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Pope Francis, in the picture with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has blessed the Maglia Rosa of Giro d'Italia 2013, which will start next Saturday, May 4th, from Naples and ends on May 26 in Brescia.
Four days until the race starts in Naples
Pope Francis blesses Maglia Rosa
The Giro d'Italia got off to an auspicious start on Tuesday, when Catholic Pope Francis, blessed the Maglia Rosa of the 2013 edition of the race. Italy's Grand Tour will kick off on Saturday, May 4 in Naples and ends on Sunday, May 26 in Brescia.
Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, were present at a ceremony blessing the pink leader's jersey.
Four days until Naples
The countdown to the start of the Giro d'Italia picks up speed on Wednesday when the riders arrive in Naples ready for Saturday's first stage.
The teams will all stay in and around the city, mixing final training rides and team time trial workouts, media appearances, pre-race blood tests (on Thursday morning) and the official team presentation on Friday afternoon.
The racing begins on Saturday morning with the 130km circuit stage around the city's seafront.
Mantova investigation delayed until after the Giro d'Italia
Doping investigations have often cast a shadow on the Giro d'Italia but a further delay in the Mantova case means that the preliminary hearings will now be held later in the summer, saving riders and staff from the Lampre team from any short term embarrassment.
The judge handling the preliminary hearings has also ruled that Alessandro's Ballan's case – based on a phone tap, should be dealt with my judges in Brescia and not Mantova.
Katusha put their hopes in Trofimov
The Katusha team went close to overall victory at the 2012 Giro d'Italia with Joaquim Rodriguez but has more modest ambitions this year.
Rodriguez has decided to target the Tour de France, with Yuriy Trofimov named as team leader for the Giro d'Italia by the Russian squad.
Also in the team's line-up are Maxim Belkov, Pavel Brutt, Giampaolo Caruso, Vladimir Gusev, Petr Ignatenko, Dmitriy Kozonchuk, Luca Paolini and Angel Vicioso.
The route of this year's women's Giro d'Italia will be unveiled on Friday, just 24 hours before the men's race gets underway in Naples. The women's Giro Rosa will be held over eight days from June 30 to July 7.
Pellizotti leads an international Androni Giocattoli team
Italian national champion Franco Pellizotti will be back at the Giro d'Italia for the first time since his ban for an anti-doping biological passport violation. He is hoping to do well overall and leads a multinational Androni Giocattoli team.
Team manager Gianni Savio has selected six Italian riders, a Colombian and two Venezuelan riders for the nine places.
The full team is: Franco Pellizotti, Emanuele Sella, Giairo Ermeti, Fabio Felline, Mattia Gavazzi and Diego Rosa (all Italian), Tomas Gil and Jackson Rodriguez (Venezuelan) and Colombia's Miguel Angel Rubiano.
Felline could also do well overall, while Gavazzi could be the surprise sprinter of the Giro d'Italia after his victory at the Giro della Toscana on Sunday.