The first road cycling men's Grand Tour of the 2021 season, the 104th Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), gets underway in Turin on Saturday 8 May with prior Grand Tour champions Egan Bernal, Simon Yates, and Vincenzo Nibali all eyeing the winner's pink jersey, or maglia rosa.
Last year's champion Tao Geoghegan-Hart is not defending his maglia rosa, leaving the field open to the 2019 Tour de France winner Bernal, 2018 Vuelta a España victor Yates, and four-time Grand Tour winner Nibali.
For the third time in the race's history, the Giro will start in the former Italian capital of Turin to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the founding of modern Italy. This also occurred in 1961 and 2011 for the 100th and 150th anniversaries.
Riders will complete nearly 3,500 km over 21 stages, finishing on 30 May in Milan. As seen in three of the last four editions of the Giro, the final stage will be a time trial, instead of the winner's procession normally seen in the Tour and Vuelta.
Giro General Classification men to watch
Some 184 riders – eight each from 23 teams – will take to the start line in Turin.
In addition to the 19 UCI WorldTour teams, last year's top UCI ProSeries team Alpecin-Fenix as well as three Italian wild card squads will take part in the 104th Giro.
With Geoghegan-Hart not in attendance, his INEOS Grenadiers team-mate Bernal will wear the number 01 race bib. Bernal is hoping to make up for a disappointing 2020 season, in which he was forced to withdraw from his Tour de France title defence midway through due to back pain.
Yates meanwhile comes in as a hot favourite after winning the warm-up Tour of the Alps. The Team BikeExchange rider will be ably supported by a strong team including Mikel Nieve, a four-time Grand Tour stage winner and 2016 Giro King of the Mountains (blue jersey).
The big question surrounding Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) is how much his right wrist will bother him. The Italian will be competing after breaking the wrist in training earlier in April.
Also on the radar are last year's runner-up Jai Hindley and two-time Tour de France podium finisher Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Deceuninck-Quick Step's young guns Remco Evenepoel – making his return after his bad crash at Il Lombardia in August 2020 – and João Almeida, and last year's Vuelta third place finisher Hugh Carthy of EF Education-Nippo.
Other key riders at Giro 2021
Eyes will also be on Bernal's INEOS teammate Filippo Ganna, the reigning world time trial champion who won all three individual time trials (ITTs) in last year's Giro.
With two more ITTs planned on this year's route, on the opening and finishing stages, Ganna will be expected to deliver in front of the home fans in Italy.
The sprinters will hope to shine too on the flat stages. Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe, who is warming up at the Tour de Romandie, should be in the mix for the points leaders' cyclamen jersey.
Look also for Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), home hope Elia Viviani (Cofidis), and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma in his first Grand Tour since serving a suspension for dangerous riding.
Giro 2021 route and important stages
Eight of the 21 stages will finish at the top of climbs, including a finish-line summit on the notoriously steep Monte Zoncolan (stage 14).
The eight uphill finales are: Sestola, Ascoli Piceno, Guardia Sanframondi, Campo Felice, Zoncolan, Sega di Ala, Alpe di Mera and Alpe Motta.
Also on this year's race is the Sass Pordoi on stage 16, which will be the Cima Coppi, the tallest mountain pass of the race.
There are also two stages on which the peloton will race over gravel roads: uphill at the end of stage 9 on the Rocca di Cambio at Campo Felice (1.6 km), and on stage 11 from Perugia to Montalcino (35 km over four different sectors).
While last year's race did not leave Italy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 104th running of the Giro will cross two national borders: on stage 15 from Grado to Gorizia, which mostly takes place on the Slovenian side of the border; and on the penultimate stage 20 from Verbania to Alpe Motta, which passes through Switzerland including two mountain climbs.
Day-by-day route of 2021 Giro d'Italia
8 May: Torino-Torino (time trial, 9 km)
9 May: Stupinigi-Novara (173 km)
10 May: Biella-Canale (187 km)
11 May: Piacenza-Sestola (186 km)
12 May: Modena-Cattolica (171 km)
13 May: Genga-Ascoli (150 km)
14 May: Notaresco – Termoli (178 km)
15 May: Foggia-Guardia Sanframondi (173 km)
16 May: Castel di Sangro-Campo Felice (160 km)
17 May: L'aquila-Foligno (140 km)
18 May: rest day
19 May: Perugia-Montalcino (163 km)
20 May: Siena-Bagno di Romagna (209 km)
21 May: Ravenna-Verona (197 km)
22 May: Cittadella-Zoncolan (205 km)
23 May: Grado-Gorizia (145 km)
24 May: Sacile-Cortina (212 km)
25 May: rest day
26 May: Canazei-Sega di Ala (193 km)
27 May: Rovereto-Stradella (228 km)
28 May: Abbiategrasso-Alpe di Mera (178 km)
29 May: Verbania-Alpe Motta (164 km)
30 May: Senago-Milano (time trial, 29 km)