As soon as the 2018 Giro d’Italia route was presented on Wednesday, Team Sky announced that its star rider Chris Froome would indeed be at the start in Jerusalem next May, when he will strive to make history by winning the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Tour de France consecutively.
Words by James Startt | Images by Startt and RCS
“It’s a unique situation for me, having won the Tour and the Vuelta and now having the opportunity to go to the Giro and attempt to win a third consecutive grand tour,” Froome said. “It’s really exciting to be able to take on a new challenge, to do something that perhaps people wouldn’t expect and to mix it up. It’s a whole new motivation for me to see if I can pull off something special next year.”
Indeed, victory in the great Italian stage race would be unmatched in recent history, but Froome knows that it will not come easily, as the Giro is one of the most complicated races to master. And the 2018 edition will be particularly tricky, as there will be added transfers to negotiate.
As has long been announced, the 2018 Giro will start in Israel, making it the first grand tour to venture outside of Europe. The historic start will begin with a 9.7-kilometer individual time trial around Jerusalem, followed by two road stages in Israel. From there, the race makes its first major transfer, returning to the Italian island of Sicily. Stage 5 will start in Agrigento, home to the 1994 world road championships, where the pack will roll out under the shadows of the many Greek temples that crown this hilltop town. But the Sicilian excursion will end with another stage finish on Mount Etna. And while it is the second straight year for a stage up the volcanic peak, next year will be the first time time that the Etna stage will finish at the Astrophysical Observatory.
Making its way to mainland Italy after six days of racing, the Giro will then venture up the backbone of the country. Riders will meet further difficulties on stages 8 and 9 with summit finishes at Montevergine di Mercogliano and Gran Sasso d’Italia. And then, just before the final week’s racing, the riders will hit the ultra-steep, 20-percent slopes of the infamous Monte Zoncolan.
After the third and final rest day, the riders will then compete in the event’s most significant individual time trial, a 34.5-kilometer affair from Trento to Rovereto, before moving to the Italian Alps along the French border for three crucial stages. Crowning the final days in the Alps will include trekking over the grueling Colle del Finestre on stage 19. While the 2,178-meter (7,145-foot) mountain pass is awarded the Cima Coppi title this year as the race’s highest peak, it is the climb’s 9 kilometers of narrow gravel roads that the riders and teams will fear the most. It promises to be an epic stage. One final day of climbing then awaits the riders on stage 20 from Susa to Cervinia. And it may well be the hardest, as they will tackle no less than 4,500 meters (almost 15,000 feet) of vertical elevation in just three climbs. By the finish of the penultimate stage, the rider wearing the pink leader’s jersey will undoubtedly have deserved his victory in the Giro.
For Froome, as with next year’s Tour de France, there will likely be plenty of traps. But he will benefit from a well-balanced route as climbing stages and flat stages are evenly interspersed throughout the three weeks. And with nearly 45 kilometers of generally flat time trialing, Froome will have plenty of opportunity to grab time from the climbing specialists. It could also entice defending champion Tom Dumoulin to return, as he is the one grand tour rider that can rival Froome in the race against the clock.
Froome, of course, knows that there will be plenty of rivals with or without Dumoulin, and Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa are all likely rivals. But Froome seems set on writing his own story in the history books, and although it will make a fifth Tour de France victory more difficult for him, the Kenyan-born Brit, as well as his entire Sky team, is excited by the challenge. “Some of cycling’s greatest stories have been played out at the Giro d’Italia and next year gives us a chance to write our own chapter,” Team Sky principal Sir David Brailsford said. “It’s something that we have looked at in detail as a team. Some of the very best riders have attempted to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same season but very few have been successful, so it’s a challenge we have enormous respect for.”