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88th Giro d'Italia - Route Overview: Prologue to Stage 5.
By Fabio
Date: 1/26/2005
88th Giro d'Italia - Route Overview: Prologue to Stage 5.

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Our Giro d’Italia special coverage continues with our next feature: a close, stage-by-stage look at the race parcours. Lots of details on all stages of the first Grand Tour of the season, from the possible stage winners to the length, gradient and profile of most climbs to more other data, are available down in the page.

We start with the first five days of racing, from the "sprinting" prologue at Reggio Calabria to the first "hilly" stage on the Abruzzo National Park hills, from Celano to L’Aquila. All climb names are listed in green.

Prologue (Saturday - May 07, 2005)

Reggio Calabria - ITT Prologue (1,150m)

Italy’s nicest kilometer, "Il più bel chilometro d’Italia". That’s how one of the best-known Italian poets of all-time, Gabriele D’Annunzio, called the lungomare (seafront) of the southern town of Reggio Calabria. D’Annunzio was one of the most controversial figures Italian poetry ever had, but one could easily agree with this opinion after experiencing the extraordinary view of the sea, the Strait of Messina, the nearby Sicily and the Mount Etna volcano while taking a walk there, on the very tip of the toe of the so-called "Italian boot".

Unfortunately for them, riders of the 88th Giro Ciclistico d’Italia will not have much time to contemplate the magnificent landscape on Saturday, May 7th, 2005. They will be busy otherwise, riding as fast as possible in the very first ride of the very first Grand Tour of the very first UCI Pro Tour season. Indeed the Reggio Calabria seafront, which often played host to the final sprint of the Giro della Provincia di Reggio one-day race, organized by the same Tour of Italy organizers of Gazzetta dello Sport-RCS, is the crime scene of the start of the next Tour of Italy, scheduled for the evening of Saturday, May 7th.

And no, you did not misread at all, neither I made a mistake: it’s evening: e-v-e-n-i-n-g! The opening ride against the clock will be a prime-time TV show in Italian households this time, with the RAI TV broadcast starting at about 08:30 PM local time (CEST). To the delight of fans overseas too: the Americans that - for one - won’t have to be in front of their TVs/PCs in their early morning hours, and the Aussies, as - for one - the stage is not going to take pace in the middle of their night hours.

The legs of the Giro d’Italia competitors will not be too pleased instead. At least at the end of the 1,150 metre-ride this stage consists of. Indeed the 2005 Tour of Italy prologue is one of he shortest in the history of cycling, actually a large sprint on the flat seafront, with no turns, no corners. Just 1,150 metres of pure, hard flat riding, of the kind "that can make your legs ache", as some riders commented.

Italian fans hope local riders may continue their winning tradition in Reggio Calabria, as each time the city hosted a stage finish in the past, an athlete in red, white and green took the prize: in 1965 it was Adriano Durante (also winner of Giro della Provincia di Reggio a few months earlier), in 1972 it was Attilio Benfatto, and when the finish line was there for the last time, back in the days of 1981, Quick Step’s current DS Serge Parsani took line honors.

An aerial view of the Reggio Calabria seafront.
That’s where it all is gonna get started.
Photo Courtesy Provincia di Reggio Calabria.

Stage 1 (Sunday - May 08, 2005)

Reggio Calabria to Tropea (208 km)

Just a few hours after their night show on "Italy’s nicest kilometre", riders get back in the saddle for the first road stage and, after a few dozen kilometres in the very southernmost part of the Italian boot, start their journey northward, in the 208-km. ride from Reggio - playing host to a Giro stage start for the sixth time - to the Tyrrhenian seaside resort of Tropea, which is new to stage finishes instead. The leg kicks off with some flat riding along the coastline, then moves inland to hit the first small hills of the Calabrian Appennine (with the 3-km. Mileto ascent -365m ASL- averaging a 8.8% gradient), and eventually gets to the finish town.

Many said that after yesterday’s "1150m sprint" this stage could provide fastmen with the first chance to contest a real, "average" sprint. And notably provide Alessandro Petacchi, in his bid to equal or even improve his 2004 record of nine Giro stage wins, with the first opportunity to raise his arms in triumph. But Fassa Bortolo’s winning machine should be very careful. And not just due to the stiff opposition he’s supposed to meet from the other fast wheels in the bunch (Mc Ewen should be there, and perhaps Erik Zabel too, and then there’s still a certain Mario Cipollini, and a new generation of sprinters that might give the fastest rider on the planet a run for his money ...), but also because of the course itself. As the same Gazzetta dello Sport pointed out, the last km. might turn out to be tricky, with the route going uphill, and the gradient up to 12%, in the first 400 metres, then there’s a bend, and then the route gets back to its flat status with some 500m to the line, where we wouldn’t be surprised to find a stretched peloton. So our money is on a mass sprint, but maybe not an "average" one.

There’s one thing we can be (almost) sure of anyway: with Saturday’s prologue being too short to open up serious gaps, and many bonus seconds up for grabs at Tropea, today’s winner is going to wear the Maglia Rosa at the startline tomorrow.

The beaches of Capo Vaticano, just a few km. south of Tropea.
No time for riders to take a bath tough, eh! Pic Courtesy Tropea Online.

Stage 2 (Monday - May 09, 2005)

Catanzaro Lido to Santa Maria del Cedro (177 km)

Il Cedro (The Citron Tree) that gives its name to Santa Maria town. Photo Courtesy Comune di Santa Maria del Cedro.

If some fastmen may not have had a easy time in the closing kilometre of yesterday’s stage into Tropea, they should have today at least. Even if some breakaways could form while having some early uphill riding (about 13 km. of climbing, but the gradient hovers at 2.35 %) on the streets of Calabria’s second biggest city Catanzaro, a stage start town for the fifth time in the Giro history, the leg continues on flat routes along the Thyrrenean coast, giving the sprinter teams all the time they need to chase all possible fugitives down well before they may hit the line at Santa Maria del Cedro, in the very northern part of the region. Actually after the peloton makes its first appearance over the line, situated on the seafront, they embark into some climbing on the way to Santa Maria’s upper part, and eventually go downhill to get back to the lungomare, for what is likely to be a bunch sprint determining the stage outcome. Another one for the Petacchis of the bunch? We tend to agree with that ...

Stage 3 (Tuesday - May 10, 2005)

Diamante to Giffoni Valle Piana (210 km)

After three stages of a kind of "Race of the two Seas", with the peloton going from the Ionian to the Thyrrenian coast and vice versa, but all of them running on Calabrian soil only, the Giro finally swings "north of the border", making its way to other two regions, Basilicata (or Lucania, as it’s often referred to as), whose southwestern areas the race briefly winds through, and Campania.

But if it’s Naples and pizza you’re thinking of, well, sorry but you’re wrong: stage three of the “Corsa Rosa” has the finish line firmly located at Giffoni Valle Piana, a small town of the Salerno province. Giffoni is not known for any food delicacies, but because of its Children's Film Festival, which takes place here every summer, and also managed to "cross the pond" and make it to the U.S. (fans wishing to know more please click here) and even Australia.

The route is undulating for most of the stage, and riders have to climb the Scorzo (km 4.5; av. gradient 6.1%) in the town of Sicignano degli Alburni, and notably crest the Santa Tecla (km 7.3 km.5; average gradient 4.6%) at about ten kilometres from the line, situated at Via Aldo Moro, in front of the so-called "Cittadella del Cinema" (Movie Citadel). On such a course the stage movie may have no happy ending in sight for the sprinters, while any move on the second and last ascent could bear fruit. A stage for Paolo Bettini to celebrate his Giro comeback with a great result? Or for other riders who are no threat to the general classification to go for some glory? Maybe. As for the movie starring all overall contenders, well, we still are in its earliest part, but nonetheless the scenes filmed on the Santa Tecla might help us have a first clue on who’s hot and who’s not. And regardless of all the Bettinis in the bunch, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Damiano Cunego go for some early time bonuses too.

Giffoni and Il Giro. Two things that apparently go well together …
Photo Courtesy Giffoni Valle Piana.

Btw - the Tour of Italy is in town for the second consecutive edition, after Giffoni was start town of stage eight, going southward into Policoro (report and results here), twelve months before. You can find some great photo galleries of the 2004 event, with dozens of pictures available, by clicking here and here.

Stage 4 (Wednesday - May 11, 2005)

Giffoni Valle Piana to Frosinone (197 km)

Frosinone’s Coat of Arms. Courtesy Comune di Frosinone

Riders line up at the capital city of children movies for a new story, with the sprinters as sure protagonists this time. Bettini, Cunego or someone else may have stolen the show yesterday, but we can’t see who can really avoid a massive sprint today, on such an easy course as the one taking the peloton into Latium and the city of Frosinone, with no ascents, no KOM primes at all in sight. Our predictions are supported by a glance at the town’s "Giro Palmares" featuring two fastmen as winners when a Corsa Rosa stage hit Frosinone: Italy’s three-time national road champion Enrico Paolini took the honors in 1975, and Swiss sprinting sensation (currently Phonak’s … former manager, who recently made the headlines also for the unpleasant story of a blackmail attempt he was reportedly victim of) Urs Freuler rocked the field a decade later.

Stage 5 (Thursday - May 12, 2005)

Celano to L’Aquila (215 km)

Things get a bit more serious as we go from yesterday’s flat riding to some going up and down the Appennine hills of the Abruzzo National Park in Central Italy (known to many hardcore cycling fans as they played host to several Trofeo dello Scalatore legs in recent seasons), in one of longest stages of the event. The peloton swings east in a classic medium mountain stage, with three KOM primes, and even if the main difficulties come in the first half, the race could have something to tell us about the condition of the main favorites of the Giro d’Italia battle. Some 25 km. into the stage, after crossing the town of Gioia dei Marsi, riders hit the first climb, Passo del Diavolo, for a good 15-17 km. of uphill riding at an average gradient of 4.1%. Regardless of its name, the climb is not that tremendous, as you can see casting a glance at its profile here. But it’s soon followed by another ascent, going from Villetta Barrea up to the Valico di Monte Godi, a 12-km. difficulty whose gradient is averaging around 4.8%, and whose altitude (1564m ASL) makes it the highest point in the Giro before the race hits the Dolomites. You can find the profile of this climb too if you click here.

L’Aquila’s "Teatro Comunale". Courtesy Comune dell’ Aquila.

Riders getting dropped on those two large but not too steep ascents might regain the bunch in the descent into Scanno and Sulmona, but then there’s the third and final difficulty of the day, the 4-km., 7% ascent (making its Giro d’Italia debut) into the hamlet of Goriano Sicoli, through the Subequana Valley. Riders going on early attacks might even hold on in the last 40-50 km. (where the route is not as tough as it was earlier, but not too easy either …) and make it to the line. We expect either a breakaway to succeed or a small bunch sprint to determine the name of the guy joining 1914 Luigi Lucotti (1914), Giuseppe Enrici (1924), Gino Bartali (1935 and 1936), Giancarlo Astrua (1950), Carlo Clerici (1954) and Guido Carlesi (1965) in the list of L’Aquila stage winners.

Our Giro d'Italia route overview continues into Part Two (Stage 6 to 10).

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