The 2022 Giro d’Italia is definitely one for the climbers. Organisers RCS Sport have jammed over 50,000m of elevation gain into this year’s edition of the corsa rosa, putting just 26.6km of time-trialling in the race like a barista adds a dash of foamed milk to a macchiato.
For all that climbing, the 2022 Giro eschews the sort of high-altitude mountain passes that usually characterise the race, in particular during its final week. That means that rather than having one hibernal slog through snow-lined roads deciding the outcome of the race, the battle for the pink jersey will be fought across a number of stages from the first week through to the final day.
We take a look at the most important stages where the Giro will be won or lost.
Stage Four – To the Volcano
Avola > Etna Nicolosi, 172km
The old cliché about Grand Tours dictates that winning is the easy bit. The hardest bit is not losing them. That saying is true for days like this; a summit finish on the slopes of Mount Etna on just the fourth day of racing, and the first day back in Italy after the grande partenza in Hungary. Riders can’t win the Giro on this stage in Sicily, but they could certainly lose it.
There is 3,500m of climbing on the day but really the stage is all about Etna, the 22.8km final climb to the finish. It’s tough enough to give the general classification an early shake-up and place the maglia rosa onto the shoulders of the kind of rider likely to stand a chance of winning the overall race. We should also get a glimpse at how the GC teams shape up ahead of the remaining two and a half weeks.
Stage seven – Mountains without mountains
Diamante > Potenza, 196km
The percorso of stage seven never rises above 1405m elevation, but don’t let the absence of high mountains fool you; this is one of the toughest stages of the 2022 Giro d’Italia. Organisers have fitted over 4,500m of ascent into 196km and there is barely a kilometre of flat beyond the opening pre-amble along the Tyrrhenian coast.
The roads in this part of Italy are narrow, sinuous and poorly surfaced (or if they have been repaired it is with the kind of silky blacktop that is very much slippery when wet). The weather could play as much a part as the route this year since early May in the ankle of Italy can be awkwardly stuffy or dangerously diluvial.
Stage nine – Blockhaus
Isernia > Blockhaus, 191km
There’s no hiding on the final stage before the first rest day. This five-star difficulty stage in the barren, weather-beaten Abruzzo region in the Apennines of central Italy is as tough as it gets.
Riders will have to negotiate 5000m of altitude gain, the bulk of which comes in the form of the 1310m Passo Lanciano, the penultimate climb, and then the final summit finish to Blockhaus, which tops out at 1665m. However the peloton mustn’t overlook the uphill start to the stage either. With a day off to follow, aggressive racing is a given.
Stage 14 – Turin circuit race
Santena > Torino, 147km
This short, intense stage could be carnage if the GC riders decide to use the climbs on the outskirts of Turin to their advantage. The second half of the route comprises two laps of a 36km circuit containing two climbs.
The first is the Superga climb from the 2021 edition of Milano-Torino, the longer of the two at 5km with gradients between 10 and 14%. The second is the shorter Colle della Maddalena, which snakes through the woods on steep, narrow roads that max out at 20% and conclude with a highly technical descent to the finish in the city. It’s the perfect place for an ambush.
Stage 16 – Mortirolo
Salò > Aprica, 202km
Mortirolo. The name is enough to strike fear into the peloton, and with good reason. The climb is one of the toughest in the world of cycling, and it forms the centrepiece of this behemoth of mountain climbing that comes straight after the final rest day and is one of three queen stages of this year’s Giro.
What makes this stage really tricky, however, is the finishing climb; a nasty 13.5km climb to Passo di Santa Cristina, the second half of which features an average gradient of over 10%. It may be dwarfed by the scale of the Goletto di Cadino and the Mortirolo that precede it and contribute to the vast 5,000m of elevation gain on the stage, but this wooded climb is the key to the stage and potentially to the whole Giro. The stage concludes with a tricky descent to the finish in Aprica.
Stage 20 – Dolomites Day
Belluno > Marmolada (Passo Fedaia), 168km
The Giro loves to save the best til last and here it is, the queen of the queen stages featuring a trio of classic climbs in the Dolomites: the San Pellegrino, Pordoi and Fedaia passes.
At 2239m the Pordoi marks the high point of the 2022 Giro and the first rider over the top is awarded the annual Cima Coppi prize. However the final climb of the race, the Passo Fedaia, is also the most fiendish. The average gradient of the last 6km is around 12%, with the climb hitting 18% at its steepest sections. Coming at the end of a stage that includes almost 4,500m of climbing, this could be where the Giro is won or lost.
Cover image: Getty Images