The organisers of the Giro d'Italia have unveiled what is set to be one of the crucial stages in the fight for the maglia rosa next year, and one of the most visually spectacular to boot.
Stage 9 will be a 40.4 kilometre individual time trial, taking riders through the rolling hills and vineyards of the famous winemaking region of Chianti. With barely a metre of flat road, the relatively long test against the clock, coming just before the half-way stage, has the potential to produce sizeable time gaps and significantly shape the complexion of the overall classification.
"This is going to be one of the most spectacular stages of the Giro 2016, both in a technical, riding respect as well as for its unique scenery," said race director Mauro Vegni as the stage was unveiled in London on Monday morning.
"A 40km Individual Time Trial without a single metre of flat and almost at the middle of the race, will define for sure who the potential winners are. I would like to underline the landscape that we are going to show to the world through the unique TV images, as unique as the Gallo Nero territory that hosts this wonderful stage."
It will be the third time in as many years that the Giro has featured a time trial that showcases the country's vineyards. Rigoberto Uran won the time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo in 2014, while this year’s race featured an unusually long 60km time trial through Prosecco country, where Alberto Contador was able to put almost three minutes into Fabio Aru en route to overall victory. That route did contain a couple of climbs but it was a largely flat affair, and next year’s chrono will offer a challenge of a different nature. It won’t be a case of getting on top of a big gear and grinding it out; the constant undulations will constantly disrupt the rhythm and the riders will still have to push hard on the gentle descents.
The stage, dubbed the ‘Chianti Classico stage’ in reference to the 300-year-old wine consortium that produces 35 million bottles a year, will start out in the village of Radda and culminate at the Piazza Matteotti in Greve. There will be an intermediate checkpoint close to the medieval centre of Castellina and the riders will also pass through the provinces of Florence and Siena.
"It’s a great pleasure being able to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Chianti Classico wine hosting on our territory such an important international event," said the Consortium’s chairman Sergio Zingarelli.
"Cycling is one of the activities that Chianti Classico has chosen, for many years, to embody the close bond in between health, sport and the Gallo Nero: a territory to live, with deep roots and an inestimable richness of history, art, culture and gastronomy."
The 2016 Giro d’Italia will run from May 6-29 next year, with further details of the make-up of the route still to be announced. The race will begin in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and is expected to conclude in Turin after a late trio of mountain stages in the Alps.