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The first Grand Tour of the year brings with it all the sights, all the smells, and all the anticipation.
Snow-decked mountain roads, spring flowers in bloom, and the head-to-head battle between Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič.
The Giro d’Italia could not be more finely poised, predicting the winner a matter of deliberation between who you think will fare best on the 72 time trial kilometres and succession of savage mountain stages that starts with aplomb as early as stage four.
Every year the Corsa Rosa excites, but it feels like this year it’s a different kind of beast. The world champion Remco Evenepoel is in sparkling form, fresh from convincingly defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and coming up against the man with whom he’s been building a hard-fought and zesty rivalry, Primož Roglič.
Has there ever been such suspense going into the Giro in the past decade? Perhaps not, and that’s what makes the following three weeks absolutely unmissable, and thanks to GCN+, the unmissable really is unmissable.
With a monthly subscription that costs just a fraction of the price of a fine Italian meal, you can take the Giro with you wherever you are, giving you the power to stream all the proceedings from your smart device, regardless if you’re in the office (shh, we won’t tell your boss), on the train or simply crowded round your mate’s phone during the mid-ride cafe stop.
Every stage, every kilometre, and every piece of consequential action will be shown live on GCN+, with expert analysis, renowned and informed commentators, and post-race punditry to virtually transport you to Italy for 21 of the next 23 days.
Of course, this is bike racing, elite sport, so anything can happen. When three-time Vuelta a España champion Primož Roglič is on the line, anything often does happen. So it’s not just a two-way shootout between the Slovenian and the Belgian, 10 years his junior.
Geraint Thomas, third at last year’s Tour de France, co-leads a strong-looking Ineos Grenadiers alongside an in-form and rejuvenated former winner Tao Geoghegan Hart. João Almeida, for so many days in pink in 2020, leads UAE Team Emirates’ charge, while it feels inevitable that Aleksandr Vlasov will soon record his maiden Grand Tour podium.
His Bora-Hansgrohe team are the defending champions, but Jai Hindley, the surprise victor 12 months ago, is foregoing defence of the maglia rosa. His triumph a year ago should be a reminder to all that, yes, really, anything can happen in the Giro.
That’s what makes it so fascinating, and that’s why every day for three weeks in May we wake up thinking about Italian wine, pasta, seafood, ice cream and scan the internet for how to climb this climb or that climb.
Because watching the Giro is not just about following the most beautiful bike race on the planet, it’s about diving into the rich culture of a country that breathes bike racing, of a spectacular landscape that spawned Coppi, Bartali, Moser, Pantani, and Nibali.
In most bike races we take advantage of the pause, rewind and fast forward options offered by GCN+ to re-watch a piece of action, but in the Giro we do so to linger a little longer on the turquoise sea, on the rolling Tuscan hills, on the theatrical, striking Dolomites, and of the roadside hilarity. Watching the Giro transforms us into italianos e italianas.
Should time commitments mean you can’t be glued to the racing every stage, GCN+ compiles a selection of highlights packages from short, medium to longer transmissions, as well as offering full on-demand stage replays, ensuring that you’re kept up to date with everything that is going on. The GCN+ World of Cycling show is essential viewing each evening to further keep you abreast of all the developments.
It won’t just be the battle for pink that keeps us captivated – there are so many more subplots and running themes: in his last season of racing, how will Thibaut Pinot fare? In 2017, he tumbled off the podium in the final day time trial.
This time there’s no final day test against the clock, but there are three separate time trials, the last one being a particularly hideous hill-climb. In the first two TTs, it won’t just be Remco v Roglič, but Filippo Ganna v the ever-improving Stefan Küng.
Then there’s the battle for the points jersey. Mads Pedersen is hellbent on adding Giro purple to Vuelta green, but for him to win sprints he has to get past Fernando Gaviria, Kaden Groves and Mark Cavendish. Ah, yeah, Cav. Pretty much anonymous all spring, but the Briton is riding his seventh Giro, and in each of his previous six participations, he has won at least one stage.
There’s just so much going on. So much to be fixated by in the three weeks.
It’s Italy! It’s May! Tune in to GCN+. It’s going to be a helluva ride.
You can catch all of the Giro d'Italia and the other upcoming Grand Tours by subscribing to GCN+ here. (Territory restrictions may apply).