Stage 1 – Turin Time Trial, 20kms (tbc)
We start at 9 am and leave directly from our hotel and complete a 20 kms (approx.) circular route. We arrive back at the hotel and have time for a quick shower before transferring by coach at 11 am to Milan in order to watch the finish of the official 2011 Giro d’Italia. A great way to start the tour by seeing the real professionals in action.
Stage 2 – Alba to Palma, 246kms (765m ascent)
Long and flat, this stage has few difficulties apart from its sheer length. There are 2 short climbs near the start and the finish which will serve as a bit of a test of riders’ legs.
Main challenges: Head or cross winds could be hard; group riding will be essential.
Sites/attractions: rolling hills east of Alba where wine, capers and truffles are the specialities; the flat rice fields where Italian risotto rice comes from; Salsomaggio – an old thermal town with some extraordinary architecture; our evening restaurant which claims to be the best in Parma, a town renowned for its gastronomy.
Stage 3 – Reggio to Rapallo, 1863kms (1670m of ascent)
Nearly 70kms shorter than Stage 1, this is an interesting stage which, if paced right, will make for a great day on the bike. The main climb of the day is long (50kms!) but gentle all the way, and becomes more picturesque as the climb progresses. Once over this climb the descent is absolutely superb, with views down to the Mediterranean. Just one (steeper) climb remains before plunging down to the charming port of Rapallo.
Main challenges: The length of the main climb; staying safe on the ultra-fast descent; the final 4km climb of the stage. A truly classic stage of the Giro route.
Sites/attractions: Impressive open valley landscape of the main climb before it becomes wooded near the top; a unique Italian twisting descent down to the Liguria coast; spectacular coastal road leading to Rapallo, a very popular Ligurian resort.
Stage 4. 1 June 2011 – Quarto to Livorno, 204kms (1864m ascent)
After a bumpy start along the rocky coast , we turn inland on quieter roads for the one gentle climb of the stage before returning to the coast for a very flat and long stretch to Livorno, via the Leaning Tower itself. Typically, the Giro has spiced up the stage with the inclusion of a tough 5km climb just before the finish.
Main challenges: 2 climbs, with the finale climb the obvious star of the stage; a long 200km stage that will feel long; picturesque coastal roads.
Sites/attractions: More superb coastal road round rocky bays with stunning views over the sea; following the wooded climb inland, the coast is re-joined as we follow the very flat coastline, passing Marinas and nature reserves before passing by the Tower of Pisa. Massive views over the port of Livorno from the old hamlet of Montenero, that sits at the top of final dramatic climb.
Stage 5. 2 June 2011 – Piombino to Orvietto, 204kms (2631m ascent)
The first of two very scenic stages. This one takes us into Tuscany and rolls along throughout the stage. There are the occasional steep sections but these are short and not overly difficult. Roads are a lot quieter here and the scenery superb.
Main challenges: An unforgettable section of gravel road that includes the steepest climb of the stage; rolling climbs but never too long or steep.
Sites/attractions: Tuscany and Umbria in all their beauty and charm; open rolling, neat countryside with fields of corn, avenues of Cyprus trees, hilly vineyards and, in Umbria, extensive hazelnut orchards; the tiny village of Fighine; the historic fortified town of Orvieto with its unique cathedral that attracts tourists all year round.
Stage 6. 3 June 2011 – Orviettto to Fiuggi Terme 196kms (2357m ascent)
After a welcome start to the stage without a transfer, this stage leaves Umbria behind and heads down towards the outskirts of Rome. There are frequent climbs but most are between 3-5km long and never too steep. With the exception of the section near Rome this is another quiet rural stage. It does however end with a beautiful but harder 10km climb up to the thermal town of Fiuggi Terme.
Main challenges: After a rolling stage the final climb will seem long but the views will take minds off any pain!
Sites/attractions : This stage takes in numerous fortified hilltop towns; the last climb offers infinite views of the plain extending across to Rome; the thermal town of Fiuggi Terme with its impressive spas and town square.
Stage 7. 4th June 2011- Maddlaoni to Montevergine, 97kms (2842m ascent)
We are now in challenging Giro country, the scenery is first class, classic climbs and quiet roads. This is also a welcome shorter stage. Both climbs are about 16km long; the first is a steady 5-6% whereas the second one, up to the Sanctuary of Montevergine, has occasional 10% sections. It is a hilly stage but at only just over 100km in length, this is a very ‘do-able’ stage. The pro’s will race it from the start line, whereas we will be able to enjoy our first taste of Giro climbs.
Main challenges: Two ‘proper’ climbs, with hairpins, views, drama and beauty; trying not to look up to the top of the final climb, which appears a long way UP!
Sites/attractions: The superb multi-storey aquaduct outside Maddaloni; the wild scenery of Monte Taburno; the old town of Montesarchio; the mountain-top Sanctuary of Montevergine with its museum, bar and restaurant. Most villages are left untouched through the centuries and if it is a clear day you will be able to see Mount Vesuvius in the distance.
Stage 8. 5th June 2011- Sapri to Tropea , 213kms (1793m ascent)
After 50kms along a stunning rocky coastline this stage goes flat for the rest of the way, very flat. It’s another long one but this will not prove too hard now that legs will have got used to things. It is over 200kms though, so it should be carefully paced.
Main challenges: A rolling start that should be taken gently; some stretches of busy road; coastal breeze might be aggressive (but could also be a blessing if it’s hot!).
Sites/attractions : The quiet isolated port of Sapri in its remote bay; spectacular rocky coastline road to begin the day; long stretches of beach road; many places to stop for ‘extra refreshments’ on the beach; the old town centre of Tropea.
We take a ferry as foot passengers across to Sicily for our overnight stay.
Stage 9. 6th June 2011-Messina to Etna, 165kms (3832m ascent)
Discover Sicily in a day: a truly epic stage with two climbs up the sides of Mt Etna. After a busy section of coastal road from the ferry port, we turn inland for the road that will take us up the north side of the volcano. A 20km climb which is wooded almost all the way and stays at a steady 6-7%. This will be a ‘warm up’ for the harder and more dramatic 2nd climb: after a descent back down to the sea, the stage finishes with a 23km climb up the southern side of the volcano. 6-8% after a steep 2km start that will seem scary to some!
Main challenges: Sicilians in their cars (!); two long climbs.
Sites/attractions : During the long stretch along the coast we pass the stunning hilltop town of Taormina from where the majestic Mt Etna with its eternal smoky plume becomes visible. Sicilian architecture is at its best, especially the town of Linguaglossa; the first view of the lavascape after a beautiful wooded climb on the north slope; the coastal road with its views going down towards Catania; the eerie, mysterious lava landscape of the second climb; Sicilian cakes; Sicilian wine.
At the end of the day those taking part in all stages will say goodbye to their bikes as they will be transported by road to Termoli for Stage 10. The support crew leave the group to also travel to Termoli. Everyone will be looked after by a local representative. Overnight on Sicily.
Stage 10. 8th June 2011 – Termoli to Teramo ,158kms (47m ascent)
Another shorter stage which will be very welcome. Our first stage along the Adriatic coast, which is very flat! We avoid the busy SS16 as much as possible, often going right along the coast on a residential road. A seaside stage all the way, with just a little bump to circumnavigate Ortona, which should be enjoyed since it presents no real challenges. Even the last 20km inland to Terramo are a only long gradual uphill.
Main challenges: Lots of very straight road; having to resist stopping all the time for a swim and an ice-cream!
Sites/attractions: Stage starts in the old town of Termoli, in the Molise region. We pass over the cycle path bridge in the port of Pescara before turning inland to the historic town centre of Terramo with its Roman foundations and 12th century cathedral.
Stage 11. 9th June 2011- Teramo to Castelfidardo, 165 kms (3131 ascent)
The scenery on this stage is is just superb with loads of very impressive hill-top towns that you will cycle through. Most climbs are less than five km in length, but there are many of them. This is definitely one of the most picturesque stages and will provide a stunning day on the bike on very quiet rural roads.
Main challenges: Numerous climbs that need patiently dealing with, one at a time; a few steeper sections.
Sites/attractions: The old hilltop towns, notably Monte San Martino, Sant Angelo and Recanati; beautiful valley views over wild countryside; the hilltop finish town of Castelfidardo with its grand architecture and piazzas.
Stage 12. 10th June 2011- Castelfidardo to Ravenna , 167km (182m ascent)
After a short hilly section at the start, to avoid a section of busy road, we re-join the Adriatic coast again and follow it on beautiful roads all the way up to Ravenna. A slightly shorter than usual stage and almost totally flat. This is the last stage before heading north to the mountains so it should be ridden cautiously.
Main challenges: Easing off stiff legs after stage 11; resisting more ice-creams and sandy beaches; meeting many other cyclists and trying to look as well dressed as them.
Sites/attractions: The gorgeous cycling avenues leading into and along Riccione and Rimini. This is the cycling centre for Italian training holidays and it is easy to understand why. The mountains loom behind, but the coastal avenues are terrific for cycling in a more ‘gentle’ way too.
Stage 13. 12th June 2011 – Spilimbergo to Grossglockner , 171km (4263m ascent)
The Giro visits Austria. This is a nicely progressive stage with the climbs gradually becoming more serious. The route follows a stunning wide valley in its early part with dramatic views towards the Austrian Alps. Roads are quiet and very good quality surface. We arrive in Austria via the Passo di Monte Carnico which is effectively a try-out for the last climb of the stage. The Gailbergsattel and the Iselsbergpass are in between the two but neither are too steep or too long. They will tire legs though, before the final 9km climb up the Grossglockner. This is the first of a string of truly spectacular mountain stages and is a beautiful introduction to the character of the Northern Italian/Austrian Alps.
Main challenges: Four true climbs, even though the only steep section is the very last two km of the stage which average at 12%.
Sites/attractions: A taste of Austria; Austrian cakes; stunning valley and mountain scenery; a slightly different feel to Italy; the beautiful Grossglockner Pass.
Stage 14. 13th June 2011- Lienz to Zoncolan , 217kms (5849m ascent)
One of the hardest stages of the Giro. But what a spectacular route! After a start in Austria, which is fairly gentle for the first 40km, the first of two trio of climbs begins – the highest of which is the Passo di Monte Croce Comelico at 1,636m. This sees us half way into the stage, so these climbs should be taken as cautiously as possible. After a long descent from the Passo della Mauria via Ampezzo, the last trio of climbs starts with the short but steep climb up to the remote little village of Aviglio. Next comes the Monte Crostis, appearing in the Giro for the first time, which climbs 1100m in 10km. After this savage climb we arrive at the foot of one of the most feared and iconic climbs of Italy: the Zoncolan. Often compared to Mont Ventoux in terms of difficulty, it is shorter but a lot steeper. Of course it will hurt everyone, but an end to a truly epic day on the bike. Italy, the Giro, at its essential best.
Main challenges : six hard climbs on a long stage, especially the last three; Monte Crostis and Zoncolan back-to-back will be a tale to dine out on for the rest of your days.
Sites/attractions : the iconic Zoncolan climb with its panels dedicated to past heroes; a second taste of Austria to start with in Lienz; wild and dramatic mountain scenery; tiny remote mountain villages.
Stage 16. 14th June 2011 – Belluno to Nevegal TT, 13kms (753m ascent)
We will warm up with a flat 6km along the valley before climbing up to Nevegal. Of course this would be hard to do if trying to win a stage, but we will take it gently here and save our strength for what is to come. Apart from a middle section of 3km at an average of 10%, this is not to be feared especially. For once the Giro has gone a little ‘soft’, compared to the hill-climb last year at the Plan de Corones, for example.
Stage 15. 15 June 2011, Conegliano to Gardeccia, 241kms (6518m ascent)
Fortunately we will be riding the short hill-climb in between these two stages and so will benefit from a half-day of rest. This is another BIG stage. A truly heroic day to have cycled, which will take a long time to do. But you will be riding in the trail of true heroes and passing over the highest point of the Giro route : the Passo Giau, otherwise known as the Cima Coppi in memory to the greatest climber Italy ever produced. But before this one the Piancavallo (14km) and the Forcella Ciabana (10km) will test your climbing legs thoroughly. The Passo Giau is 16km of tough but spectacular road in the heart of the Dolomites. It is wilder than the Passo Fedaia, which follows, and will surely be the highlight of the day for many. The Passo Fedaia (or Marmalada, as it is also known) has a tough middle section of dead-straight 10% but other- wise will just have to be dealt with patiently and determinedly. By this time the stage is almost won. However, the final climb up to the ski-station of Val di Fassa will be a very unforgettable 7km!
Main challenges: 5 hard Dolomite climbs; it is a long stage; the two hardest climbs come at 155km and 185km into the stage respectively.
Sites/attractions: Conegliano is a very beautiful, old bourgeois town with some impressive architecture, (our hotel here is particularly special); the top of the “Cima Coppi” is a very privileged place to be; the lake at the top of the Passo Fedaia; the wooden houses and hotels of Canazei; the superb ski resort of Val di Fassa/Gardecia.
Stage 17. 16 June 2011, Feltre to Sondrio, 244kms (3719m ascent)
The penultimate long stage, but this time it is almost a ‘rolling’ stage rather than a ‘mountain’ stage, relatively speaking! The two main climbs (Passo Tonale and Aprica) are both roughly 15km in length and average at 4-6%. However this is a long one, even if the last 30km consist of a very well deserved downhill to Sondrio. This is a ‘farewell to the Dolomites’ stage, but without the raw drama of stages 14 and 15. The first 100km are relatively gentle.
Main challenges: the distance; Passo Tonale, as the main climb of the stage; tired legs.
Sites/attractions: More amazing views of the Dolomites; the old town centre of Aprica. DISTANCE WILL MAKE IT HARD. PASSO TONALE:15KM @ 6-7%; APRICA: 15KM 4-5%
Stage 18. 17 June 2011, Morbegnon to San Pellegrino, 154kms (1823m ascent)
After a rather mundane start, this stage gradually becomes one of the most picturesque of the whole route. It is also welcomingly flat (until km 108) and much shorter than the previous stages. The first real treat is the road along the shores of Lake Como which is simply magical. Once through Bergamo the route meanders along a wide valley floor until it turns up towards the Passo di Ganda. This is a narrow, wooded climb which is steep in places, but is the only difficulty of the stage. Once at the summit (views galore) there is a glorious roller-coaster section where we maintain altitude (and enjoy yet more views) for approx. 15km before starting a superb long descent to the finish. The road is safe, with good visibility even when passing through impressive gorges. Finally, after 2km of flat, San Pellegrino appears with some quite extraordinary buildings.
Main challenges: keeping eyes on the road when riding alongside Lake Como; the one climb of the stage with its steep ramps in the early part of its 9km; thinking the downhill has begun but then spotting another short climb.
Sites/attractions: Lake Como; Bergamo; the secluded summit of Passo di Ganda; the descent through the gorges near San Pellegrino; the old, abandoned hotels of San Pellegrino (we stay in a ‘live’ one!).
Stage 19. 18 June 2011, Bergamo to Macugnaga, 221kms (2874m ascent)
A stage that looks worse on paper than it really is. After a very interesting view of the park and palace of Monza, and some more lakeside treats, the route gradually heads up and over the hills again via a 12km climb up to Mottarone (1341m). The second half of this climb averages at 9%, so it should be respected, but once over this one – it is a beautiful narrow, wooded road- a long descent is followed by a 20km section of flat straight roads that lead riders to the long climb up to Macugnaga, also making its first appearance in the Giro. Although this is 20km long, it rarely rises any sharper than 5% and so is quite do-able, even with tired legs. The valley is quite beautiful and the road surface is good.
Main Challenges: completing another long stage; the steep second half of the Mottarone climb; the 20km ‘drag’ up to the finish line.
Sites/Attractions: the Monza Palace and its park; views over Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta; the remote ‘dead-end’ village of Macugnaga.
Stage 20. 19 June 2011, Verbania to Sestriere, 250kms (3383m ascent)
Effectively the final stage of the event. Another long one, but the stage is almost flat for its first 175km. This part of the stage should be taken as ‘easily’ as possible since the last 40km are designed for the ‘final shoot-out’ of the Giro champions. The Colle del Finestre has 10 of its 18km on gravel roads and averages 8-10% all the way up. It will be a very special climb for everyone. Quite unique and perfectly Italian. You will be doing something very special here. No sooner down from this one than the 17km of the Sestriere climb jumps out at you. Although less steep (average 5%) it is still a tough climb, but this is The Last Climb, so strength will come!
Main Challenges: The Finestre climb is one of the three toughest climbs of the Giro (along with the Zoncolan and the Monte Crostis); the Sestriere as it is the final test of your legs!
Sites/Attractions: the grand boulevards of Turin; the lakeside roads; the gravel road of Finestre; the atmosphere at the top of Sestriere!
Stage 21. 20 June 2011, Milan Time Trial (tbc)
Our final day will be relaxed ride around the city, taking in as many of the main sites and monuments, and celebrating what has been a remarkable challenge for all involved.