The Italian Almanac

giro d'Italia

Gritter and Tougher

This year's Giro d'Italia, the world's second biggest grand tour and the grittier and tougher brother of the Tour de France, has "something for everyone," organisers said ahead of the start of the 96th edition of the famed round-Italy bike race. "The route for the race has something for them all, the sprinters, the time-triallers, the climbers," said organiser Gazzetta dello Sport in an editorial. "We think this will ensure this year's Giro is the most challenging and exciting yet".

British speed king Mark Cavendish of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team will be licking his lips as the three-week Giro, which started in Naples and covers 3,405km before finishing in Brescia, features seven sprint finishes. Cavendish has won 10 stages in the last four Giros.

There will also be five stages over high mountains, including two gruelling climbs on the third-last and penultimate days with finishes at the top of the Val Martello and the much feared Tre Cime di Lavaredo. There will be three time trials - two individual ones, including an uphill one in the 18th stage, and a team time trial as well, which will suit Britain's time-trial Olympic champion and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.

The race will leave Italy and go into France on the 15th stage with a finish at Col du Galibier, which is one of the toughest climbs to feature on the Tour de France.