Stage 1: Apeldoorn – Apeldoorn
The 2016 Giro d’Italia opens with a 9.8km individual time trial in the city of Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. The flat route is similar to the ITT opening of last year’s Tour de France in Utrecht. The Dutch must be proud — two grand tours in two years!
The Giro d’Italia hasn’t opened with an individual time trial since 2012. Back then, Taylor Phinney was the fastest man in Herning, Denmark, on an 8.7km track. He averaged a not inconsiderable 50.032kmph. This year, the riders will roll off the ramp in the Velodrome in Apeldoorn for a quick tour of the city, which also played host to the track World Championships in 2011. The flat circuit is mostly long, straight roads, though there are a couple of ninety-degree turns in there. It is really only at the end when the riders have to slow down for two curves — on the other sections it is a matter of all systems go. There’s an intermediate time check at 4.8km, to give the teams some idea of how their riders are faring out on course. It’s more or less like in the opening time trial of the Tour de France in 2015, which was located 70km to the southeast of Apeldoorn.
Aside from the opening ITT, the 2016 Giro brings a 40.4km hill ITT in Chianti and a 10.8 mountain ITT in the Dolomites. Obviously, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin will be eyeing up all time trials, beginning with the one on home soil in Apeldoorn. But there are other candidates. Fabian Cancellara is fully motivated ahead of this year’s Giro, and, with his classics season straying a little from his plans, he’ll fancy a spell in the pink jersey after stage one. Bob Jungels is another in-form time trial rider who’ll go well here. But the course is so short that it could go in any number of directions, so don’t count out Jos Van Eden, Matthias Brändle, or Daniel Oss. We might even see some of the G.C. men go for some early seconds, so look out for Rigoberto Uran and Alejandro Valverde.
Stage 2: Arnhem – Nijmegen
Stage 2 in the 2016 Giro d’Italia is a 190km race leading from Arnhem to Nijmegen, both located in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Despite some modest climbs, this one should be for the fast men. After all, we are in one of the flattest countries on earth.
Over the John Frost Bridge and the Nelson Mandela Bridge, the pack leaves Arnhem and heads for the Veluwe, an area dense with forest. Passing touristic locales Hoenderloo and Otterlo, the pack then heads back towards the River Rhine. In Rhenen the first little obstacle appears: Grebberg, a 600m climb at 7.1%.
Passing through the Betuwe, a typical Dutch region located between two rivers, the Rhine and the Waal, the riders reach the forested and slightly hilly section to the southeast of Nijmegen. The first KOM points in the 2016 Giro are to be earned at the Van Randwijckweg — expect a dash out of the breakaway. This 1km climb at 6.8% gets steeper near the top, with a maximum gradient of 10%.
After cresting the climb, there are 35km remaining before the likely sprint finish. A circuit of 8.6km is to be taken twice, and it’s here that we’ll see the sprint trains lining up. Look to Marcel Kittel and André Greipel for stage winner; the podium should be rounded off by Caleb Ewan, Giacomo Nizzolo, Sacha Modolo, or perhaps Elia Viviani (it’s Viviani’s best shot at a win, before Sky’s G.C. campaign hots up).
Stage 3: Nijmegen – Anrhem
In the 3rd stage of the Giro, riders face a 190km course from Nijmegen to Arnhem. It is not exactly stage 2 in reverse, though, as the route now bends eastwards, whereas the Arnhem-Nijmegen route explored the area to the west. After crossing the River Waal, the pack will pass through small villages like Bemmel, Huissen and Hummelo, whilst heading for the Achterhoek region. This is the birthplace of Dutch climber Robert Gesink, despite it being an extremely flat rural area with vast and open pastures and fields. That’s a recipe for crosswinds.
After a sprint through the Achterhoek, riders return to Arnhem. The only KOM climb is at Posbank – 2.1 kilometres at 3% with a steepest section of 10% near the top. Once there, it’s still over 60km of early undulating road left to the finish line. The last Dutch stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia closes with two circuits in Arnhem, both 13.8km. We’d put money on it being another one for yesterday’s candidates — so, look to Kittel, Greipel, Ewan, or whomever surprises us on stage 2. However — and it is only a slight ‘however’ — the big threat of crosswinds mid-course could come in to play. If there’s even a risk of echelon riding, you can bet a rider like Vincenzo Nibali will try to animate things. If a break goes and the winds pick up, there’s an increased chance a strong rider could make it. Let’s throw out a few names: Daniel Oss, Nathan Haas, Simon Clarke, Filippo Pozzato. But keep your money on the sprint.
More from us soon! Stay tuned for stages 4-6. For our preview of the General Classification and Sprint categories, click here: http://www.marmeladrome.co.uk/preview-giro-ditalia-2016/