2019 Giro d'Italia: Bologna Grande Partenza stages to be presented on Monday

The details of the opening stages of the 2019 Giro d’Italia will be unveiled in Bologna on Monday, with the race expected to begin with an uphill prologue time trial to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca which overlooks the city.

RCS Sport announced last week that the presentation of the Grande Partenza will take place in Bologna on September 24, a tacit confirmation of recent reports that the Giro will start from the city in 2019. Bologna previously hosted the Grande Partenza in 1994, when Endrio Leoni won the morning road stage and the late Armand De Las Cuevas won a short afternoon time trial. 

Tuttobiciweb has reported that the 2019 Giro will start on Saturday, May 11 with a 5km time trial from the centre of Bologna to the top of the portico-lined climb to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. The 2km ascent, known as the Colle della Guardia, has an average gradient of 11% and a maximum of 18%. The climb is well-known from the finale of the Giro dell'Emilia and is likely to provoke some significant gaps on the opening day of the corsa rosa.

Two road stages centred around the Emilia-Romagna region will follow, though the precise details will not be confirmed until Monday. One hypothesis, again reported by Tuttobiciweb, suggests that stage 2 will begin in the Tuscan village of Vinci to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.

The stage is expected to finish in Ravenna and so cross the Apennine hills, while stage 3, rumoured to be from Ravenna to Modena, would offer early opportunity for the sprinters.

Matera, which will be European Capital of Culture in 2020, had previously been touted as the possible site of the Grande Partenza, but the southern city’s candidacy lost momentum when some local politicians were among those placed under arrest during a probe into the Basilicata region’s health system.

Like last year, the full Giro d'Italia route is unlikely to announced until November, though some details of the percorso have been reported in the Italian press in recent weeks. As 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fausto Coppi, it seems certain that the Giro d'Italia will honour Il Campionissimo.

A stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo is expected to feature on the course, most likely on the penultimate weekend of the race, with RCS Sport hoping to bring the gruppo over over the Maddalena, Vars, Izoard, Montginevro and Sestriere as a way of commemorating Coppi’s solo victory on the 1949 Giro. The centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia in 2009 had a nod to that feat with a stage that started in Cuneo and finished in Pinerolo, though the route did not cross into France and did not include the Maddalena, Vars and Izoard.

La Stampa reported earlier this month that the Giro will further honour Coppi on the day after the Cuneo-Pinerolo stage, with a stage to Novi Ligure, site of the Museo di Campionissimi that recounts the careers of Coppi and Costante Girardengo. It is also understood that the Museo dei Campionissimi is also seeking to host the presentation of the full Giro d'Italia route this winter.

The Giro’s weekend in honour of Coppi will come after the race has visited southern and central Italy before travelling back northwards along the Adriatic coast. Among the rumoured stages along the way is a time trial from Riccione to San Marino, a near replica of the stage that saw Roberto Visentini briefly divest Stephen Roche of the maglia rosa at the 1987 Giro.

Mountainous finale

Several hypotheses have been floated for the make-up of the final week of the 2019 Giro d'Italia but the one certainty is that it will, as per tradition, be mountainous in the extreme.

Early in the summer, Tre Cime di Lavaredo was heavily rumoured to be a stage finish in 2019, though Corriere della Alpi noted earlier this month that in the meantime there has been no confirmation of that finish, adding pointedly that it “comes to be proposed as a probable stage every year.”

Rather more certain, however, is the likelihood that the Giro will finish in Verona on Sunday, June 2, news reported by L’Arena in August. As in 1984 and 2010, an individual time trial finishing inside the city’s Roman amphitheatre is a strong possibility.

The Giro’s final mountain stage will take place the preceding day, with Corriere delle Alpi reporting that it will start and finish in Feltre, taking in a route that largely replicates that of the Gran Fondo Sportful, which marks its 25th edition in 2019. The 200km stage 20 would thus feature four mountain passes – the Cima Campo, Passo Manghen, Passo Rolle and Croce d’Aune – before a rapid drop to the finish in Feltre.

Giornale Trentino, meanwhile, has reported that stage 19 of the Giro will feature a summit finish at San Martino di Castrozza, where Danilo Di Luca was first across the line on the race’s last visit in 2009, though the win was later awarded to Stefano Garzelli following Di Luca’s positive test for CERA. The climb also featured in 1982, when Vicente Belda – later manager of the Kelme team – was the winner.

For now, of course, rumours of the Giro’s decisive mountain stages remain just that, but in Bologna on Monday afternoon, the first act of the corsa rosa will be outlined in full.

At this early juncture, it is unclear which of the peloton's principal Grand Tour riders will be on the start line on May 11 next, though RCS Sport received an early boost last weekend when Vuelta a Espana winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) expressed his desire to return to the Giro in 2019. The Briton led the Giro d'Italia for two weeks this year before losing the maglia rosa on the road to Bardonecchia on stage 19.

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