The 2019 Giro d'Italia is set to start with a short uphill prologue time trial in Bologna, according to a report published on Tuttobiciweb on Tuesday, with other sources confirming the location of the opening stage to Cyclingnews.
The Giro has alternated home and foreign starts in recent years and the race is due to begin in Italy after this year's Grande Partenza in Israel.
Rumours earlier in the summer had suggested that the southern city of Matera would host the Giro start to tie in with its designation as European Capital of Culture in 2019. However recent arrests amongst local politicians appear to have forced race organiser RCS Sport to quickly redesign the route for the 2019 Corsa Rosa. Bologna emerged as the front runner in recent weeks, even though RCS Sport declined to confirm or deny that Bologna will host the 2019 Grande Partenza.
The race last began in Bologna in 1994, when Evgeni Berzin was the overall winner.
The 2019 Giro d'Italia will start on Saturday, May 11, and Tuttobiciweb reports that stage 1 will be 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 features in the finale of the Giro dell'Emilia and is likely to provoke some significant gaps on the opening day of the corsa rosa.
According to Tuttobiciweb, stage 2 of the Giro will start in the Tuscan village of Vinci - the the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, before returning to Emila Romagna for a finish in Ravenna, while stage 3 will bring the race from Ravenna to Modena and should offer another opportunity for the sprinters.
Although no date has yet been set for the unveiling of the full 2019 Giro route, a confirmation of the Grande Partenza is expected in the next few weeks.
Some details of the 21 stages have begun to emerge in the Italian press in recent weeks. Last month, L'Arena reported that the final stage of the Giro will be a time trial that takes place in Verona, where – as in 1984 and 2010 – the finish will be in the Roman amphitheatre in the centre of the city.
It has also long been rumoured that the 2019 Giro will feature a stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo to commemorate Fausto Coppi's famous solo raid over the Maddalena, Vars, Izoard, Montginevro and Sestriere on the 1949 race. A stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo featured in the centenary Giro of 2009, albeit in truncated form, without the passage into France and over Maddalena, Vars and Izoard.
Tuttobiciweb adds that the Giro is likely to return to Emilia-Romagna around the mid-point of the race after travelling as far south as Campania and Abruzzo before winding its way northwards up the Adriatic coast. According to Tuttobiciweb, the Giro could feature a time trial from Riccione to San Marino.
The president of the Emilia-Romagna region, Stefano Bonaccini would not confirm the Bologna Grande Partenza, but told Tuttobiciweb, "I assure you that our region will have an important role in the next corsa rosa."
2018 Giro d'Italia winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) has still to decide if he will return to defend his pink jersey or focus on the 2019 Tour de France.