Milan (AFP) - Seven uphill finishes and three individual time-trials, the 2020 Giro d'Italia will get underway in Budapest on May 9 with the riders finishing in front of Milan's iconic Duomo on May 31.
After three stages in Hungary, the 3,579km race heads for Sicily, before crossing to the mainland and moving across the foot of Italy, up along the Adriatic coast, before hitting the Dolomites and the Alps in the gruelling final week.
Here AFP sport looks at five key stages out of 21 that could decide the pink jersey winner of the 103rd edition of the three-week race.
Stage 5: Enna - Mount Etna (Piano Provenzana) (150 km) ****
The final day of three in Sicily sees the riders head from inland Enna east to the foot of the Mount Etna volcano, with a first-ever climb from Linguaglossa to Piano Provenzana over 18km with average gradients of seven percent, peaking at 10 percent in the finale.
Stage 15: Rivolto Air Base - Piancavallo (183km) ****
This mountain stage in the north-east gets underway in an Italian military Air Base near Udine which is home to the 'Frecce Tricolori' aerobatic team. It starts gently with 40km of flat before a succession of climbs and descents to the foot of the final climb of Piancavallo in the Dolomites, with peaks of 14 percent.
Stage 17: Bassano Del Grappa - Madonna Di Campiglio (202km) *****
The pink jersey contenders will start to flex their muscles with three summit finishes in the final five days. This unrelenting mountain stage has a succession of four climbs, including Forcella Valbona and Monte Bondone with gradients over 10 percent in the second part of the ascent. After clearing the Passo Durone, the peloton will eventually tackle the closing climb to the Alpine resort of Madonna di Campiglio.
Stage 18: Pinzolo - Laghi Di Cancano (Stelvio) (209 km) *****
A colossal Alpine stage with 5,400 m vertical altitude in total over four climbs. The route starts uphill on Passo Campo Carlo Magno. The highest point of this year's Giro is reached on the Stelvio in the Alps with riders facing a gruelling 2,758m climb.
Stage 20: Alba - Sestriere (200km) *****
The last chance for the title contenders comes on the penultimate day in an Alpine stage crossing over to France. Riders will pass Colle dell'Agnello, Col d'Izoard and Monginevro, before the final climb up to Sestriere.
Note: * represents degree of difficulty.