Nibali, Rodriguez, Valverde Set For epic Giro d’Italia Battle


MILAN, Oct 07, 2013 (AFP) – Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali will kick off the
defence of his Giro d’Italia title in 2014 with three days of racing in
Northern Ireland before a “key” final week of epic racing in the high

Nibali, of the Astana team, claimed his maiden pink jersey after a dramatic
2013 edition that was blighted by torrential rain, cancelled stages and a
snow-hit stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites.

Next year’s edition is set for an equally dramatic end with some key
mountain stages, including the 20th and penultimate day to Monte Zoncolan,
labelled the ‘Welcome to Hell’ stage, set to decide overall victory.

Before then, however, Nibali and a handful of rivals including Joaquin
Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and Andy Schleck will
begin the three-week race with three days of mainly flat racing in the north
of Ireland.

In a break from tradition, the race will begin in Belfast on a Friday with
a team time trial and continue with two mainly flat stages which should suit
the sprinters such as Britain’s Mark Cavendish.

After a stage three finish across the border in Dublin, the peloton will
enjoy a rest day on May 12 before resuming the race the next day from
Giovinazo to Bari on the ‘heel’ of Italy.

The race makes its way north with a slightly uphill finish on stages five
and six and another flat stage which the sprinters and non-climbers will
welcome on stage seven.

The first of five stages in the mountains comes on stages eight and nine,
from Foligno to Montecopiolo and Lugo to Sestola respectively.

After the second of three rest days, the ‘punchers’ – riders who excel on
lumpy finishes – will be given a chance to shine on stage 10 from Modena to
Salsomaggiore Terme.

The next day has a hilly start, but finishes on the flat.

The battle for the race’s pink jersey will move up a gear on stage 12
during a 46.4 km individual time trial which is almost all uphill. From
Barbaresco to Barolo, it has been labelled ‘the wine stage’.

After a flat finish on stage 13, the race only gets harder and harder.

Stage 14 features four climbs and an uphill finish at Oropa while the
following day’s 217 km features a long flat stretch before ending with the
climb to Plan di Montecampione.

After the final rest day, three climbs and another uphill finish welcome
the peloton on stage 16 to Val Martello.

Another uphill finish features on stage 18 to Malga Panarotta, a day before
the overall victory contenders tackle a difficult uphill time trial over 26.8
km from Bassano to Cima Grappa.

The following day is probably the race’s key stage – 167 km ride over three
mountain passes including the rarely-raced Monte Zoncolan.

The race’s 21st and final stage from Gemona to Trieste brings the race to
an end on a circuit to be raced eight times.