By Mauro Vegni, the technical and sports director at RCS Sport.
There are just a few days to go to the start of the Giro d'Italia in Naples on Saturday May 4 and in recent weeks we've finalised the stage details and route of the whole race.
Unfortunately the bad weather that Italy has suffered this winter has caused a series of landslides and other problems that has forced us to change parts of several stages of this year's race. This happens every year but Italy has been hit especially hard this winter. We've also made changes to improve the racing and so that the public along the route can enjoy the action more.
An example is the opening stage in Naples. It has been shortened to 130km and a second, shorter circuit will be used for the final part of the stage after four laps of the longer loop to Posillipo. This will make for a more thrilling and entertaining finish.
The Cilento area, south of Naples, has been especially hard hit by bad weather and subsequent land slides that have affected stage 3 from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea. A lot of the problems have been resolved thanks to the great work of the local council but we've been forced to change a key categorised climb, with the race now going over San Mauro Cilento, a tough climb that could cause a selection and so reflect our original plans for the stage.
Rain has also caused floods and damage to a bridge along the route of stage five from Cosenza to Matera in the south. As a result we've had to change the route and avoid Tarsia and Spezzano Albanese. A similar change has been done to part of stage seven from Mola di Bari to Margherita di Savoia. We've also added an extra circuit to the stage, making a final stage distance of 169km.
We've also made changes to stage nine to Florence. The Tuscany city will host the world road race championships in September and we'd hoped to do a lap of the circuit that will be used. However economic problems and bad weather has delayed the work on the roads and several sections are only now being resurfaced and improved. That means the Giro d'Italia will only briefly cover the road race course and the stage will end in Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence, with a short climb up to the finish.
We've also made other minor changes to some other stages after talking to local councils and discussing their plans to resurface the roads the Giro d'Italia covers. These are often about choosing a different road to pass through a village or town, so that the local people can enjoy the Giro d'Italia more, or to protect the safety of the riders if we consider a road or junction unsuitable for the peloton.
Safety comes first for us. The stage distances might have changed slightly but the Giro d'Italia hasn't changed.