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Why the Giro is tougher than the Tour

Cycling is not all about the Tour de France. This month’s Giro d’Italia is savage. Former Team Sky rider and Eurosport pundit Juan Antonia Flecha has four reasons why hardcore race pro cyclists respect the Italian course.


Both the Tour and the Giro serve up more than 3,000km of brutal racing over 21 stages, but in Italy riders have to tackle more leg-shredding mountains. And they’re steeper, too. “France has the Pyrenees and the Alps, but there are lots of rolling roads in between,” explains Flecha.

“In Italy, the organisers can have mountains every day if they want. The gradients are much higher so the mountains really hurt.” From the thigh-flaming Italian Alps to the jagged Dolomites and the rugged Apennines, Italy is packed with colossal mountains. Stage 14 of this year’s route includes six epic climbs in a single day. No wonder Britain’s Mark Cavendish could barely walk after the 2012 Giro.

“They say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, but I think this Giro has pretty much killed me,” he said at the time. “I am dead. I am on my hands and knees. Here, the mountains are diabolical. It kills you.”

Giro d'Italia mountain


The Tour takes place in sunny July, but the Giro is held in May when Italian mountains are still caked in giant slabs of snow. “At the Tour, you have zero chance of snow, but the Giro is a spring race and it can be cold and hard,” warns Flecha.

“The cyclists often have to ride through adverse conditions.” On Stage 16 of the 2014 race, the peloton rode for 136km through snow and blizzards. “The stage became like ancient Rome or like a modern Hunger Games,” cursed former Team Sky rider Bernie Eisel. “I’m actually surprised that the winner of the stage doesn’t have to fight with tigers. It was just a show for television, for the fans, like n ancient Rome. I think it’s sick.”