2003 Winner Gilberto Simoni. Will he score the hat-trick next year ?
Copyright © Fabio & Daily Peloton
While all Tour de France 2004 stages have been unveiled yesterday in Paris (see relative links at the bottom of the page), we’ll have to wait two more weeks for all the details of the next edition of Italy’s Grand Tour: the 2004 Giro d’Italia will be presented in Milan on Saturday afternoon (local time), November 8. The 20-stage race will get underway on Saturday, May 08, 2004, and finish 22 days later.
Nevertheless, many a source already offered tidbits on the next edition of the “Corsa Rosa”. The first ONE, which many already know, is that the race would kick off in the seaside town of Genoa (as a way to celebrate the status of “European Capital of Culture” the city will enjoy in 2004) in a road stage set to end into the Piedmontese hamlet of Alba (Cuneo province), after climbing the Monte Beigua in the Appennines in its early part.
Although the early stages will be hunt territory - as usual - for the fastest wheels of the peloton, and the parcours probably a bit easier than last year’s undulating route (which played a significant part in Cipo’s disappointing performances during the 2003 opening week), rumors say that the we won’t have to wait too long to meet the first uphill finish, perhaps coming even in the first week of racing, and maybe after to bunch moves to the South of the country. According to speculations, it might happen at Montevergine di Mercogliano, on the same climb that saw Danilo Di Luca as stage winner in 2001, ahead of future overall winner Gilberto Simoni and Stefano Garzelli.
When back to the North, riders would have to tackle the first (and only ?) “race of truth” in Trieste. Just like it was in 1998, when the city hosted a long, predominantly flat ITT dominated by Alex Zuelle, then regarded as red hot favourite to take the overall win, although he was going to bonk on the Dolomites in the following mountain stages. And the Dolomite climbs will be part of Italy’s GT in 2004 too, of course.
The other main feature of next year’s Giro should be the comeback of the nation’s most difficult and feared ascent: the legendary Mortirolo. Waiting to tackle the Zoncolan not from last year’s side, but from his hardest one (a helluva ascent, that could be possible in years to come, but not 2004), the peloton will have to face the climb that made history more than once in recent editions, from 1994 (when the world discovered a certain Marco Pantani) to 1999, when first across the line at the end of the Mortirolo stage, finishing into Aprica, was no less than Kelme’s Roberto Heras.
The Mortirolo would be the “strong point” of the queen stage, that should come in the penultimate day of racing, start in Bormio, and feature an uphill finish somewhere on Passo della Presolana (about 18 km. of ascent, with an average gradient of 6%), a climb in the Bergamo province of Lombardy, a climb that would host the Giro for the first time.
And last but not least, unlike last year we won’t have a final ITT this time: the ultimate stage of the race should kick off in the Bergamo area town of Clusone and finish into downtown Milan, with the usual (2003 being the exception to the rule) sprinters festival.
Of all the above are just rumors, but will them eventually prove right ? The answer in fifteen days, when the route of the 87th Giro d’Italia will be finally known. And the “Daily Peloton” will cover the event with news, details, interviews and more.