Below is a route analysis by "Gazzetta dello Sport". It casts a glance at the parcours of the 2004 Tour of Italy, from the start in Genoa to the ultimate leg into downtown Milan, through the stages for sprinters, the first difficulties, the Trieste ITT, and the tremendous final week featuring three difficult mountain stages in the very last days of racing.
From Gazzetta dello Sport:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE RACE
The 87th Giro d’Italia is set to celebrate two important events: it is set to kick off in Genoa, which has been elected European City of Culture in 2004, and will pass through Trieste, which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its returning to Italy.
The race is to be disputed on an almost all-Italian route, crossing over into San Marino and in Slovenia. The real novelty, there is a start and a finish in Croatia.
As usual, the Giro is set to be well-balanced, though slightly biased towards climbers, if one takes the number of kilometres as time trial compared to uphill finishes, which are also fewer. The only time trial, in its initial leg, will be tough before opening up into a long stretch for flat-out speed. As usual, there is ample space for bursts of flat-out sprinting. In short, it is a Giro with a more demanding first week compared to the previous edition and keeps the harder tests for the last 5 days. The longer legs will be in the first two weeks, whereas they get shorter for the final stages of the race, more nervous and extremely demanding.
Three uphill finishes (Corno alle Scale, Montevergine di Mercogliano and Bormio 2000), three finishes at the end of an urban circuit (Spoleto, Carovigno and Pola). The general direction of the route in this 87th edition will be as follows: it will kick off in the North and then go over to the Tirrenian side in the South to climb back North along the Adriatic coast. Only one long transfer on the eve of the first rest day. Two one-day stops and twenty stages, a modern outlook for this race.
Seven kilometres in Genoa’s old town centre, with ascents and descents and a lot of shifting of gears needed: here are the palpitating moments of the start-up to the Giro which returns to the prologue time trial to award the first pink jersey and to further ennoble the city of Genoa with the culture of the bicycle.
The first stage will be dedicated to sprinters, the one demanding part being the hill of Cadibona, and a few ups and downs in the final to reach Alba. With the time bonus, the pink jersey can be slipped off those who already wear it. Second stage, brief but nervous: before reaching Pontremoli (from Novi Ligure) riders will tackle the Passo del Bocco and the Passo del Brattello, only 19 kms from the finish. The finish is not expected to be in big bunch, it’s more likely that fast wheels will spin, getting ready for the uphill changing of pace.
The third day will be the one requiring the first serious effort, with uphill finish: from Pontremoli to Corno alle Scale passing the Foce di Carpinelli, after 60 kms, and La Lima. Corno alle Scale is a new addition to the Giro. A 12,8 kms ascent where the last 3,2 could really hurt, with climbs at a 14% gradient. The next day, fourth stage, will be a smooth ride: from Porretta Terme, the route takes you down to Pistoia to then reach Civitella in Val di Chiana near the Del Tongo plant, celebrating its first half-century of their existence. Fifth stage, to Spoleto, with no major climbs and with a spectacular urban circuit set in the extraordinary scenario of the city of the “Two Worlds”. As transition, as we say, the sixth stage that leads to Valmontone. In the final, we expect the usual sprinting showdowns.
The following day, kicking off at Frosinone, things will start heating up in view of the final leg in Campania, with an uphill finish worthy of mention scheduled in Montevergine di Mercogliano: 17 the final kilometres, with climbs at a 10% gradient, tackled in 2001 (Di Luca won). The more ambitious will come out of their shell and this is where the Giro will be really shaping up, in the vicinity of a famous Sanctuary.
The Giro sets off again for its eighth stage from Giffoni Valle Piana, land of a festival that celebrates filmography for young people; this stage is the longest (234 km), and it leads to Policoro, to a breathtakingly beautiful Basilicata. The finish should be in a “gruppo compatto”, similarly to the one of the following day where Carovigno - land of the trulli - will be reached. From Puglia, a quick transfer to enjoy the rest day, the first one, in the Marche region.
Porto S. Elpidio “seizes” the Giro for a couple of days, with the start of the 10th stage – which takes the route inland, with finish in Ascoli Piceno – and also of the 11th which delivers the Giro to Cesena. This leg, after a first flat part, has a fiery final in store. The climbing to San Marino and the terrible ups and downs in the very final part may trigger some surprise attacks. The 229 kilometres of neck-and-neck battling, might do the rest. From Cesena to Treviso, a tranquil landscape, relaxing, to re-organize one’s thoughts. Another transition phase, and it is highly likely that we’ll be seeing a dramatic acceleration in the last few kilometres.
One of the decisive moments, the individual time-trial, will be performed the following day: 13th stage, the Trieste-karstic plateau, is flat in its first 52 kms, and then climbs from Contovello to Prosecco and then Rupingrande, before going back to smooth roads that from Sistiana lead to Trieste once again, in Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia, where there is the finish.
And there is Trieste the following day also, for the start of the 14th stage heading towards Pola. Following which, setting off from Parenzo, cyclists will ride along the Adriatic passing through Portorose, where the 1922 Giro was won by Girardengo, and head towards Capodistria, before a fast race towards S. Vendemiano. From S. Vendemiano, a climb to Falzes, for the first defining moment of the Giro. To reach the finish of the 16th stage, the race tackles the Forcella Staulanza, the Valparola, Furcia and Terento in the final. Deserved rest, Wednesday 26 May, before three burning days.
First the Brunico-Fondo Sarnonico (with the Mendola climb), then the Cles Val di Non-Bormio 2000 stage, with Tonale and Gavia (“Cima Coppi” of the 2004 Giro) to be climbed. It’s a first time for Bormio 2000 that, before being home to 2005 Skiing World Championships, will host the third mountain top finish of the race.
The third consecutive challenge is the Bormio-Presolana stage, short but intensive, whose route encompasses the Mortirolo and Vivione ascents, with the finishing line located just 2.5 km after the top of Passo della Presolana. And the final lap, to run on May 30, takes riders from Clusone to Milano over 89 kms., 55 of which in the center of the city, in a urban circuit that will have the finish line in Corso Venezia, in the outskirts of via Palestro.