The 2017 Giro d'Italia is set to start in Sardinia, with the full details of the opening three stages to be revealed by RCS Sport at a presentation in Milan on Wednesday. The remainder of the route of the 100th edition of the Giro will be unveiled at the race presentation on October 25.
Sardinia emerged as the frontrunner to host the start of the 2017 Giro during this year's race, and despite interest from the Marche region, the corsa rosa's return to the island was reported by the Unione Sarda newspaper last week.
Wednesday's presentation in Milan will be attended by representatives from Sardinia's local government, while Unione Sarda anticipates that Fabio Aru (Astana) – a native of the island – will also be on hand for the announcement.
The Giro last visited Sardinia in 2007, when Enrico Gasparotto wore the first pink jersey after Liquigas won the opening team time trial at La Maddalena. This time around, the Giro is expected to start from Sassari, with some local reports suggesting the race might begin with a short individual time trial featuring an uphill finish at nearby Scala di Giocca.
In 2007, the Giro made its way south across Sardinia to Cagliari over the course of its three days on the island. If Sassari proves to be the start town this time around, a similar itinerary seems likely in 2017, with Olbia and Cagliari touted as probable host towns.
"I like the idea of the lift that Sardinia could give to an event like the Giro and I like the idea of the lift that the Giro can give to local cycling," Italian Cycling federation president Renato Di Rocco told La Nuova Sardegna.
It remains to be seen whether an early rest day – as was the case in 2007 and the Giro's recent foreign starts in Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark – will be required as the caravan makes its way from Sardinia to the start of stage 4.
As part of the celebrations for the 100th edition of the Giro, it seems that RCS Sport is intent on visiting as many of the regions of Italy as possible – as was the case in 2011 – and it has been rumoured that the Giro's next stop after Sardinia will be in Sicily, a move which would have the added benefit of all but guaranteeing the participation of 2016 winner Vincenzo Nibali.
The Giro last visited Sicily in 2011 as part of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Italian unity and featured a summit finish at Mount Etna. As the Giro peloton and entourage would be arriving from Sardinia by air and sea, a possible 2017 visit would be likely to see the race travel from Palermo – or somewhere nearby on the northern Sicilian coast – to Nibali's hometown of Messina before reaching the mainland for stage 6.
"A Giro that starts in Sardinia, moves on to Sicily and then follows its course the length of the peninsula is even more evocative than any cycling fan could expect from Italy's most important race in its 100th edition," Di Rocco said
Various other details from the 2017 route have been reported with varying degrees of certainty by the local press in Italy over the summer. Il Messaggero anticipates a summit finish at Monte Terminillo at the end of the opening week, while it is expected that the Giro will return to Piancavallo, where Marco Pantani won a mountaintop finish in 1998.
The finish of the Giro has become something of a moveable feast in recent years, with Rome (2009), Verona (2010), Brescia (2013), Trieste (2014) and Turin (2016) all hosting the final stage in place of Milan. Although the Giro seems likely to spend much of its third week in the Alps, a Rome finale has again been floated as a possibility for 2017, in which case the peloton would travel south by high-speed train on the morning of the stage.