Along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, the Giro d’Italia is one of the ‘Grand Tours’ of European cycling. It takes place over three weeks in May in Italy and other nearby countries, with the world’s top cyclists often targeting it in its own right, as well as using it as preparation for the Tour de France later in the year.
Since it was first staged in 1909, the pink jersey (or maglia rosa) for the leader of the race’s general classification has been worn by many of the sport’s most illustrious names, including Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain and the great Italian climber Fausto Coppi. Coppi, Merckx and the Italian Alfredo Binda have the most Giro victories, each of them having won the race five times. A red jersey is worn by the leader of the points classification and a green jersey by the leader of the mountains classification.
Italian riders, including the 2013 champion 28-year-old Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali, have won the race more times than any other nationality – 68 of the 96 editions of the race have been won by 41 different Italian cyclists, compared with the next most successful country Belgium which has just three champions.
Recent editions of the Giro have contained 20 or 21 stages plus an individual time trial prologue. Many stages feature tough climbs in the Alps and Dolomites, including the notorious 2757 m Stelvio Pass – these stages often cause big changes in the overall general classification.