- Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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A stage-by-stage breakdown of the 2010 Giro d'Italia, which begins Saturday:
May 8: Stage 1, Amsterdam, 5.2 miles (individual time trial)
Dead flat, made for time-trial specialists.
May 9: Stage 2, Amsterdam to Utrecht, 129.8 miles
The winding, flat course is probably a long prelude to a sprint finish.
May 10: Stage 3, Amsterdam to Middelburg, 129.8 miles
Last part of the course hugs Holland's reclaimed coast and dips below sea level. Wind could be a factor. Should still end in a sprint.
Rest day as riders transfer to Torino.
May 12: Stage 4, Savigliano to Cuneo, 20.2 miles (team time trial)
The TTT will be hotly contested among a handful of top teams, including HTC-Columbia, Sky, Garmin and Liquigas. The rest will try not to lose substantial time on a course that gains altitude gradually but relentlessly.
May 13: Stage 5, Novara to Novi Ligure, 104.3 miles
Breakaways will try their luck on rolling terrain late in the stage, but the sprinters should be able to hang in for the finish. Course passes through national hero Fausto Coppi's hometown 50 years after his death.
May 14: Stage 6, Fidenza to Marina del Carrara, 103.1 miles
The first significant climbing of the race offers an opportunity for a breakaway to take control.
May 15: Stage 7, Carrara to Montalcino, 133.5 miles
A sojourn through Tuscany that features gravel roads and lots of up-and-down in the late going. Classics-style riders could have the edge.
May 16: Stage 8, Chianciano to Terminillo, 114.3 miles
An uphill finish on a climb that's steepest near the bottom. Contenders will mark each other and a major attack is unlikely since the time gaps to be had won't be that big.
May 17: Stage 9, Frosinone to Cava de' Tirreni, 116.1 miles
Flat course with a picturesque finish on the Amalfi coast. The sprinters will reassert themselves.
May 18: Stage 10, Avellino to Bitonto, 136.6 miles
Transitional stage that gets the peloton to the east side of the boot and ends with a downhill run into a circuit.
May 19: Stage 11, Lucera to L'Aquila, 159 miles
The longest stage of the race visits the region devastated by last year's earthquake. A breakaway should take the heat off the major contenders.
May 20: Stage 12, Citta Sant'Angelo to Porto Recanati, 118.6 miles
Sprinters will rule in one of their last tailor-made courses in this Giro.
May 21: Stage 13, Porto Recanati to Cesenatico, 137.9 miles
More challenging terrain that could make the final group smaller. Look for the predictable exodus of sprinters -- especially those planning to ride the Tour de France -- after this stage.
May 22: Stage 14, Ferrara to Asolo, 125.5 miles
One massive climb and an equally massive descent that should allow contenders to stay grouped. Don't expect the standings to change much if everyone remains upright.
May 23: Stage 15, Mestre to Monte Zoncolan, 135.4 miles
On the 12th straight day of racing, merciless Giro organizers send the riders up one of the toughest climbs in Europe. The approach from Ovaro to Monte Zoncolan, the most challenging of three routes to the summit, rises almost 4,000 feet in altitude with an average 11.5 percent gradient (hitting a maximum 22 percent) over six miles of switchbacks and tunnels. Major winnowing in store.
Rest day in Friuli.
May 25: Stage 16, San Vigilio di Marebbe to Plan de Corones, 8 miles (individual time trial)
Uphill doesn't really begin to describe this leg-burner that includes short stretches of more than 20 percent gradient. The winner's average speed here two years ago was under 12 mph -- get the idea?
May 26: Stage 17, Brunico to Peio Terme, 107.5 miles
A moderate uphill finish that probably won't sort out anything in the standings.
May 27: Stage 18, Levico Terme to Brescia, 93.8 miles
A sprint finish awaits the speedsters who made it over the mountains.
May 28: Stage 19, Brescia-L'Aprica, 121.1 miles
Two climbs precede the brutal Mortirolo that should fragment the lead group. Whoever remains will duke it out on the final short climb to the finish.
May 29: Stage 20, Bormio to Passa del Tonale, 110.6 miles
The last day in the mountains also includes the greatest amount of climbing in any stage, highlighted by the famous Gavia pass. The podium could well be settled here.
May 30: Stage 21, Verona (individual time trial), 9.5 miles
Unlikely to make a difference, and also unlikely to match last year's drama, when the race leader crashed less than a mile before the finish line but recovered in time to win the overall.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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