The 2018 Tour of the Alps will again offer a final block of mountain racing before the Giro d'Italia with a taste of the hilly circuit that will be used for the Road Race World Championships in Innsbruck.
Race organisers hope the five days of racing will again attract many of the Giro d'Italia contenders looking to test their form two weeks out from the start of the Italian Grand Tour, and the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, who has already made the World Championships in Innsbruck a major goal for 2018.
The five-day Tour of the Alps was known as the Giro del Trentino until expansion north into the Euregio macro region that includes the Tyrol, Südtirol and Trentino regions. The new-look race secured live television coverage and a stronger start list with seven WorldTour teams last spring, with Team Sky and Geraint Thomas going on to dominate the race.
The 2018 race will be held between April 16-20, giving riders a chance to then travel to Belgium for Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Tyrol, Südtirol and Trentino use the Tour of the Alps to show off the mountain region and promote tourism in the area. 20 million people visit Tyrol, Südtirol and Trentino every year, many of them cyclists.
The organisers are confident of having even more WorldTour teams at next year's start in Arco at the northern tip of Lake Garda on April 16. The new UCI rules on team sizes means organisers will invite 20 teams (two more than in 2017) to the race. The final list of teams will be revealed in January.
Michele Scarponi won the opening stage in Innsbruck this year but was tragically killed a few days later while training near his home in central Italy. The Tour of the Alps organisers announced the creation of a special 'Team Up' prize that recalls Scarponi's friendly nature and natural team spirit. The award will recognise a moment of outstanding teamwork during each stage with a special prize and a donation to a local voluntary group.
13,100 metres of climbing in five days of racing
The 2018 Tour of the Alps will start on Monday April 16 in Arco, on the northern shores of Lake Garda and end in Innsbruck after a total of 714km of testing but not overly mountainous racing. The five stages include 10 categorised climbs and a mountain finishe at Alpe di Pampeago, but stage distances are never more than 160km.
The opening stage will be held entirely in Trentino, and will feature a climb up to the Folgaria plateau and an ascent of Alpe Cimbra. It should quickly reveal the true overall contenders. With no time trials in the 2018 race, stage 2 to Alpe di Pampeago in Val di Fiemme will be decisive. The climb is relatively short at 7.7km but climbs at 9.8 per cent with the final four kilometres at over 11 per cent. Alpe di Pampeago is famous for Marco Pantani's duel with Pavel Tonkov in the 1998 Giro d'Italia and Pantani's solo victory the year after. It was last climbed during the 2012 Giro d'Italia, with Roman Kreuziger winning at the summit.
The Sudtirol region hosts stage 3 between Ora and Merano. The 138km stage includes the Passo Mendola and the Passo Palade but offers a chance for a breakaway or baroudeur to win.
Stage 4 takes the Tour of the Alps from Chiusa in Italy to Lienz in Austria with a rolling 134km stage. The final Bannberg climb offers a chance to attack, as does the descent to the finish.
The final and fifth stage of the 2018 Tour of the Alps starts in Rattenberg, where the World Championship time trials will start. The 161km stage follows the valley toad to Innsbruck and covers three laps of the 23.9km circuit that will be used for the road races some five months later. The stage avoids the narrow and steep final 'Highway to Höll' that is covered on the last lap of the elite men's road race but will give a real taste of what the riders will face.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage from the 2018 Tour of the Alps.
2018 Tour of the Alps stages
Monday April 16: stage 1: Arco – Folgaria 134.6km
Tuesday April 17: stage 2: Lavarone – Fiemme/Alpe di Pampeago 145.5km
Wednesday April 18: stage 3: Ora – Merano 138.3km
Thursday April 19: stage 4: Chiusa-Lienz 134.3km
Friday April 20: stage 5: Rattenberg – Innsbruck 161.6km