'We were fed up with seeing a race blocked until the last week' - Giro organiser on why this year's route is the most exciting yet

Early climbs and time trials part of a new formula race director Mauro Vegni is hoping will provide a needed shake up to the Giro's GC fight

The first stage of the Giro d'Italia, from Venaria Reale to Turin over a distance of 140 kilometres on May 4, is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Superga air disaster. On that day in 1949, 31 people, including the entire multiple Serie A-winning Torino football team, were killed when their plane crashed into the wall of the Basilica in dense fog. For Turin, Saturday’s stage will be considered one of great significance, while the parcours itself promises a thrilling and attacking race in the novel opening to this edition of the Corsa Rosa.

Ahead of the stage in Turin, the Giro’s race director Mauro Vegni told Rouleur that the explosive start to the race route was an intentional move to prevent cagey tactics setting in amongst the general classification contenders until the third week, perhaps reflecting the frustrations of many watching fans of last year’s edition. “We were fed up with seeing a race blocked until the last week.” Vegni said. “The most important climbs, the most frightening ones, came in the last week. So all the protagonists were waiting for that moment. There was little or nothing for a fortnight, and we don't like that either for the people gathering on the roads or for everyone in front of the TV. We therefore decided to change the format of this Giro.”

The undisputed favourite for victory is Tadej Pogačar, who has so far this year looked unstoppable when he’s decided to attack. But Grand Tour racing is a different beast, with misfortune, sickness, or injury able to affect any rider, even Pogačar. “In a Grand Tour there are many variables, it is clear that there is a main favourite, but you still have to consider the 20-plus days of racing,” said Vegni. “For example, bad weather could affect the physical condition of the riders and their health. So, let's keep our fingers crossed that we all arrive in Rome with a fairly complete peloton. Today, the favourite is Pogačar.”

Mauro Vegni

Mauro Vegni said last year's Giro was stunted by riders waiting to attack in the final week (Alessandra Bucci/Rouleur)

The widely mooted main rival of the Slovenian – who is taking part in the Giro d'Italia for the first time and has finished on the podium every Grand Tours he’s ridden – is Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), who finished last year's Giro in second place after carrying the pink for much of the second and third weeks.

There has also been talk of Pogačar claiming pink on the Giro’s opening stage and attempting to hold it all the way to Rome in three weeks, particularly given how the hilly nature of stage one plays to his strengths. While it’s unclear whether UAE Team Emirates and Pogačar would want to take the race lead this early, there is a high chance of time gaps appearing between the GC favourites, two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali told Rouleur. “This start is very interesting because there will be a lot of spectators and it will be a very special stage, a technical stage,” Nibali said. “So it will already do a little bit of something to the general classification. Some gaps will be there, in my opinion. Then the Livigno stage [stage 15] is a very interesting one, with 5000m of elevation gain. Here maybe I could express myself at my best with those heights and a very interesting altitude profile.”

The Sicilian, who won the 2016 Giro which finished Turin, noted the key difference in the 2024 route to those he won is the number of climbs and testing stages in the first two weeks.. “The Giro d'Italia that I raced were very hard in the last week, there was a hat-trick of mountains. This year, there are very hard stages every week,” Nibali said. “It's a very well-designed Giro, and technically more difficult. Also, two time trial stages are not easy to manage. It strikes me how much the Giro d'Italia has worked well in recent years, and how much it is growing. The fact that it will arrive in the eternal city, in Rome - and the winner will be awarded by the president - is honestly something that I regret not having experienced at that time. Now I enjoy the Giro from another perspective, which is still very beautiful. And the arrival at the Colosseum is fantastic.”

Cover image by Zac Williams/SWPix

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