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Saturday brings us the first of the Grand Tours for 2010 with the depart of the 92nd Giro d’Italia. Three weeks of tough, fast and aggressive racing lie ahead of the 219 riders and we’ve decided that because you’ll be bombarded with plenty of race previews and statistics that even Wikipedia couldn’t handle, we’d give you our PBK – A to Z of the race instead. 26 reasons why this is definitely one to watch!

A: Amsterdam. The start of the 2010 Giro. For this year’s edition, the race organisers decided on starting the race all the way north in the capital of Holland, kicking off with the prologue, a 8.4km sprint around the city.

B: Biological Passport. This is  the UCI’s new anti-doping procedure for all professional riders. Providing the UCI with a profile of a riders blood values. With this information, it’s making it easier to catch the cheats.

C: California. This years Giro clashes with the Tour of California for the first time. With some of the big names including Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), Levi Leipheimer, Armstrong and George Hincapie all competing state side, some potential show-downs will be sorely missed.

D: Distance, 3418km. Including 7 flat stages, 5 mountainous stages, 5 intermediate stages and 4 time trials.

E: Evans. This year riding in the world champs jersey and in the form of his life, Cadel Evans will be looking to have a crack at adding to his collection and taking home the Pink Leaders Jersey.

F: Fausto Coppi. The 2010 Giro celebrates one of cycling’s iconic cyclists, visiting Novi Ligure on stage 5. The town is where he started his working life as a butcher and also passes through his home village of Castelania.

G: Gazzetta dello Sport. This is the famous pink newspaper of Italy. The newspaper started the race back in 1903 aimed at increasing its readership. The leaders jersey; the Magla Rosa is the same colour as the newspaper.

H: Hill climb time trial. A tough day awaits the riders on stage 16. A short but savage 12.9km of uphill pain sees the road take them up towards the Passo Furcia; a road that has sections of 20% and 24% gradient in places. In 2008 when it was last used, the stage winner Pellizotti averaged just 19kmh taking 40:26 to cover the 12.9km.

I: Italian Fans. These guys come out in force. Also known as the Tifosi, what ever the weather they’ll be there cheering on their favourite riders and on occasions causing headlines of their own. Back in 2001, Wladimir Belli ended up getting kicked out of the race after punching a spectator. I suppose he had his reasons….?

J: Jerseys. Four jerseys are up for grabs. The leaders Pink jersey, a Red jersey for the points race, Green for the king of the mountains and the White for the best young rider.

K: Katusha and Karpets. Vladimir Karpets of the Russian Katusha team is a late entry on the start list. After a strong ride to 5th overall at the tour of Romandie he’ll be teaming up with team mate Filippo Pozzato to have an assault on the overall standings.

L: Liquigas. Franco Pellizotti of the Liquigas team was going to be one of the hot favourites for the race. But due to what looks like an apparent violation of the biological passport parameters he’s under investigation and barred from racing. Pellizotti claims that he is innocent and is convinced he can prove this. Here’s hoping!

M: Manchov. Last years winner Denis Manchov is absent this year from the Giro, instead concentrating on the Tour De France.

N: Netherlands. Along with the grand depart in Amsterdam the Giro will spend 3 days racing on the roads of Holland. Frowned upon by the purists, but great for a race to reach out to a different fan base.

O: OMG. “Oh My God” – look at those podium girls. Yep! the Giro has some of the best looking podium girls of all the pro races out there.

P: Plan De Corones. This is the unpaved road that the time trial on stage 16 finishes on, adding of course to the difficulty of the climb. (See letter H for the Hill information).

Q: Queen stage. The penultimate stage sees the race tackle the hardest day of the race taking in 178km and climbing 6320m. The highest climb of the day is Gavia at 2618m. Finishing at the top of the Passo Del Tonale. Few could forget the brutality of the 1988 Giro here.

R: Rest days. As with all grand tours, there are 2 rest days. This year though due to the race starting in Amsterdam, the first rest day comes very early on, on the 4th day. Teams will be using this day to get to Italy and they will then have to wait a whole 12 days for the second rest day. This will be sorely needed by then.

S: Simoni. Gilberto Simoni is riding his last Giro. He has signed a short term contract with the Lampre-Farnese Vini Team and this will be his last race as a professional. On top of this, he has decided to retire at the end of the Giro. Expect huge crowds waving him good bye.

T: Team Time Trial. This year’s Team TT is on stage 4, the day after the first rest day and the first stage on Italian soil. At 32.5km it isn’t long, but it’s pretty straight going and the stronger teams will use this stage to their advantage and hopefully put some time into their rivals. This is the fourth year in a row the Giro has had a team time trial and previous editions have had the event as the races starting stage.

U: Underdog teams. Each grand tour has wildcard teams, teams that have had to fight in smaller races tooth and nail to get a place on the start list and the Giro is no different. Colnago-CSF Inox and Androni-Giocattoli Diquigiovanni are the two main wild card teams to watch out for. Crazy attacks are synonymous with the wild card teams, greatly entertaining for everyone!

V: Verona. Stage 21 and the final day sees a 15.3km Time Trial around the city. This stage is another that pays homage to bygone eras. Back in 1984, Italy’s Francesco Moser won the time trial here in a very controversial Giro.

W: Wiggins. Team Sky’s captain,  Bradley Wiggins will have a strong team backing him up this year and this is the first year Wiggins will be team captain for the Giro. Will he be able to handle the different racing style in Italy compared to that of the Tour? Time will tell.

X: XXX. Will the Gazzetta dello Sport be printing theses 3 letters in place of the offensive expletives that can come from the spats riders have? Their is always some sort of rivalry and trash talk going on and the Italian race is usually a great place to hear a few ‘interesting’ sound bites.

Y: Yukiya Arashiro. The only professional Japanese rider at the Giro this year. This will be his first Giro, though not his first Grand tour as last year he was one of two Japanese riders to compete in the Tour de France.

Z: Zoncolan. This famous climb is back on the route for the third time after a two year absence and is always a climb that has an impact on the race. Simoni has won on the climb the last 2 times it was used and it would be a fitting end if he can take the win again in his last Giro.

So that’s our A to Z of the things to look out for in this year’s Giro. We’ll keep you updated on the PBK Blog, Facebook and Twitter as events unfold over the duration of the race. So sit back and enjoy some fantastic racing and see who writes their name into the history books this year.

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