The 2019 Tour of the Alps will offer a typically rigorous warm-up ahead of the Giro d’Italia, with almost 14,000 metres of total climbing to feature across its five stages. At the route presentation in Milan on Wednesday, it was confirmed that the race will start in Kufstein, Austria on April 22 and finish in Bolzano, Italy on April 26.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) to win the 2018 edition of the race, and the organiser GS Alto Garda will again expect to attract a host of Giro contenders to the 2.HC event.
While the race’s position on the calendar makes it a natural preamble to the Giro, the organisation noted that the Tour of the Alps is not “merely […] a key dress rehearsal ahead of the Giro d’Italia, but looks to affirm its vision on how cycling races should be from a technical point of view.” In particular, the organisation has pointed to its preference for reduced stage distances and avoidance of extreme altitudes.
The opening stage takes place around Kufstein, which hosted the start of the elite men’s road race at this year’s UCI Road World Championships. The 144km leg features two categorised climbs, as well as a series of undulations in the finale that offer themselves as an ideal springboard for attackers.
Stage 2 is perhaps the most demanding of the race and has been given a five-star difficulty rating by the race organisers. The 178.8km stage from Reith im Alpbachtal across the Italian border to Schenna includes the climb of the Tulfes and the mighty Passo Giovo, which tops out at an altitude of 2,094m. The Passo Giovo (15.1km at an average gradient of 7.5 per cent) is followed by a long and fast descent, before a stinging 5km haul to the finish line at Schenna.
At just 106.3km, Stage 3 from Salurn to Baselgo di Pinè is the shortest of the race but it may also prove to be the most explosive. After an intermediate sprint at Palù di Giovo – home of Giro winners Gilberto Simoni and Francesco Moser – the race tackles the climbs of Brusago and Lago di Santa Colomba. In the finale, the gruppo will take on the ascent of Montagnaga, before the road flattens out slightly ahead of the finish in Baselga di Pinè.
Stage 4 sets out from Baselga di Pinè and takes in the climbs of Forcella di Brez and the Passo Predaia, which are sure to leave only the strongest climbers in the front group. The decisive selection should come on the short sharp climb of Puntara, which is situated just 5km from the finish in Cles, home of 1988 world champion Maurizio Fondriest.
The Tour of the Alps concludes with a 148km stage from Caldaro to Bolzano that takes in the climbs of Colalbo and San Genesio. The stage features some 3,100 metres of total climbing. The San Genesio is the final categorised ascent of the race, and it comes 25km from the finish in Bolzano.
Previously run as the Giro del Trentino, the Tour of the Alps took on its current, cross-border format in 2017, when Geraint Thomas was the overall winner. Throughout its history, the race has been a reliable indicator of pre-Giro form and the recent roll of honour is an impressive won. Recent winners include Vincenzo Nibali (2008 and 2013), the late Michele Scarponi (2011), Cadel Evans (2014), Richie Porte (2015) and Mikel Landa (2016).
Twenty teams are slated to participate in the 2019 Tour of the Alps, including an Italian selection managed by Davide Cassani. The organisation stated that it expects to attract “significant interest” from WorldTour teams.
Nine WorldTour teams took part in the 2018 edition – Team Sky, AG2R La Mondiale, LottoNL-Jumbo, UAE Team Emirates, Groupama-FDJ, Astana, Dimension Data, Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain-Merida – as well as all four of the Giro wildcards.
2019 Tour of the Alps route:
Monday, April 22: stage 1: Kufstein – Kufstein, 144km
Tuesday, April 23: stage 2: Reith im Alpbachtal – Schenna/Scena, 178.7km
Wednesday, April 24: stage 3: Salurn/Salorno – Baselga di Pinè, 106.3km
Thursday, April 25: stage 4: Baselga di Pinè – Cles 134km
Friday, April 26: stage 5: Kaltern/Caldaro – Bozen/Bolzano 148.7km