What Is The Giro d'Italia?

What Is The Giro d Italia

Cycling is one of the most classic professional sports, and cyclists have annually competed in Grand Tour races, the three most major international bicycle races, for over a century. One such race is the Giro d’Italia, an annual multi-stage bicycle race that has been held in Italy since 1909. Read on to learn all about the Giro d’Italia and its rich history.

  • Location: Italy and neighboring countries
  • First Race: 1909
  • Dates: Mid-to-late May (annually)
  • Distance: Varies
  • Stages: 21
  • Length: Varies (usually 23-24 days)
  • Most Rider Wins: Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx (5 wins)
  • Purse: €1.5 million ($1.6 million USD)


giro d italia history

The first Giro d’Italia, Italian for “Tour of Italy,” was held from May 13, 1909 until May 30, 1909. Inspired by the L’Auto and the popular Tour de France, this first race was also run by a national newspaper (La Gazzetta) and covered 2,448 km (1,521m) separated into eight distinct stages. 49 individual riders competed and the Italian cyclist Luigi Ganna was declared the race’s winner and received a prize of 5,325 lire ($275 USD).

Though the general classification and team classification have always been a part of the Giro d’Italia, other competitions, also known as “classifications” have been added over the years. The first classification to be added was the mountains classification in 1933. For the 1966 Giro d’Italia, the points classification was also added, and the young rider classification was added ten years after that. Each major classification has its own colored jersey that the leader of the classification wears during the competition.


While the length of the Giro d’Italia changes every year, there are some constants in the modern format. It is a road race run over a three week period, typically starting in mid-May. Similar to other Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia typically features 21 stages and three rest days in its modern format.

There are three types of starts used in the Giro d’Italia, which are:

  • Mass Start
  • Individual Time Trials
  • Team Time Trials

Mass Starts make up most of the days, while a few Time Trials are scattered throughout.

Classification Types

There are five main types of classifications that cyclists can win during the Giro d’Italia, including:

  • General classification
  • Mountains classification
  • Points classification
  • Young rider classification
  • Team classification

General Classification

giro d italia general classification

General classification is the most important prestigious classification in the Giro d’Italia, the winner of which is considered the overall race winner. In general classification, riders have their finishing times for each stage of the race compounded on top of one another. Whichever rider has the lowest aggregate time across the completed stages is considered the leader of the race. General classification leaders wear pink jerseys, known as the maglia rosa, in honor of La Gazetta and its pink-colored pages.

Mountains Classification

giro d italia mountains classification

During the mountains classification, riders receive points for being the first to reach the top of certain climbs during mountainous portions of the race. Points are also given to any riders who are able to closely follow the lead rider up a significant climb. The points awarded for each climb is dependent on the steepness and length of each mountain course. Leaders for the mountains classification wear a green jersey during competition. The rider with the most points at the end of the race wins.

Points Classification

giro d italia points classification

For the points classification, riders receive points for finishing specific segments of the Giro d’Italia. After each unique stage, the first fifteen riders have given a number of points based on where they placed at the finish. Leaders for the points classification wear red jerseys. The rider with the most points at the end of the entire race wins.

Young Rider Classification

giro d italia young rider classification

The young rider classification is a race only for riders who are younger than 25 years old. The format of the young rider classification is the same as the general classification, and the finishing times of each stage of the race are compounded into an aggregate time. The leader of the young rider classification wears a white jersey. The rider with the lowest aggregate time wins.

Team Classification

There are two team classifications, each with a group of riders competing together against other groups of riders. The first team classification is the Trofeo Fast Team classification, which has teams of cyclists compete against one another for the fastest collective time across the entire race. The second team classification is the Trofeo Super Team classification, which has teams of cyclists earn points for their speed at the end of each stage of the race. The team with the most points at the end of the Trofeo Super Team classification is declared the winner.

There are also more minor classifications that cyclists can compete in, but these types of races are more recent, less popular and do not come with their own special jersey that the leader wears during competition.


Every year, 22 separate international cycling teams compete in the Giro d’Italia. These teams each have between eight and 30 riders, and teams will assign specific cyclists to compete in certain classifications. All 18 WorldTour teams automatically qualify for the Grand Tour race. However, the four ProTeams that also qualify are the ProTeam with the highest number of UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) points and three wild card teams chosen by the race’s organizers.


What is the Giro d’Italia in cycling?

The Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) is an annual cycling race in Italy that features the world’s best cyclists. It is one of the three Grand Tour races, along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. The length of the race changes each year, but normally consists of 21 stages over a period of around three weeks.