Giro D'Italia: The Protagonists in This Year's Battle for the Maglia Rosa

Colin O'BrienContributor IApril 9, 2013

Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia in 2013
Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia in 2013

With only weeks to go before the start of 2013's first grand tour, excitement is running high in Italy. For many cycling fans, the Giro d'Italia represents the hardest, most emotional and most beautiful race of the year, and for the riders, only the Tour de France's yellow jersey can match the importance of the Giro's Maglia Rosa.

This year the Giro will depart from the historic city of Naples, which last saw the Grande Partenza 50 years ago in 1963. It has seen many stages over the years, and was also the scene for the legendary Eddy Merckx's first Giro victory in 1968. 

The start in Naples will also be of note because it will feature an extra team. Team Katusha's failure to secure a World Tour place from the UCI, despite having the world's number one ranked cyclist on its books, caused a lot of debate in the cycling world.

The Russian team had lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and having secured a ruling in their favour will now be entitled to compete at all of the sport's biggest events, including the Giro. 

The 18 top teams, along with four wildcard teams, had already been secured entry, so for this year only an extra outfit will take to the start line in Naples. 

The opening stage of the race looks set to be a stunning one, taking in much of the beautiful heart of the city before finishing on the spectacular Via Caracciolo, overlooking the famous bay of Naples.

Five of the biggest stars to race this year's edition have been speaking to the Giro cameras. In this video, Ryder Hesjedal, Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso and Sammy Sanchez speak about the meanings and emotions wrapped in the famous Maglia Rosa, the iconic jersey that has the power to change and define a cyclist's entire career. 

The five legends of the road also talk about the route, what it's like to race in Italy and what the fans mean to them. Check it out.