bookended by time trials, GC riders of a more climbing persuasion may be forced to go on the offensive early in the Apennines.

Stage 9: Savignano sul Rubicone to Cesana, 33.6km ITT
An entirely flat time trial of over 30km – this is something of a rarity in modern day Grand Tours and a real throwback to Giros of old. It’s fair to say that the time gaps between the big favourites could – and probably will – be considerably larger here than on the Gran Sasso. And if TT specialists like Remco Evenepoel, Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas take to the start, they will cause severe damage on this terrain.
With over 50km of TTs before the first rest day, it’s likely that a specialist in the discipline will be sitting pretty in pink at Cesena.

Stage 13: Borgofranca d’Ivrea to Crans Montana, 208km
After three breakaway-friendly stages at the start of the second week, the battle for pink will be reignited as the race heads into Switzerland for a summit showdown at Crans Montana. In a stage that features 5,100m of climbing, the riders will first tackle the Cima Coppi of the race, the 34km-long Colle del Gran San Bernardo (2,469m) before the shorter but steeper Croix de Coeur.
This is followed by a fast 22km descent into Switzerland and a 25km slog up the valley ahead of the final climb to the ski resort of Crans Montana at 1,456m, which is being used for the first time in the Giro. It’s a super challenging mountain test, the effects of which may well be felt two days later during Sunday’s potential banana skin of a hilly circuit race around Bergamo.

Stage 16: Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone, 198km
Unused since Ivan Basso’s win in 2006, Monte Bondone makes a long-awaited return to the Giro in a stage that could blow the race apart. A flat opening 60km could witness a massive battle to get into the break, and many riders may suffer dearly on an explosive return to racing that features a crazy 5,000m of climbing immediately after the second rest day.
Four climbs act as a precursor to the legendary final ascent of Monte Bondone, whose first appearance in the Giro back in 1956 went down in folklore with the Luxembourg climber Charly Gaul braving blizzards and a snowstorm to win on a day only 42 riders made it to the finish.

Stage 19: Longarone to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, 182km
While the opening day in the Dolomites is hardly a piece of cake, it’s this second test – arguably the queen stage of the race – where the Giro could be won or lost. Three peaks over 2,000m (the Passo Valparola, Passo Giau and the final ascent) as well as the Passo Campolongo and Passo Tre Croci will separate the wheat from the chaff as the Giro returns for a seventh finish on the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo, where Vincenzo Nibali tamed the maximum 18% gradients to win in heavy snow in 2013.
If Thursday’s Stage 18 to Zoldo Alto is a three-course extravaganza complete with petit fours and coffee, then Friday’s queen stage is a full-on Dolomiti tasting menu at the chef’s table. With the sun shining, it promises to be spectacular to watch – not that the riders will have much time to take in the views. Everything can change fast on a day like this – especially the weather. Those targeting pink will be on red alert from the outset.

Stage 20: Tarvisio to Monte Lussari, 18.6km ITT
There will be no time to recover after back-to-back stages in the Dolomites because the third time trial of the Giro concludes on the last climb of the race – a climb which could well prove to be the most important of the entire Giro.
After a flat opening 10km, the race of truth will be decided on the 7.5km ascent to the sanctuary atop Monte Lussari on an average gradient of 12% with pitches of up to 22%. It’s a fearsome way to end an already brutal final week, with the Giro organisers perhaps hoping for the same kind of drama that saw Tadej Pogacar wrest the yellow jersey from compatriot Primoz Roglic’s back in the penultimate day's TT in the 2020 Tour de France on La Planche de Belle Filles.
Any of the pink jersey favourites who go too deep in the Dolomites could see their hopes explode in the Julian Alps for a climax to the race described by race director Mauro Vegni as a “master stroke” of route planning. A controversial 700km transfer then awaits the riders and race entourage ahead a final processional stage in Rome that was initially set to take place in nearby Trieste.

Who does the route suit best?

Put simply, this is a route for rouleurs and time trial specialists who can climb with the best. Can’t climb or time trial? Then forget your chances of winning the maglia rosa.
The elevated number of time trial kilometres was leaked early on – perhaps in a bid to pique the interest of Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) so soon after his triumph in La Vuelta. It’s certainly a route on which the Belgian could excel – although the mountain tests are far more severe than those the 22-year-old had to deal with in his maiden Vuelta.
Still, Evenepoel may be better off holding off his long-awaited Tour de France debut while he focuses on back-to-back Grand Tour wins in Italy. It will be interesting to see if the route also catches the eye of his principal Vuelta rival from this September, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma).
As comfortable on the climbs as he is against the clock, Roglic would automatically be named favourite to win this Giro were he to take to the start. And with Danish team-mate Jonas Vingegaard likely to get the nod for the Tour following his win last year, Roglic may well be tempted to target a return to the race he finished third in on his last appearance in 2019.
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) also has unfinished business at the Giro d’Italia – and the Welshman could well see a push for pink as more viable at this stage in his career and any genuine hope of a second Tour win. Keep out of the kind of trouble that has hampered his previous attempts in Italy and the veteran all-rounder could excel on this kind of route.
One rider who would have a field day in this Giro – but who is highly unlikely to appear – is Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). The double Tour champion has yet to ride the Giro and his 2023 season will no doubt be built around his bid to return to winning ways in France in July. But should the route of the Tour not interest him, then the 24-year-old could opt for a rare Giro-Vuelta double instead; Pogacar would certainly have fun on a parcours like this.
If Pogacar’s presence would be very surprising, then the Slovenian’s Portuguese team-mate Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) should get the nod. Besides a Covid-enforced DNF last May, the 24-year-old has a strong track record in the Giro, and his climbing ability and strong time trial pedigree should put him right in the thick of any pink jersey battle.
Where does that leave the defending champion Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe)? The Australian out-foxed Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) last year on a route that featured less than 30km of time trials. While an extra TT won’t be music to Hindley’s ears, he’ll feel more at home on Monte Lussari than he will on the other two flat tests.
It’s also worth remembering that Hindley still finished runner-up in 2020 when the race last included three TTs – although he did concede the maglia rosa during the final race of truth.
One thing is certain, this is not a Giro for the sprinters. Stage 2 to San Salvo, Stage 17 to Caorle and Stage 21 to Rome are the only guaranteed bunch finishes, with Stage 5 to Salerno and Stage 6 to Naples perhaps offering a glimmer of hope for a fast finish. That means there will be slim pickings for the reigning maglia ciclamino Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and his sprint rivals.
By contrast, it’s a route that offers ample opportunities to the breakaway specialists, with Stage 3 to Melfi, Stage 8 to Fossombrone, Stage 10 to Viareggio, Stage 11 to Tortona and Stage 12 to Rivoli all suiting a move going all the way.
The final stage of what defending champion Hindley has described “a race of attrition” will be a feast for the eyes as the remaining riders take on 10 laps of a 11.5km circuit in the Italian capital that takes in some of the biggest sights, including the Circus Maximum, Coliseum and Imperial Forums. But there’s no denying the huge carbon footprint and logistical challenge of transferring the entire race 700km after Stage 20 all for the sake of a fifth ever finish in Rome…
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