Chris Froome will be among the guests when the route of the 2019 Giro d'Italia is presented in Milan on Wednesday afternoon, though it remains to be seen if the 2018 winner will be on hand to defend his title when the race gets underway in Bologna on May 11 next year.
The presence of Elia Viviani, winner of the points classification in 2018, has also been confirmed, while Froome's Sky teammate Gianni Moscon – who is slated to make his Giro debut in 2019 – will also be at RAI television studios for Wednesday's route presentation.
Although he was not present at last year's presentation, Froome nonetheless stole the show by announcing via video his intention to ride the 2018 Giro. Barely two weeks later, it was revealed that Froome had returned a positive test for salbutamol during the 2017 Vuelta a España and debate over his participation clouded the 2018 Giro's Grande Partenza in Israel. Froome would go on to win the Giro in Rome, and a month later the UCI announced that the anti-doping case against him had been dropped.
Both Froome and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas were on hand at last week's Tour de France route presentation in Paris. Froome confirmed his intention to try to win a record-equalling fifth Tour, while Thomas said that it was too soon to outline his programme. "By the end of this year, I will know which Grand Tour I will ride. First, I have to crawl back on the bike and start training again," he said.
Another British rider, Simon Yates, has already intimated his desire to return to the Giro, though his 2019 schedule has yet to be confirmed. The Mitchelton-Scott rider led the 2018 Giro for more than two weeks and won three stages while wearing the maglia rosa, only to lose the lead on the road to Bardonecchia on stage 19. Yates bounced back to win the Vuelta in September.
Reports in the Italian press earlier this month suggested that Vincenzo Nibali, absent from the Giro this year, would return to his home Grand Tour in 2019, though the Bahrain-Merida team insisted that no decision would be taken until the routes of the Giro and Tour were unveiled. No decision has been taken about Fabio Aru's participation, but it appears likely that Thibaut Pinot, a protagonist in each of the past two editions, will focus instead on the Tour in 2019.
After winning the Giro in 2017 and placing second overall this year, Tom Dumoulin is expected to target the Tour next season, but his Sunweb team expressed disappointment at the dearth of time trialling stages in the 2019 edition of La Grande Boucle. While there is just one individual time trial of 27km in the 2019 Tour, there look set to be three individual time trials in next year’s corsa rosa, the full details of which will be unveiled on Wednesday.
RCS Sport has already confirmed details of four stages on the route of the 2019 Giro, including what promises to be a striking opening day time trial in Bologna on Saturday, May 11. Bologna has been the site of the Grande Partenza on one previous occasion, in 1994, when Endrio Leoni won the morning road stage before the late Armand De Las Cuevas took over the maglia rosa in the afternoon time trial.
In 2019, the Giro will get underway with an 8.2km individual time trial in Bologna that features a tough uphill finish at the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. The riders will set out from Piazza Maggiore in the centre of Bologna and then face a stiff, 2km ascent to the finish line. The stirring, portico-lined climb to San Luca is regularly used as the finish to the Giro dell'Emilia one-day race. The climb boasts an average gradient of 9.7 per cent, but reaches 16 per cent in the final kilometre.
Stage 2 will be the opening road stage of the 2019 Giro, and the gruppo will set out on the road southwards from Bologna to a finish town to be named on Wednesday.
In September, RCS Sport also announced details of two later stages in the Emilia-Romagna region. Stage 9 will be a 34.7km individual time trial from Riccione, near Rimini, to the independent state of San Marino. The route climbs gently at first, steepening steadily as it goes, before the climb proper towards San Marino begins with a little under 15km to go. In keeping with the Giro's recent tradition of linking a stage each year with a wine-making region, the route brings the riders through Sangiovese di Romagna wine country.
Stage 10 starts further along the Adriatic coast in Ravenna, and riders will be able to enjoy a flat 147km leg to Modena. Stage 11 is due to start from Carpi and expected to bring the gruppo westwards towards Piedmont and an expected instalment of Alpine climbs on the Giro’s third weekend.
It seems clear that the Giro will head southwards in the immediate aftermath of the Grande Partenza in Emilia-Romagna, with La Stampa reporting that the route will trek down the Tyrrhenian coast in the opening week. Basilicata 7 reports that stage 6 will bring the Giro from Cassino to the race’s southernmost point with a start in San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia. The following day’s stage is reportedly likely to finish in L’Aquila, to mark the tenth anniversary of the earthquake that devasted the city in Abruzzo.
After the San Marino time trial, the Giro is expected to move towards Piedmont, with a stage finish in Novi Ligure to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fausto Coppi. A stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo, 70 years on from Coppi’s exploit at the 1949 Giro, has long been touted, though it is unclear if all of the climbs - Maddalena, Vars, Izoard, Montginevro and Sestriere - will feature on the route in 2019.
La Stampa reported last week that stage 13 will finish above Lake Serrù at an altitude of at least 2,200 metres, with the final climb featuring some 30 hairpins. The following day’s stage could bring the race over the Colle San Carlo to Courmayeur, close to the border with France.
Various rumours have been reported and then discarded for the final week of the Giro, including a possible stage finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It is certain, however, that the week will be heavy with mountain stages, and La Stampa has reported that stage 16 will bring the race over the Mortirolo and Gavia for a finish in Bormio.
Giornale Trentino has reported that stage 19 will feature a summit finish at San Martino di Castrozza, which last featured in 2009, while stage 20 has long been rumoured to be based around the route of the Gran Fondo Sportful. Corriere delle Alpi has previously reported the stage will start and finish in Feltre, taking in the Cima Campo, Passo Manghen, Passo Rolle and Croce d’Aune, but more recent reports suggest a summit finish atop Croce d’Aune.
According to L’Arena, meanwhile, the 2019 Giro is set to finish in Verona, with a 15km time trial that concludes in the Roman amphitheatre in the centre of the city, as was the case in 1984 and 2010.