What could be better than watching 22 teams of top-flight cyclists battling it out over three weeks across some of the most demanding terrain Europe has to offer? How about watching 23 teams do it. The UCI (International Cycling Union) has granted special dispensation to the organisers of this year’s Giro d’Italia – May 7 to 29 – to allow a total of 207 cyclists to start, a record number for the event.
The usual suspect first division teams will be joined the wild card selections comprising, Acqua & Sapone, Androni Giocattoli, Colnago-CSF Inox, Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli and Geox-TMC, the latter provisionally including 2009 Giro winner Denis Menchov along with 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre. Saxo Bank-SunGard’s Alberto Contador is already being touted as a race favourite (he was Giro winner in 2008), although the possibility of either the UCI or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) overturning the Spanish Cycling Federation’s decision to clear him after he tested positive for the banned drug Clenbuterol still hangs over his head.
The Giro begins with Turin Team Time Trials (try saying that three times fast) and will cover a total of 3496km and 17 regions before drawing to a close with Individual Time Trials in Milan over a distance of 32.8km. Amongst the many highlights will be the Mount Etna summit finish after a punishing 159km climb on day 9 and the evil looking uphill Individual Time Trial between Belluno and Nevegal on day 16.