Hot Topic: Cycling

Giro d'Italia bicycle race is making its way to Washington, D.C. in 2012

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong poses by the ancient Colosseum prior to the final stage of the 2009 Giro d'Italia.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong poses by the ancient Colosseum prior to the final stage of the 2009 Giro d'Italia. (Alessandro Trovati/associated Press)
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By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 2010

The Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's three Grand Tours, is on schedule to begin in the District in 2012, marking the first time one of the sport's most prominent races would conduct a stage outside Europe.

Officials with the race held a gala on Thursday night at the Italian Embassy in Northwest Washington to introduce the race, and although they stopped short of making an official announcement, a deal seemed all but imminent.

The road bicycle stage race is held yearly over three weeks in May and early June and always has taken place in and around Italy, but talks have been ongoing between race organizers and District officials, including Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a cycling enthusiast, to bring the sport's second-most prestigious event to the nation's capital.

"The prospect of it, our great chances, are exhilarating," Fenty said as he walked the red carpet into the reception area. "It's going to be a fantastic event for D.C., akin to bringing the Olympics to the city and how much excitement and revenue it could potentially bring to D.C."

The 2012 race would begin on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the National Archives and close to the White House. Cyclists then would pass the FBI building, Freedom Plaza and the Ellipse before going behind the White House to the State Department, Virginia Avenue, the Watergate, Rock Creek park and then reversing course.

A featured backdrop to the race would be the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Two bronze sculptures there were cast by Leo Friedlander in Florence, Italy, in 1950 and presented to the United States by the people of Italy a year later.

Currently the prologue is the only stage set for the United States, although several cities, including Philadelphia and New York, have been mentioned should Giro d'Italia organizers deem it necessary to have two race days on American soil.

Staging a race of this magnitude presents many logistical hurdles, both for officials for the race and the District. Street closures would be an issue, as would security because of the race's proximity to the White House.

For race organizers, significant planning will be required to fly riders, team staff and race officials back to Italy after the opening stage. Once riders land in Italy on Saturday night, they will have a day of rest on Sunday before resuming the race the following morning.

Only the Tour de France is considered a more important race than the Giro d'Italia, which is part of the Triple Crown of Cycling. The Vuelta a EspaƱa comprises the final leg.

The most recent winner of the Giro d'Italia was Russia's Denis Menchov. In 2008, Spain's Alberto Contador won the race. Contador won the Tour de France last year and in 2007 and is the fifth rider to have won all of cycling's triple crown races. The only American to have won the Giro was Andrew Hampsten in 1988.

Bringing the race to D.C. is the latest step by cycling officials to promote the sport globally. Other events in North America include the Tour of California and several ProTour races in Canada set for later this year.

It's not the first time D.C. has hosted an international race.

In 2002, the Grand Prix of Washington, part of the American Le Mans Series auto racing season, took place on a temporary road course erected around the parking lot adjacent to RFK Stadium.

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