Giro and Tour get "easier" for 2012

Following last Saturday's Giro di Lombardia, the one-day Italian classic known as "the race of the falling leaves" that traditionally marks the end of the pro season, the peloton turned its attention to 2012 at the official presentations for next year's Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. Both races will return to more traditional and less arduous parcours than in recent years, and both look set to shake up the status quo among the favorites.

Giro d'Italia 2012 course map
At a gala event on Sunday in Milan, Giro organizers showed off what looks like a difficult parcours, but one that they stressed is more approachable than the courses of recent years. Remember that Giro officials, especially ex-race director Angelo Zomegnan, have butted heads with riders in the past three editions over long transfers between stages and courses that provided great spectacle but that some racers said verged on perilous (dirt road climbs, hairy descents). With the exception of an international transfer after the first three stages in Denmark, which get underway on May 5, the 2012 Giro should cut down on post-stage bus rides by following a fairly linear clockwise route around the country. The race features a largely flat first half and a last week stacked with mountain stages, most notably the penultimate stage over the Mortirolo and up the fierce slopes of the 9,045-foot Stelvio Pass. And though there's a 31.5-kilometer time trial on the final day in Milan, the difficult climbing in the previous days will likely have decided the overall.

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