MILAN (AP) Giro d'Italia officials have put together a balanced route for next year's race, which they hope will attract some of the best riders in the world.
Organizers revealed the 21-stage route on Monday at a presentation at the Milan Expo in the presence of numerous cyclists, including reigning champion Alberto Contador, new world champion Peter Sagan and former winners Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso - who announced his retirement from cycling.
The route for the 2016 Giro includes four days in the high mountains and seven medium mountain stages. There are also seven legs for sprinters, two individual time trials and a team one.
The 99th edition of the famous race will take the riders from Apeldoorn in the Netherlands to Turin, via the south of Italy, the Dolomites and the Alps - where it also crosses over briefly into France - over a total of 3,383 kilometers (2,102 miles) from May 6-29.
''It's clear the Giro is becoming more and more global,'' UCI President Brian Cookson said. ''I'm absolutely sure that, as always, next year's winner will be a complete rider with extraordinary talent.''
Giro organizers will be hoping the route will tempt some of the big-name Grand Tour contenders to attempt a rare Giro-Tour de France double as Contador did last year. The Spaniard won the Giro but finished fifth in France. His Tinkoff-Saxo team revealed recently that Contador is targeting the Tour and the Spanish Vuelta next year in what is set to be his last in the sport.
Nibali, who hasn't competed in the Giro since winning in 2013, could lead Astana at the race next year.
''It looks like an intense edition,'' said the 30-year-old Italian, the day after winning his first Monument, Il Lombardia. ''I like it. I feel the absence after two years. I am thinking of returning to the Giro, but it's still too early to make a decision.
''The stage in the Dolomites is very dangerous, particular, tough. You could risk losing or winning the Giro. You can lose or win seconds or even minutes. Then in the last week you need to look to still gain a bit of time.''
The Giro kicks off with an 8.1-kilometer (5-mile) individual time trial around Apeldoorn on the Friday before two sprint stages and an early rest day - one of three - for the transfer to Italy. The race then continues on the southwest coast, before cutting inland and heading up toward the high mountains.
The first of six mountain finishes comes on Stage 6 from Ponte to Roccaraso in the central Apennines.
''It's important to take your opportunities,'' Contador said. ''This year the fifth stage was like that and I got the maglia rosa. It also helps you understand the conditions of your opponents.''
The second individual time trial takes place on Stage 9 and features a hilly 40-kilometer (25-mile) route from Radda to Greve in Chianti - the heart of the Tuscan red wine-making region - which could split the general classification.
Another key stage is the 14th leg, which has six classified climbs - including the Passo Pordoi, the Passo Sella and the Passo Giau - on the 210-kilometer (130.5-mile) route through the Dolomites from Alpago to Corvara.
That is likely to be the so-called queen stage of the Giro, but there are two other stages which have been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars - the 19th and the 20th.
As well as the lengthy stage through the Dolomites, there are five other days which stretch to more than 200 kilometers (124 miles), with the 18th stage from Muggio to Pinerolo topping out at 234 kilometers (145.4 miles).