Tour of Italy 2024: A variation of stages and only one real favourite for final victory

   ROME -- Saturday, the 107th edition of the “Giro d’Italia’ kicked off in Venaria Reale near Turin. The cycling competition runs from May 4 to May 26. There are 21 stages, totalling a length of 3,4008 km and 44,550 M of height difference.

  As the tradition goes, the competition will finish in the streets of Rome. Curiously, this edition does not visit the South of Italy -the most Southern race finishes in Pompei.

  The “Grande Partenza” was not a typical first stage. Usually, a grand tour starts either with a flat stage ending in a mass sprint or with a prologue, a short time trial. Saturday's stage in the Turin area was a tribute to the Turin football team whose plane crashed on the Superga hill exactly 75 years ago.

  Contrary to last year, the organisers now propose a varied itinerary which includes two individual time trials, a gravel race and six stages which finish uphill. Last year’s edition built up to a climax towards the end of the third, final week. Yet, this setup, in combination with terrible weather conditions, turned out to paralyse the entire competition as the contenders were saving their energy for the atypical time trial on the one-but-last day.

  Slovene cyclist Tadej Pogacar is this year’s favourite to win the “Giro d’Italia”. Runner-up is Welshmen Geraint Thomas. Last year, the British cyclist finished second only after losing the “maglia rosa” in that thrilling time trial.

  On the “San Vito”, the last climb, Pogacar once again showed that he can beat any of his competitors uphill. Yet, contrary to the predictions, he did not win the stage. Ecuadorian Jhonatan Narvaez managed to follow Pogacar uphill and, after a descent, beat him in a sprint. After barely one stage, Pogacar already has a lead on each of his main competitors for the final victory in Rome. However, of all three Grand Tours of cycling, the Giro, with its bad weather conditions and severe crashes, is the more unpredictable.