Giro d'Italia 2024: Five key stages that will decide the winner

From the earliest summit finish since 1989 and a lengthy ITT within the first week to a double ascent of the Monte Grappa towards the end, here are the critical days for the pink jersey hopefuls

Clock15:18, Tuesday 17th October 2023
The famous hairpins of the Stelvio Pass with snow all around

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

The 2024 Giro goes over the famous Stelvio Pass

The route for the 2024 Giro d'Italia was revealed last week in Trento, with former winners Vincenzo Nibali and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) among the host of stars on hand to help launch the race and give their hot takes on the parcours.

With the Giro route revealed and the WorldTour season coming to an end, attention now firmly turns to 2024 and discussion around who might have a crack at winning the overall title and succeeding this year's champion, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma, soon-to-be Bora-Hansgrohe) - who will have his eyes squarely set on the Tour de France in July.

UAE Team Emirates super-domestique Rafał Majka has already hinted that his teammate Tadej Pogačar could ride the Giro next May, whilst EF Education-EasyPost team boss Jonathan Vaughters told GCN last week that his Irish superstar Ben Healy may target the GC at the first Grand Tour of the season.

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With the looming general classification showdown in mind, teams will begin to analyse the route and figure out their best strategies for 2024. Featuring 68.2km against the clock, the 2024 Giro d'Italia route favours the riders who are strong in the time trial discipline but, as ever, there is plenty of scope for the climbers to make their mark across the six summit finishes.

Here are our five key stages that will decide who wins the 2024 Giro d'Italia.

Earliest summit finish in 35 years could be perfect for Tadej Pogačar

Stage 2: San Francesco al Campo – Santuario di Oropa, 154km

Stage 2 brings the earliest summit finish seen in the Giro since 1989. The pink jersey will be up for grabs on the steep slopes to the Santuario di Oropa.

At 6.2% for 11.8km, the Oropa is no easy test and will establish a very early pecking order amongst the GC contenders, just as Mount Etna did in 1989 when Acácio da Silva rode to victory. The Oropa itself has history weaved into its bends as well, with Marco Pantani infamously dropping almost 50 riders to win here in 1999 before his failed haematocrit test just a week later.

The last time the Oropa was included, Tom Dumoulin powered to victory ahead of the likes of Nibali and Mikel Landa, on his way to winning the 2017 Giro d'Italia. On that day there were no categorised climbs prior to the Oropa, but Dumoulin's success points to how this year's summit finish may end up - with a powerful rider favoured over a lightweight climber.

The Oropa ascent has an irregular profile to it, with its toughest moments falling in the middle of the climb with kilometres 5-6.5 averaging 9.5%. This section looks ripe for a stinging attack from a rider in the ilk of Tadej Pogačar, i.e. somebody who is noticeably stronger than the other contenders even when everyone is fresh.

Although the final few kilometres of the climb have their tough moments - with a maximum pitch of 14% falling with 2km to ride - the gradient hovers between 5-8% and, should a powerful rider have been able to open a gap on the earlier (and steeper) slopes, this is where they could press home their advantage and sneak an early buffer in the GC standings.

The lightweight climbers may have to wait until later in the race to see their power-to-weight ratio offer them an advantage.

The first ITT will set the tone for the race

Stage 7: Foligno – Perugia, 37.2km (ITT)

Although the first two stages of the 2024 Giro d'Italia provide one of the toughest Grandi Partenze in recent years, the opening week of the race is relatively easy for the GC favourites, with opportunities instead lent to the sprinters and puncheurs. However, their time to shine will come again on stage 7 with the first of two individual time trials (ITT) of the race.

It is here that the GC standings will take on another reshuffle and decide who needs to go on the offensive in the mountains to make up for any time lost on the time trial bike. At 37.2km long, stage 7 presents a fairly lengthy test by modern expectations, and carries a sting in its tail with a cat-4 climb to conclude proceedings.

The Perugia ascent won't require a bike change by any means, but does contain a steep 1km segment at over 10% and another 800m ramp at 9%, which will certainly tilt the favour ever so slightly the way of a climber who can time trial, rather than a time trialist who can climb - not that there's many of them around these days, anyway.

You can still expect the likes of Filippo Ganna, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) to be strong here, should they ride the Giro, but the Yates brothers (Adam and Simon, pending their participation) will fancy their chances of limiting their losses over the irregular uphill to the finish.

Time losses here will dictate the mood heading into the hills on stage 8.

Queen stage of the race brings over 5,000m of climbing, but will it happen?

Stage 15: Manebra del Garda – Livigno, 220km

The longest and toughest day of the 2024 Giro d'Italia falls on stage 15 with what is undoubtedly the Queen stage. Five categorised climbs, 220km and 5,200m of elevation gain await the riders as they traverse from the Italian Alps to the Swiss border via the Colle San Zeno, Aprica and the Forcola di Livigno. Going to above 2,300m altitude, the summit finish comes after the 8.1km-long Mottolino climb.

Given its length and brutality, the contenders for the pink jersey will be forced into action on this day and the fatigue accrued throughout the stage will surely play a part heading into the final two climbs.

With a little over 50km to ride, the riders will begin the uncategorised ascent of the Poschiavo which rather cruelly stands at 6.6% for 8km and only offers around 5km of respite before the Forcola di Livigno (18km at 7.1%) rears its ugly head.

This will be the first of the two cat-1 climbs which conclude the day, with both of them finishing at above 2,300 altitude. On paper, it should provide a blockbuster finale to the longest day of the race - the Mottolino extends for 8.1km at 6.6% - but there have to be fears for the accessibility of these high-altitude passes should Europe suffer another cold May.

Too often in recent years, we have seen major stages curtailed by extreme weather, but should fortune favour the brave on this day, the GC group should be in tatters by the final 2km that average over 10%.

A post-rest day treat awaits on the Passo dello Stelvio

Stage 16: Livigno – Santa Cristina Valgardena, 202km

It is perhaps fears over the snow-capped mountains that have led the Giro organisers to shy away from including the Passo dello Stelvio as anything other than an aperitif on stage 16. The infamous 2,758m high pass will provide a cruel welcome back to the riders following the final rest day, but falling over 100km from the final climbs, its lacklustre inclusion has come to the disappointment of many fans.

That being said, there should still be enough character in the route to draw out another showdown amongst the pink jersey contenders, with the Stelvio serving to create attrition amongst the peloton before the finale.

Following the Cima Coppi of next year's race, it will be on the famous 48 hairpins of the eastern ascent that the peloton will descend towards the valley floor. The Val Gardena Dolomites await to the east, beginning with the 23.4km-long Passo Pinei that begins with 35km to ride.

Averaging 4.7%, this little-known ascent is not the steepest of mountains but does hold ramps of up to 15% and will be no easy test given its length. Expect to see a GC team or two setting a high pace from the bottom of this climb in order to string things out ahead of the Monte Pana.

Falling the day after the final rest day, stage 16 packs a punch at over 200km and for any riders coming out of their recovery with wooden legs, there will be no room to hide. The riders who perform well on this summit finish will undoubtedly be those trending in the right direction towards the end of the Giro.

Two ascents of the Monte Grappa will decide the winner of the 2024 Giro

Stage 20: Alpago – Bassano del Grappa, 175km

As has become tradition in the Giro d'Italia - begrudgingly so for many - the final stage will be a procession around the streets of Rome, ensuring that the pink jersey battle will be sewn up in advance of stage 21. It will, however, be sewn up in style with the unprecedented double ascent of the Monte Grappa on stage 20, prior to a lengthy descent to the finish where the winner of the Giro d'Italia will be crowned.

The 80km of undulating roads before the first ascent of the Monte Grappa will likely see a nervous peloton keep any potential breakaway on a tight leash, with just one cat-4 climb to deal with. Traversing the opposite route to when Nairo Quintana conquered the Monte Grappa in the 2014 edition – albeit in an individual time trial – the peloton will tackle the Monte Grappa from Treviso.

At 8.1% for 18.2km, the Monte Grappa has not been used often in the Giro's history, but it is a fearsome test nonetheless. There truly is the potential for a GC team to light up the first ascent and send their leaders on the attack over its summit, a proposition that will no doubt have fans salivating.

The descent of the Monte Grappa is over 25km long and includes a 1.5km climb at 9.2% in the middle of it. Those comfortable with pressing home an advantage on descents can take a flyer over the first summit, before beginning the final climb of the 2024 Giro with an advantage and the pink jersey to incentivise them.

This same descent and mini, uncategorised climb will follow the second summit of the Monte Grappa, which will fall with 30km of descending to tackle until the finish in Bassano del Grappa.

Let there be no doubt, the winner of the 2024 Giro d'Italia will not be decided until the double-ascent of the Monte Grappa looms into view over the Venetian plains.

To discover the full route of the 2024 Giro d'Italia, click here to read our full report on the route announcement.

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