The start of the 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia is just days away. The first Grand Tour of the season is set to be an exciting event, with plenty of drama expected over next three weeks.

The nature of the Giro d’Italia means that, although there are of course some clear favourites, it is not entirely clear who is going to walk away with the pink jersey.

Here’s a quick run through of everything you need to know before the race begins.

2018 Giro d’Italia Route Preview

The start of the race will take place outside of Europe for the first time since the event began in 1909. Controversially, the opening 9.7 km individual time trial will take place in Jerusalem.

Despite this decision, however, the organisers want to distance the race from any political issues; speaking to the Associated Press race director Mauro Vegni said that they “want it to be a sports event and stay away from any political discussion”.

The race will move back to home territory for the 4th stage and will stay in Italy for the remainder of the 21 stage, 3,551km race.

For a Giro d’Italia, the course this year is relatively flat. That still means eight summit finishes, however, and an array of challenging climbs; the majority of which are packed into the final week. One of these is Monte Zoncolan, which riders will tackle in stage 14. Stretching out across 10km with parts reaching 22%, the mountain is arguably the hardest ascent in Europe.

The route continues to take the race over the mountains until the final stage, consisting of 10 laps around Rome, which will favour the sprinters.

Stages and route

  • May 4, stage 1, Jerusalem, 9.7km (individual time trial)

  • May 5, stage 2, Haifa – Tel Aviv, 167km

  • May 6, stage 3, Be’er Sheva – Eilat, 229km

  • May 7, rest day

  • May 8, stage 4, Catania – Caltagirone, 191km

  • May 9, stage 5, Agrigento – Santa Ninfa, 152km

  • May 10, stage 6, Caltanissetta – Etna, 163-km

  • May 11, stage 7, Pizzo – Praia A Mare, 159-km

  • May 12, stage 8, Praia A Mare – Montevergine, 208km

  • May 13, stage 9, Pesco Sannita – Gran Sasso, 224km

  • May 14, second rest day

  • May 15, stage 10, Penne – Gualdo Tadino, 239km

  • May 16, stage 11, Assisi – Osimo, 156km

  • May 17, stage 12, Osimo – Imola, 213km

  • May 18, stage 13, Ferrara – Nervesa Della Battaglia, 180km

  • May 19, stage 14, San Vito al Tagliamento – Monte Zoncolan, 181km

  • May 20, stage 15, Tolmezzo – Sappada, 176km

  • May 21, final rest day

  • May 22, stage 16, Trento – Rovereto, 34.5km (individual time trial)

  • May 23, stage 17, Riva del Garda – Iseo, 155km

  • May 24, stage 18, Abbiategrasso – Prato Nevoso, 196km

  • May 25, stage 19, Venaria Reale – Bardonecchia, 181km

  • May 26, stage 20, Susa – Cervinia, 214km

  • May 27, stage 21, Rome, 118km

Riders to watch

The clear favourite to win the Giro d’Italia is British rider Chris Froome for Team Sky.

Should he succeed, Froome will become the first rider to take successive wins in three Grand Tours, after winning the 2017 Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

Competing riders are not the only threat to Froome though, as the legitimacy of his use of salbutamol at the Vuelta a España is still under question, and it is possible that he could receive a ban. Froome denies any wrongdoing.

Threats on the road include last year’s winner Tom Dumoulin, the Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, and Italian Fabio Aru. Vincenzo Nibali, Italy’s usual favourite, is not riding the Giro this year so that he can focus on the 2018 Tour de France.

Another to watch is Manchester’s Simon Yates of Michelton-Scott. Backed up by his teammate Esteban Chaves, riding a 2018 Scott road bike and a strong climber, Yates stands a good chance of achieving a podium position.