Giro D'Italia 2013 Preview: A Look at the Race's Opening Stages

Colin O'BrienContributor IMay 3, 2013

JABAL AL AKHDHAR, OMAN - FEBRUARY 14:  Sir Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain and SKY Procycling rides in the peloton during stage four of the 2013 Tour of Oman from Al Saltiyah in Samail to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) on February 14, 2013 in Jabal Al Akhdhar, Oman.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The year's first Grand Tour is finally upon us, and with some of cycling's biggest names battling for the Maglia Rosa, the 96th edition of the race looks set to be a classic. 

Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, who famously took the trophy last year in dramatic style on the final day in Milan, will be defending his title against Italy's own Vincenzo Nibali and last year's Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins

Wiggins in particular has been incredibly vocal about how much an Italian title would mean to him, telling the country's La Repubblica newspaper recently (here, in Italian) that he saw the race as a great challenge for him but one that was even more difficult than the Tour de France. 

But the general classification heavyweights will have to wait a little more to stamp their authority on the three-week event, because the opening stages will favour the riders and teams going for individual wins. 

Mark Cavendish, in particular, should be excited about the rare chance he'll have to wear the Maglia Rosa because for the first time in a decade, the race will start with a full stage and a sprint finish. The Manxman among the favourites to take advantage of the flat route that heads out of the city before returning downtown for four laps on a 16km circuit.

With that in mind, here are some interesting fly-through previews of the opening stages made by the team over at Global Cycling Network and Google Earth. 

This is the first time the race has begun in beautiful Naples for 50 years, and despite some hills outside of town it's definitely one for the sprinters and a rare chance for them to don the famous jersey in one of the world's most iconic cities. 

Stage 2 is another unique prospect: a team time trial on the tiny volcanic island of Ischia. Among the favourites will be Wiggins' Sky Pro Cycling team and the BMC Racing squad of young Taylor Phinney, the 22-year-old American who is tipped to become one of the sport's biggest stars. 

It's a short course, but filled with technical and tight roads and though it might mean little to who eventually wins in Brescia at the end of May, it will certainly be a stunning day of racing for the fans. 

At 222km, Stage 3 is long but not overly difficult. The hilly route begins in Sorrento on the famous Almafi Coast and ends in Marina di Ascea, where an opportunistic break-away rider could solo to a memorable Giro stage win. 

The first few days of racing in Italy set the tone for what looks certain to be another classic edition of the Giro, and we'll be following it here will regular updates and previews.