Few sports demand the stamina and endurance levels of professional road cycle racing. Riders are tested to their limits across mountain & hill climbs, flat stages and sprint finishes in arguably the most demanding adventures imaginable. No cycling events are more gruelling than the Grand Tours, of which there are three; Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España. All are multi-week races with daily stages and the only cycle events allowed to last longer than 14 days. Riders regularly clock up well over 3,000 kilometres during the Grand Tours and they generally occur between May and October. It is, therefore, extremely rare for riders to complete all three in a single year, with just 32 accomplishing this. On top of that, only Raphael Geminiani (1955) and Gastone Nencini (1957) have ever finished in the top 10 of each in one season. Read on for the low-down on the upcoming Tour de France and Vuelta, as well as a review of this year’s Giro.
Giro d’Italia, May 5th-28th
It was fitting that the Giro d’Italia’s 100th edition proved to be an historic one. The 23-day event, which started in Sardinia on May 5th 2017, covered a grand total of 3,609.1 kilometres and went through all but four of Italy’s 20 regions. Movistar’s Colombian superstar Nairo Quintana was on track to add to his 2014 title heading into the final day, but Tom Dumoulin surged back and steadily chipped away at the 53-second deficit to eventually cross the line at the spectacular Duomo in Milan some 31 seconds ahead on Sunday 28th. In doing so, he became the Giro’s first Dutch champion. Dumoulin had previously worn the maglia rosa – leader’s the pink jersey – for nine successive days before Quintana took it on the final Friday. No fewer than four riders were in the running on the last day, but Dumoulin’s renowned ability in time trials gave him the edge and he lifted the grand spiralled trophy.
Tour de France, July 1st-23rd
The oldest and arguably most prestigious of the three Grand Tours, the Tour de France will run for just over three weeks in July and continue to draw crowds from all over the world. It’ll also continue its tradition of Le Grand Depart, the start of the race, taking place abroad. Dusseldorf in western Germany has the honour this time, with the track then taking riders on to Liege in Belgium, followed by France. The race is expected to favour riders who count sprint finishes among their strengths, with the course having the potential for nine fast finales. There will still be plenty of steep sections, however, with all five of France’s mountain ranges making an appearance for the first time since the 1992 edition; the Alps, Jura, Pyrenees, Massif Central and the Vosges. Team Sky’s Chris Froome has won the Tour de France in three of the last four years and is the favourite again, with the number of sprint finishes boosting his hopes. But he’ll likely face stiff competition from Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador if he is to charge victorious down the Champs-Elysees.
Vuelta a España, August 19th-September 10th
The youngest of the three Grand Tours, Spain’s Vuelta has been running since 1935 and for every year since 1955. The 72nd edition will see riders begin the event in France for the first time ever, with Nimes chosen as the starting point. An early section of the race will also take place in Andorra, the tiny principality nestled amongst the Pyrenees. However, the 2017 Vuelta will stick to tradition in terms of the first stage being a team time trial, while it will also finish in Madrid, as usual. Riders can expect a gruelling course this year, with five mountain stages and another eight hill stages taking up more than half of the 21 routes. Added to that, there will be 50 summits for the riders to reach. It’s unclear yet whether reigning champion Nairo Quintana will compete, with the Colombian already tackling the Giro in May and likely to appear at the Tour de France. However, Vincenzo Nibali, who finished third in the Giro, has already revealed that he won’t be in action in July, with his eyes firmly set on the Vuelta.
Such is the physical and mental prowess on display by riders in the Grand Tours, it’s totally understandable if you’re inspired to saddle up yourself. At The Insurance Emporium, you could benefit from 45 days of Territorial Coverage per trip in the EU if you fancy tackling some of the Alpine climbs that you’ve seen your idols master. Spin by today to find out more!
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