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Giro d'Italia goes against Grand Tour trends with long and high stages

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mauro Vegni, the director of the Giro d'Italia, has defended his decision to design what some consider a 'traditional' race route for the 2020 Corsa Rosa with ten stages over 200km in length and several long and high mountain finishes, insisting that "high mountains and a test of endurance reveal who are the true champions."

The Vuelta a España has introduced shorter stages and numerous steep uphill finish in recent years, with the Tour de France following a similar design in 2020 and cutting the total of time trial kilometres, perhaps to favour aggressive French riders Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot.

The short but intense Vuelta a España stages have been dubbed as 'Tapas cycling'. The 2020 Tour de France could herald 'Champagne cycling' but Vegni has more traditional Italian tastes, with the Giro d'Italia more like a bottle of well-aged Brunello del Montalcino.  

The 2020 Giro d'Italia was presented in late October in Milan with a 3580km route - 110km longer than the 2020 Tour de France route. 

The Giro will start in Hungary and then transfer south to Sicily and climb the slopes of the Mount Etna volcano before heading north along the Adriatic coast and then west to the Alps via the 2,758m-high Passo dello Stelvio, the 2,744m-high Colle dell'Agnello and a final mountain finish at Sestriere.

"I respect what other race organisers think is right for their races and perhaps I'm going against the latest trends, but I think a Grand Tour has to include major climbs over 2,000 metres and has to include long stages spread across three weeks of racing," Vegni told Cyclingnews.

"High mountains and a test of endurance reveal who are the true champions. I think that's the recipe for a great Giro d'Italia."

Former head of RCS Sport Michele Acquarone helped shake up the Giro d'Italia a decade ago, mixing tradition with innovation before he was wrongly made the scapegoat for a major financial misappropriation. The race has started in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Israel in recent years but has always shown off the natural beauty of Italy and climbed into the high mountains of the Italian Alps and Dolomites.

There have been reports of possible Grande Partenza in New York, the UAE and even Japan. They have never been confirmed but Vegni is proud to be more innovative than his French and Spanish rivals.

"The Giro d'Italia will start from an Eastern European country for the first time in 2020. Without wanting to get into geopolitics, it's a source of pride for us because some of our colleagues never thought of going there," Vegni told Cyclingnews with a smile.

"For 2020 it was important to consider the other major events on the calendar such as the Olympics and the mountainous World Championships in Switzerland. It's a balanced route, which allows riders to recover after harder blocks of racing. Of course, there's still a grande finale."

Rolling out a pink carpet for Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan will race the Giro for the first time in 2020

Peter Sagan will race the Giro for the first time in 2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Vegni and RCS Sport have used some of the millions earned from the Grande Partenza outside of Italy to entice major names to ride the Giro d'Italia. Tom Dumoulin has opted for the Giro d'Italia several times, so did Alberto Contador, while Chris Froome rode and won the Corsa Rosa in 2018.

With the Grande Partenza in Budapest close to the border with Slovakia, Vegni has rolled out a symbolic pink carpet and convinced Peter Sagan to ride the 2020 Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career.

"It's important have a rider like Peter at the Giro and he could take the first pink in the time trial in Budapest because the uphill finish suits him," Vegni suggested.

"Despite all that Peter has achieved in his career I think the Giro was missing from his palmares. There are several road stages that also suit him peter and he knows some of them because he's won stages at Tirreno-Adriatico on the same roads. He has special ties with Italy because he here as a young rider and became the rider he is thanks to Liquigas, an Italian team.

"The start in Hungary is close to his hometown in Slovakia, so let's hope it augurs well for him and the race."