The 2022 Giro d’Italia begins in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, on 6th May. Known for its absurdly steep mountains, the first Grand Tour of the season has seemingly been designed to create an enthralling GC battle over the full three weeks of racing, whilst also providing enticing opportunities for sprinters and time trialists.
The 2021 Giro d’Italia was dominated by Egan Bernal of the Ineos Grenadiers, who won two stages and the maglia rosa on his race debut. Bernal’s victory marked Ineos’ third victory at the Giro in the last four years, after Chris Froome and Tao Geoghegan Hart’s wins in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
Veteran Damiano Caruso had the best season of his career, highlighted by a runner-up placing in the GC at the Giro, while Simon Yates rounded out the podium for Team BikeExchange.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 1: Budapest > Visegrád
The Giro d’Italia 2022 departs from Budapest, where the GC contenders must be well equipped from the off. The Giro has started with a time trial in each of the previous four editions, giving the time trial specialists the opportunity to claim the inaugural maglia rosa. (Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič and Filippo Ganna are the riders who have worn pink after the first stage).
Although there is an early TT present this year, it occurs on stage 2. Instead, the Giro begins with a 195km route between Budapest and Visegrád. After a mostly flat day which includes two intermediate sprints, the opener finishes with a 5km climb from downtown Visegrád to the Royal Palace, where the inaugural pink jersey will be handed out. The TT specialists still have the chance to wear pink early on, but they must stay within touching distance in stage 1.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 2 ITT: Budapest > Budapest
The first stage is followed by a 9.2km time trial in Budapest. The course crosses the River Danube just over the halfway mark and concludes with a 1.3km ascent to Buda Square, which peaks at 14% in places. The TT specialists must manage the difficult finish on stage 1 if they want a chance at pink on stage 2. Alternatively, they could choose to conserve their legs on day one in favour of going all in for the stage victory only here. After just two stages, the GC battle will start to take shape.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 3: Kaposvár > Balatonfüred
The final stage in Hungary finishes in Balatonfüred, a small spa town located on the northern shore of Lake Balaton, providing the sprinters with their first major chance.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 4: Avola > Etna
The riders return to Italy with a fiery stage 4 where they'll climb Mount Etna. The volcano has featured on the Giro route in three of the last four years, but is ascended from the south this time. The gradients are fairly steady throughout with no super steep sections. We won't know who will win the Giro after the 25.6km climb, but we could learn who isn't capable of challenging for pink.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 5: Catania > Messina
Although the 19.5km Portella Mandrazzi climb features early on stage 5, the sprinters will expect their chance at stage victory here.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 6: Palmi > Scalea
A relatively flat stage 6 provides back-to-back opportunities for the pure sprinters. In the meanwhile, the GC riders must conserve their energy ahead of a daunting end to the opening week.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 7: Diamante > Potenza
The 2022 Giro route offers up multiple chances to wreak havoc in the GC relatively early on, and that begins on stage 7 from Diamante to Potenza. A mixture of steep and milder gradients are thrown into a stage which undulates constantly for almost 200km. The Monte Scuro (6.1km @ 5.1%) and La Sellata (9.1km @ 5.1%) are key points where the race could explode. Although not a mountain top finish, stage 7 cannot be underestimated by those vying for pink.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 8: Napoli > Napoli
A hilly circuit around Napoli defines stage 8. This could be a good chance for the breakaway as the sprinters will struggle, but it’s not difficult enough for the GC contenders to create sizeable gaps. Additionally, the stage sits in between two punishing mountainous days which could mean those contending for the overall will be taking it as easily as possible.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 9: Isernia > Blockhaus
The first week culminates in central Italy with Passo Lanciano and later, Blockhaus — the climb's name stems from the German language where it means, 'stone house'. The ascent averages a ferocious 8.5% over 13.7km. After stage 7, this is the second stage prior to the halfway point with more than 4,400 metres of climbing. Nairo Quintana moved into the pink jersey after winning here in 2017, with only five riders finishing within a minute of the Colombian victor.
Blockhaus will wrap up a particularly strenuous first week that cannot be underestimated by any GC riders. Those that enter slightly undercooked, perhaps with aspirations of reaching their physical peak in the third week, could be punished. One minute separated the top ten in 2021 after nine stages, but we think the field spread will be much greater at this point in 2022.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 10: Pescara > Jesi
Week two gets underway in Pescara, as the race heads northwards along the coast before stepping inland towards Jesi. The first half of the stage is entirely flat, but the second half is packed with hills, meaning the main group could be decimated by the finish.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 11: Santarcangelo di Romagna > Reggio Emilia
That is followed by a pancake flat stage between Santarcangelo di Romagna and Reggio Emilia. Two intermediate sprints occur in Imola and San Giovanni in Persiceto.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 12: Parma > Genova
The organisers have assigned stage 12 a four-star stage difficulty. The medium mountains provide another good chance for the breakaway, particularly as the peak of Monte Becco which occurs with over 20km remaining. The Passo del Bocco descent begins after 97km, a place where Wouter Weylandt tragically lost his life at the Giro d’Italia in 2011. A long descent into Genova may deter any GC riders from attacking but, alternatively, the relatively easy days that flank the stage could encourage them.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 13: Sanremo > Cuneo
Stage 13 is a transitional day which sets off from Sanremo. The Colle di Nava is navigated with over 100km left, and although it’s far from the finish, it could be used as a platform to drop the pure sprinters.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 14: Santena > Torino
The following two stages offer genuine chances for the GC riders, firstly with stage 14 in Turin. An intriguing circuit profile could lead to early attacks — carnage could ensue if the race is taken on early. The Bric del Duca is essentially the popular Superga climb which concluded Milan - Torino in 2021. Primož Roglič defeated a plucky Adam Yates that day.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 15: Rivarolo Canavese > Cogne
Week two concludes with three mountains, two of them first category efforts. Although the final ascent to Cogne is the longest of the day at 22.4km, the percentages ease as the climb progresses, with the final 3.2km averaging just 2.4%. Any damage must be done prior to this, as dropping other riders will be onerous at the shallow gradients found here.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 16: Salò > Aprica
The final rest day will be very much required, particularly with stage 16 and almost 5,500 metres of elevation gain looming. The climbing begins with the first category Goletto di Cadino and Passo del Mortirolo, which peak at 1,938 and 1,854 metres of altitude respectively. They are followed before the short but steep Teglio climb, and the ascending concludes with the fearsomely steep Santa Cristina, which averages 8% over 13.5km. The final 6km take place almost entirely downhill en route to Aprica.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 17: Ponte di Legno > Lavarone
The punishing GC days don’t relent on stage 17 with another 3,740 metres of climbing, although the majority is packed into the final third of the stage with the Passo del Vetriolo and Monte Rouvere. We could see major attacks in the battle for pink, particularly with limited mountain opportunities to follow and a flat stage in Treviso next, which will surely be decided in a mass sprint.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 18: Borgo Valsugana > Treviso
Stage 18 may offer an informal rest day for the GC contenders, and one of the last chances for breakaway artists and sprinters to make their mark on the 2022 Giro.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 19: Marano Lagunare > Santuario di Castelmonte
Stage 19 is intriguing: the road crosses into Slovenia with the Kolovrat mountain on the way to the Castelmonte sanctuary which has stood since the 15th century. When considering what lies ahead on stage 20, the breakaway may have a good chance here.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 20: Belluno > Marmolada (Passo Fedaia)
D-Day. A final mountain stage and chance for the climbers to make their imprint on the 2022 Giro d’Italia. The stage is rightly assigned five-star difficulty by the organisers, and the 4,500 metres gained is made up of numerous iconic climbs, including the Passo San Pellegrino, the Passo Pordoi and Passo Fedaia.
Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 21: Verona > Verona
Although the high mountains are finished, the GC battle still has one final twist to offer. The 2022 Giro d’Italia concludes in Verona with a 17.1km time trial, where we'll finally learn for certain who will win the maglia rosa.
Image credit: LUCA BETTINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
At this stage, we can only base this section on rumours, with race schedule announcements from teams and riders expected in the new year.
What we do know is that reigning champion Egan Bernal’s presence is already in doubt. Speaking to Mundo Ciclístico, Bernal has already outlined his major target for the 2022 season. “It is clear that we are going to focus all our preparation and efforts thinking about competing in the Tour de France this year. It is time to return to the path that we found in 2019 and from which we have separated a little.” Bernal’s words suggest that he is solely focused on the Tour de France, which means he’ll likely forgo the chance to retain the maglia rosa. Tom Dumoulin was the last winner of the Giro to return to defend their crown in the following year — he won in 2017, and finished second in 2018.
With only 26km of time trialling to tackle (down from 39km in 2021), the pure climbers will naturally be drawn to the Giro over the Tour de France in 2022.
Speaking with CyclingNews, Team BikeExchange’s Matt White spoke of Simon Yates’ potential ambitions in 2022. “The best climbers, at the end of the day, rise to the top in the Giro because the stages are just so demanding.” White explained, “We’re still discussing it at the moment, but it [the Giro d’Italia] is a race that he loves, and he likes the Tour de France too. It’s highly likely that we'll see him at the Giro then we’ll see him at the Tour as well, but we still need to discuss things.”
Cover image: Tim de Waele/Getty Images