Giro d’Italia 2021
The Giro d’Italia is the second biggest stage race after the Tour de France and has is a particularly special event for die-hard cycling fans. Every year the race winds its way through spectacular green countryside with rolling hills, along cypress-tree-lined streets, through quaint villages and famous wine regions, past major historical landmarks and along the beautiful Italian coastline overlooking sand and sea. But most importantly, the route takes the riders into the mountains to race on the steepest, most beautiful and most iconic mountain passes that the country has to offer. And all along the way, everyone’s minds are on good espressos, world-class wine and the finest Italian cuisine. This is exactly what enchants fans year after year. There’s a good reason why the race’s slogan is always ‘amore infinito’ – infinite love.
BORA – hansgrohe / Bettiniphoto
BORA – hansgrohe / Chiara Redaschi
BORA – hansgrohe / Christof Kreutzer
Giro d’Italia: a potted history
The Giro d’Italia was first staged in 1909, starting and ending in Milan and covering eight stages and 2,448 km. Out of the 127 cyclists who started the race, only 49 crossed the finish line. It’s a race with a long tradition. Its first race was a promotional campaign for the Italian sports newspaper ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’, following the Tour de France model. The newspaper still exists today and is the reason why the jersey for the leader of the general classification has had its unique pink colour since 1931. The coveted jersey is known as the ‘maglia rosa’ in Italian. There are three other classifications that are also awarded with a jersey: the points classification, the king of the mountains classification and best young rider classification. Unlike the Tour de France, these special jerseys have changed colour several times throughout the history of the Giro d’Italia. Today the best climber dons the blue jersey while the leader of the points classification wears the cyclamen-coloured jersey, the ‘maglia ciclamino’. The best young rider (U25) is awarded the white jersey.
The 2021 edition
This year’s Giro will be a feast for climbing specialists, sandwiched between two individual time trials at the 1st stage in Turin and the last one in Milan. 3,479.9 kilometres with around 47,000 metres of climbing have to be overcome, and the legendary Monte Zoncolan is on the programme. The queen stage crosses Passo Fedaia, Pordoi and Giau in the Dolomites over a distance of 212 km and an altitude of 5,700 m before ending in the sporting stronghold of Cortina d’Ampezzo, which will host the Winter Olympics for the second time in 2026. It will also be technically demanding, with 34 km over the iconic gravel roads of Tuscany, which are known from the spring classic Strade Bianche. Six flat stages give the sprinters the opportunity to show who has their nose in front in the points chase. In short: all the ingredients are in place for an exciting Tour of Italy before the winner is crowned with the pink jersey in front of Milan Cathedral.
The BORA – hansgrohe line up
Twenty-nine professional cyclists from ten different countries in one team. Teamwork makes the dream work in cycling, after all. Even if only one of them is the first over the finish line, winning is a success for the whole team because you can’t win in cycling without domestiques who provide slipstreams, go grab water bottles (the so-called “bidons”), keep the competition at bay and lead out the sprinter for the sprint.
Teamwork is top priority in the BORA – hansgrohe team, that’s how they constantly develop, improve and become more successful. The team started in the third division in 2010, still under the NetApp team name, and was evolving and getting better all the time until it was promoted to the first division in 2017. Just two years later and with a total of 47 victories under its belt, the team advanced to the second-best team in the WorldTour division. Resting on laurels is out of the question; in the past two years, the team has been continuously developed, refreshed and also rejuvenated in order to remain competitive. In the process, the team took an unconventional approach and looked outside the box, by, for example, signing up a mountain biker and a ski mountaineer and also relying on many young talents.
This year, 24 teams with 8 riders each will start at the Giro d’Italia. There are specialists for sprint stages, good climbers and all-rounders. For the overall classification, Emanuel Buchmann and Felix Großschartner will be on the start line, and three-time world champion Peter Sagan will be on the hunt for points and the “Maglia Ciclamino” again this year.
As a three-time world championship winner, seven-time winner of the green jersey at the Tour de France and winner of the Queen of the Classics Paris-Roubaix with a total of 116 wins in his career, Peter Sagan is one of the most successful professional cyclists ever. But there is one thing that the 31-year-old Slovakian cyclist is and that’s different. If we’ve learned one thing about this rock star of the cycling world, then it’s that he has unbelievable mental strength and that is he is a force to be reckoned with. He goes all in when he wins and equally so when he’s entertaining the fans. During the race you can see him signing autographs on the mountain passes or delighting the crowds by performing a wheelie because Peter Sagan not only considers it his duty to put on an impressive performance athletically, he also wants to put on a good show for the spectators. Last year, he managed four second place finishes and a very impressive solo victory, so fingers crossed that he achieves his “Maglia Ciclamino” goal this year.
Emanuel Buchmann turned pro at BORA - hansgrohe and over the years “Emu” has established himself as one of the best tour riders in the world. He usually doesn’t say much; he prefers to let his actions do the talking and show just what he’s capable of on the bike. In the 2019 Tour de France, he was only a few seconds off making the podium thanks to his tremendous consistency over 21 stages in Paris. In 2020, a crash prevented such an exceptional performance and this year he is pursuing a new target; the nature of his first Giro d’Italia suits him as Emu excels on long, steep climbs.
This year, the 21-year-old became a professional cyclist in the team, but Giovanni has nonetheless already had some notable successes in his career so far: he is the reigning Under-23 Italian champion, he also managed to finish second in the 2019 Tour de l’Avenir and fourth in the 2020 Giro Ciclistico d’Italia (also known as the “Baby Giro”). Both races are generally very highly regarded for talent scouts. He is looking forward to his first three-week tour back home with great anticipation and pride, but also excitement.
Cece, as his teammates call him, hails from South Tyrol. Besides his native Italian, he also speaks German, English, French, some Spanish, and if they weren’t enough, Polish too since love brought him to Poland. This means that he can communicate with most of the riders in the peloton in their native languages. Cesare was one of the first riders who Ralph Denk recruited to his 2010 line up, a team that was in the third division and known as Team NetApp back then. Cece is one of the best and most loyal domestiques in the peloton. He gives it everything he’s got to help his team; he prefers to stay out of the spotlight. So, you can imagine how wild the cycling world went when this team player par excellence battled to win the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia 2019. It was the first win in his professional career, and at one of the biggest and most prestigious races in the world. No one in the peloton would have begrudged Cece his win.
Maciej Bodnar joined the team along with Peter Sagan in 2017 after already spending almost 11 years as teammates. The 35-year-old Polish cyclist, hailing from Wrocław, brings a wealth of experience with him. He’s a time-trial-winning machine, taking home six national time-trial championship titles to date. He also won the last ITT stage of the 2017 Tour de France, an incredibly proud moment for him and the team. His time-trial skills also come in very handy elsewhere, such as when he accelerates at the front of the pack, quickly catching back up with the breakaways. His helpful support will be indispensable to the Giro d’Italia team.
The 2020 season is the 26-year-old’s first with the “Band of Brothers”, as the BORA – hansgrohe team likes to call itself. The Italian cyclist describes himself as a small person with strong character and a passion for the mountains. At this year’s Tirreno - Adriatico, Matteo was able to achieve a highly respectable 5th place overall, and he also showed he was in good form at the Tour of the Alps. Matteo is well prepared for the Giro.
The 27-year-old has been on the team since 2018 and is a proven mountain and overall classification specialist. Felix chalked up his first big win in 2019 when he won one stage and topped the overall standings at the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey. It wasn’t just his victory, it was also the first overall win at a large international tour for the BORA – hansgrohe team. A noteworthy 9th place at the Vuelta a España in 2020 also earned Felix international recognition. And in preparation for the Giro d’Italia, he has already been very attack-minded at the Tour of the Alps, finishing the final stage with an impressive solo victory.
The Italian, hailing from Lake Garda, is not just a friend of Peter Sagan, he has also been his domestique for many years. Understanding each other perfectly makes working together so much easier – and it means you’ll sometimes see Daniel do his best Peter Sagan impression in interviews. The 33-year-old brings much experience and a calming influence to the team, both of which are vital during Grand Tours. But back on the team bus, he also makes sure that everyone’s enjoying themselves with tunes to get them pumped up. Keep on rockin’, Daniel!