2 years ago by Oskar Scarsbrook

This isn’t Italy, this is Sicily

Explore Italy’s “wild west” ahead of the team’s Giro di Sicilia defense

The Giro di Sicilia is back on our racing calendar after the pandemic led to its cancellation in 2020. Running from September 28 to October 1, the four-day Mediterranean island contest is arguably the most anticipated men’s stage race of the fall block. 

General classification hunter Gavin Mannion will be returning to race in Sicily, having helped former teammate Brandon McNulty to overall victory in 2019.

More than 85% of Sicily is made up of hills and mountains, a feature that makes it the ideal challenge for Mannion.

“I was hoping there would be a Mount Etna stage again, but the last few days are plenty mountainous even without using the volcano,” says Mannion. “There are some significant climbs near the end of the final stages that will really shake up the racing and make it interesting.”

It’s been a busy racing block for Mannion, but the Massachusetts all-rounder is relishing the opportunity to take on a race that suits his skill set. 

“I feel good. I feel like I’ve recovered well, and I am now looking forward to testing my form in a race that suits me a bit better than the Tour of Britain and Volta a Portugal.”

Mannion has recovered well in the run-in to his return to Sicily

Mannion and his teammates will face stiff competition in the forms of Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler (both Movistar Team), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates), and local hero Vincenzo Nibali (Trek – Segafredo), all set to race.

How Sicily is different to Italy 

It may only be separated from the Italian mainland by 3km of water – patrolled by mythical creatures – but the shoe is very different to the boot. 

“Being an island with a big volcano that dominates the landscape. It’s a unique place to race,” says Mannion.

The island was an independent kingdom for 745 years up until 1816 so it does things a little differently to the Italian mainland. This storied history is reflected in the awe-inspiring ancient Greek ruins that can be found on the island. It has its own language too, with an impressive nine dialects. 

This variety is because pre-independence, Sicily had been under Byzantine, Arab, Roman, and Norman rule, making the island one of the most culturally diverse areas in Italy. As a result, locals see themselves as Sicilians first and Italians second.

The difference between the two land masses is also reflected in the cycling landscape. 

“Sicily’s definitely different from the rest of Italy. It’s kind of the wild west out there,” says Mannion. “The roads go from nice Italian pavement to suddenly bombed-out, pothole-filled crazy descents, so you’ve always got to pay attention.” 

Mannion’s daunting description of the Sicilian road surfaces is something the team will be unable to escape, particularly on the mid-section of stage 3 as the peloton tackles the Pollina climb. 

For more information on the Mediterranean island and race details, we’ve cobbled together some fast and thought-provoking facts for Rally Cycling fans.

Quick Sicilian fact-file

  • Mount Etna is an active volcano 🌋
  • The island has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites 🗿
  • It’s home to the largest opera house in Italy 🗣
  • Sicilian’s eat ice-cream sandwiches for breakfast (brioche and gelato) 🍨
  • The sonnet was created on the island 📚
  • Sicily is home to the ‘Shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali 🦈

Stage by stage  

9/28 Stage 1 | Avola – Licata (179km) Rolling
The opening stage begins with an undulating start to the day before the route cuts inland to climb Ragusa Ibla. From there the race heads back to the coast before an expected bunch sprint on a slightly uphill finishing drag. 

9/29 Stage 2 | Selinunte (Castelvetrano) – Mondello (Palermo) (173km) Medium mountains
A succession of energy-sapping rolling roads and a few sizable hills lead to the final short but steep categorized climb in Carini. From there, the approach to the finish in the Sicilian capital of Palermo is incredibly technical which ought to favour a breakaway.

9/30 Stage 3 | Termini Imerese – Caronia (180km) Medium mountains, uphill finish
Stage three is raced on typically rough roads. The route starts with a diversion inland before returning to the Tyrrhenian coast for the run-in to the final 4km climb. With 12 switchbacks, it’s a dizzying and steep finish.  

10/1 Stage 4 | Sant’Agata di Militello – Mascali (180km) Mountainous
The final stage truly lives up to the island’s mountainous billing. The first half of stage 4 takes in the Portella Mandrazzi climb before heading up the Sciarra di Scorciavacca ascent in the foothills of Etna for the finale. A fast descent then delivers the peloton to the race’s final destination of Mascali.

Giro di Sicilia roster
Nate Brown
Charles-Étienne Chrétien
Ben King
Gavin Mannion
Kyle Murphy
Emerson Oronte
Keegan Swirbul 

How to watch

Comprehensive race coverage from every stage at the Giro di Sicilia can be found on Eurosport Player and the GCN+ app. 

Following Sicily, the team will return to the mainland to race Gran Piemonte on October 7.