Sprinters get their chance to wear pink on the first day
Sprinters to fight for the first pink jersey in Naples
The Giro d'Italia will begin with a road race stage for the first time in 10 years, with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) the favourite to win the fast finish on the Naples seafront.
The last time the Giro d'Italia began with a road stage was in Lecce in 2003, with Alessandro Petacchi beating Mario Cipollini in the sprint. Petacchi went on to win six stages.
Cipollini is the last rider to win in Naples, taking stage 8 of the 1996 Giro in the city.
This year's opening stage is over 130km with the riders facing four laps of a longer hilly loop before eight laps of a flat and fast 8km seafront circuit.
A multi-national 207-rider gruppo
With Katusha secure an extra UCI WorldTour place this year and RCS Sport inviting four wild card teams, the Giro d'Italia will be made up of 23 teams of nine riders for a total of 207 riders.
Riders from 54 nations will be at the start in Naples on Saturday, with Ji Cheng (Argos-Shimano) the first ever Chinese rider to tackle the Giro d'Italia, and Ioannis Tamouridis (Euskaltel-Euskadi) the first Greek rider.
The young and the old
The Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox team has again named an all-Italian line-up for the Giro d'Italia. The team is also the youngest for average age, with three neo-pro riders meaning the average of the team is just 24.3 years.
Sprinter Sacha Modolo will lead the team, with Stefano Pirazzi, Enrico Battaglin, Nicola Boem, Francesco Manuel Bongiorno, Marco Canola, Sonny Colbrelli, Stefano Locatelli and Edoardo Zardini in the squad.
Italy's Stefano Garzelli (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) will be the oldest rider in this year's Giro d'Italia. He is 39 and in his sixteenth and last season as a professional. He turned professional back in 1996 and won the Giro d'Italia in 2000.
The Colombians are back
A team of Colombian climbers is back at the Giro d'Italia this year, recalling the 1980s when the Café de Colombia team was lead by Luis Herrara.
The Colombia team is managed by Italian Claudio Corti, who also ran the Saeco and Barloworld teams.
"The Giro is the big race of our season, and a race all of those guys have been dreaming of since their childhood. Still, everybody knows what the rules are, and our mission is to pick the best and most suited line-up for this three-week effort," Corti said announcing his line-up.
Team Colombia will be led by climbing duo Darwin Atapuma and Fabio Duarte. Also wearing the black jersey of the so-called Escarabajos (beatles), are Jarlinson Pantano, Robinson Chalapud, Carlos Julian Quintero, Wilson Marentes, Dalivier Ospina, Duque and youngster Edwin Avila.
"We tried to setup a balanced group, capable of staying in the action in every race situation," Corti said. "Even if our main focus will be on the mountains, where our top athletes can show their best qualities, We are going to the Giro to put on a big show, that is what everyone is expecting from us."
Complete listing of Giro stage maps/profiles
Route maps and elevation profiles, as well as previews, are now live on Cyclingnews for each of the 21 stages:
Stage 1 (May 4): Naples, 130km
Stage 2 (May 5): Ischia - Forio (team time trial), 17.4km
Stage 3 (May 6): Sorrento - Marina di Ascea, 222km
Stage 4 (May 7): Policastro - Serra San Bruno, 246km
Stage 5 (May 8): Cosenza - Matera, 203km
Stage 6 (May 9): Mola di Bari - Margherita di Savoia, 169km
Stage 7 (May 10): San Salvo - Pescara, 177km
Stage 8 (May 11): Gabicce Mare - Saltara (individual time trial), 54.8km
Stage 9 (May 12): Sansepolcro - Firenze, 170km
Stage 10 (May 14): Cordenons - Montasio, 167km
Stage 11 (May 15): Tarvisio - Vajont (Erto e Casso), 182km
Stage 12 (May 16): Longarone - Treviso, 134km
Stage 13 (May 17): Busseto - Cherasco, 254km
Stage 14 (May 18): Cervere - Bardonecchia, 168km
Stage 15 (May 19): Cesana Torinese - Col du Galibier, 149km
Stage 16 (May 21): Valloire - Ivrea, 238km
Stage 17 (May 22): Caravaggio - Vicenza, 214km
Stage 18 (May 23): Mori - Polsa (individual time trial), 20.6km
Stage 19 (May 24): Ponte di Legno - Val Martello, 139km
Stage 20 (May 25): Silandro - Tre Cime di Lavaredo, 203km
Stage 21 (May 26): Riese Pio X - Brescia, 197km