Taking place from the 9th to the 31st May 2015, the Giro d’Italia is one of the three ‘grand tours’ of cycling – along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. These races are each three weeks long, and each one has its own distinct personality. We’ve put together this quick beginner’s guide to the Giro so you can follow the action more easily this month!

What is the Giro d’Italia?

The Giro has been running since 1909, stopping only for the two World Wars – and is one of the biggest events in the cycling calendar. The route for the Giro changes each year, but it always takes place mostly in Italy – if you hadn’t already guessed, Giro d’Italia means ‘Tour of Italy’! Sometimes, the Giro starts outside of Italy, but this year it’ll stay in its home country for the entire three weeks.

As well as the long days of group riding, there will be two time trial stages, where riders ride either on their own or with their team-mates against the clock. These will be easy to spot, as the riders will don their pointy hats and ride specially designed aerodynamic bikes to go as fast as possible. The Giro crosses the mountains of the Alps and the Dolomites, which are really punishing on the Italian side.

Boardman Bikes 2011 range  Riders: Rich , Chris , Rich Matt, Roy, Simon Location: Northern Italy ,  near Staffa  / Macugnaga  on SR549 road September / October 2010 pic copyright Steve Behr / StockfileWho’s winning?

Just like the other grand tours, the Giro has competitions where riders can earn jerseys over the course of the race. After each stage, the jerseys are presented to the current leader of each competition, so you can see who’s leading each category.

  • The pink jersey, or Maglia Rosa, is awarded to the rider who is the leader of the ‘general classification’. The ‘general classification’ is where they add up the time a rider takes to finish each stage. The person with the lowest time gets to wear the pink jersey!
  • The red jersey comes next. Riders can get points for this jersey by being first across the line in each stage, as well as certain points during the race. This often goes to the sprinters, and is similar to the green jersey of the Tour de France. Riders in the red jersey will normally be a bit more muscly, and will struggle on the hilly days!
  • The blue jersey is for the climbers. Points for this one are given to the first riders to get to the top of the big climbs in the race, with extra points going to the first rider to reach the Cima Coppi  the highest point of the race over the three weeks. This jersey probably doesn’t come in large sizes, because you need to be skinny for those hills.
  • Last, but by no means least, is the white jersey. This is the same as the pink jersey, but only for riders under 25 years old. Keep an eye on anyone wearing this, as you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of them in years to come!

How is the Giro d’Italia different to the Tour de France?

Boardman Bikes 2011 range  Riders: Rich , Chris , Rich Matt, Roy, Simon Location: Northern Italy,  above Lake Maggiore nr Bee September / October 2010 pic copyright Steve Behr / StockfileThe route of the Giro is a pretty different beast to the Tour! There’s less flat riding, and much bigger and steeper climbs, the roads themselves are much harder on riders. With punishing races uphill and treacherous descents, there’s no let-up for the teams. Only the strongest cyclists can race for points!

Fuelling the fire are the Giro’s fans. While the Tour draws huge crowds from all walks of life, fans and spectators of the Giro tend to be cyclists themselves. This means heaps of Italian passion and involvement, and that’s what gives the Giro its real personality!

Be sure to tune in to join the action, set against the incredible Italian backdrops. If you’re inspired to get out and find a bit of cycling passion for yourself, head over and take a look at our site here!