The 2019 Giro d'Italia will begin with an 8.2km individual time trial in Bologna that features a tough uphill finish at the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. RCS Sport confirmed Bologna as host of the Grande Partenza on Monday, and also revealed full details of two further stages in the Emilia-Romagna region later in the race, including a longer time trial to San Marino on stage 9.
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.
Stage 2 of the 2019 Giro will also start from Bologna, though further details will not be announced until the route is presented in full later this year. It is anticipated that the race will visit southern Italy during the first week before travelling north again along the Adriatic coast and revisiting the Emilia-Romagna region on stages 9 and 10.
RCS Sport announced on Monday that stage 9 will be a demanding 34.7km time trial from the coastal town of Riccione to San Marino. The second half of the course is almost entirely uphill and the stage is set to provoke some significant gaps in the general classification ahead of the Giro’s first rest day.
The Giro resumes on Tuesday, May 21 with a flat stage 10 from Ravenna to Modena. The 147km leg should provide an opportunity for the sprinters. Stage 11 will start from Carpi and, according to RCS Sport, "head west".
The 2019 Giro d'Italia starts in Bologna, and then returns to the Emilia-Romagna region a week later for three more stages (RCS Sport)
The Giro route presentation is not expected until November, though local media reports suggest that the race will visit Piedmont at the end of the second week and it has long been rumoured that the route will feature a stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo in honour of Fausto Coppi’s solo triumph on the 1949 Giro.
It has also been reported that Verona is in line to host the final stage of the Giro, but for now, the only confirmed details for the 2019 route are stages 1, 9 and 10, as well as the start towns of stages 2 and 11. Race director Mauro Vegni welcomed the two-part sojourn in Emilia-Romagna.
"This project with the Emilia-Romagna region has come about thanks to our excellent long-term relationship that has seen important stages of the Giro d'Italia start, finish and visit the region over the years," said Giro director Mauro Vegni.
"Working with regional president Paolo Bonaccini, we realised it was time to create something unforgettable with the Grande Partenza in Bologna and other stages that visit a wide part of the Emilia-Romagna region, passing from the coast to the mountains via the plains and countryside.:
Stage 1's 8.2km individual time trial may open significant gaps despite the stage's relatively short distance. While riders will remain on a level playing field over the opening six kilometres in central Bologna, the stage then heads upwards for the final two kilometres, on the Colle della Guardia to the hilltop Santuario della Madonna di San Luca overlooking the city. The stirring, portico-lined climb 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.
The San Luca climb will provide a stiff challenge on the opening time trial stage of the 2019 Giro in Bologna (RCS Sport)
After waving the race off from Bologna on stage 2, the Giro returns a week later for stage 9 from Riccione, near Rimini, to the independent state of San Marino, which sits encased between Emilia-Romagna to the north and the Marche region to the south.
The 34.7km individual time trial climbs gently from Riccione at first, steepening steadily as it goes, reaching a critical point in Faetano after 22km, where the climb proper towards San Marino begins.
It dips down again temporarily inside the final five kilometres, but rears back up again for the final three kilometres to the finish, 648 metres above sea level, having started from the shores of the Adriatic. 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.
The 2019 Giro d'Italia's ninth stage will be a tough test over almost 35km from Riccione to San Marino (RCS Sport)
The stage is a near mirror of a pivotal moment from the 1987 Giro, when Roberto Visentini won a time trial from Rimini to San Marino to divest his Carrera teammate Stephen Roche of the maglia rosa. Roche would famously go on to defy team orders and retake the jersey on the road to Sappada.
The last Giro time trial to San Marino came in 1997, when Pavel Tonkov beat fellow countryman Evgeni Berzin to win an 18km test that set out from Santarcangelo. The Giro has not visited San Marino since 1998, when Andrea Noè held off a fast-closing Marco Pantani to claim victory.
Stage 10 starts further up the Adriatic coast in Ravenna, and riders will be able to enjoy a flat 147km across the Padania plain to Modena – famous for its balsamic vinegar and as the 'birthplace' of Ferrari motor cars.
Stage 10 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia is a flat run from Ravenna to Modena, and likely one for the sprinters (RCS Sport)
After the opening rest, the Giro resumes with a flat stage from Ravenna to Modena, which last hosted a stage finish in 1985, when Switzerland's Daniel Gisiger was the winner.
The final stage of the 2019 Giro in Emilia-Romagna comes the next day, when the riders will start in Carpi, just to the north of Modena, and head west, which suggests the race will spend the latter part of week two in Piedmont.
"In a marked difference to recent years, we decided with the Emilia-Romagna region not to design three consecutive stages early in the race but to create three very different stages for each day of racing," said Vegni.
"The start in Bologna, with a time trial to the San Luca Sanctuary, will give an immediate shape to the race for the maglia rosa. The time trial stage from Riccione to San Marino is very hard, and is the 'wine stage' of the 2019 Giro d'Italia, and will celebrate the Sangiovese wines. The stage from Ravenna to Modena, and then from Carpi the following day, will show off parts of Emilia-Romagna – especially their history, culture and cuisine."
Recent Vuelta a España winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) has already said that he hopes to return to the Giro in 2019, having lost his race lead to eventual winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) inside the final week.
Froome, meanwhile, will have to decide whether it's better to try to defend his Giro title next season or to put all his eggs into the Tour de France basket in an attempt to take his fifth Tour victory.
Or, indeed, try again to win both.