Two stages against the clock and a plethora of summit finishes will spice up next year's first Grand Tour.
A 9.7km-long individual time trial will kick off proceedings at the 101st edition of the Giro d'Italia (4-27 May), with the race starting from Israel for the first time in history. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat will play host to the first three stages, before the peloton will travel to Italy, for a hat-trick of stages in Sicily, where the riders will tackle the infamous Mount Etna for the second consecutive year, but from a different side this time.
The Apennines will feature in the second week, after the summit finishes to Montevergine di Mercogliano and Campo Imperatore, but the first stern test of the race – and a potential decider in the fight for the overall standings – will arrive on stage 14, when the riders will go up the grueling slopes of the Monte Zoncolan, the climb which has debuted in the Corsa Rosa nearly two decades ago.
Week three will bring fireworks, as the race will visit Prato Nevoso, Bardonecchia, Cervinia or Cole delle Finestre and its gravel roads, but also see the overall contenders take on a 34.5km time trial between Trento and Rovereto; long story short, a parcourse that should deliver opportunities aplenty for the stage hunters, but also for the pink jersey favourites. Rome, which will bring down the curtain over the race with a flat stage, will feature for the first time in history as start and finish of a non-ITT stage.
In the 14 editions Quick-Step Floors has raced since the team's inception, back in 2003, the squad managed by Patrick Lefevere has won 21 stages; five of these came at the most recent edition, thanks to the likes of Fernando Gaviria and Bob Jungels, who also took home two of the Giro's prestigious jerseys (cyclamen and white). In 2018, our team will aim to be again among the main protagonists of the season's first Grand Tour.
"Next year's edition offers a nice mix of mountains, sprints and hilly stages, which will make for an interesting race. For sure, we'll once again bring a good squad comprising motivated riders, who'll have some opportunities to win a stage. It will not be easy, as the Giro is one of the toughest races in the world; there's rarely an easy day there, so nothing will come for free", said Quick-Step Floors' sports director Davide Bramati.
In his 17 years as pro, Bramati has participated on twelve occasions in the Corsa Rosa, so it's a safe bet to say the race has no secrets for him anymore: "I think the route is harder than the one of this year. There are less time trial kilometers and some really hard mountain stages, especially in the final weekend. Of course, the sprinters will have their chance; from what I could see, there will be somewhere between four and six, maybe seven stages for them. Although the final days of the Giro will be decisive, we can't neglect the opening week, with three mountain top finishes on the menu. As always, the battle for the general classification will start early in the Giro."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele