The Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy, aka The Giro (wiki) is a three week bicycle race held in and around Italy. It is one of the three Grand Tours along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.
The origins of the Giro are similar to those of the Tour de France. The Giro was prompted by competition between two newspapers La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere della Sera. La Gazzetta wished to boost its circulation by holding a professional road race based upon the Tour de France and organized along the lines of the Corriere della Sera car rally. The inaugural Giro d'Italia was held in 1909.
Just as the Tour de France's winner's jersey is yellow to remind people of the newspaper using that color paper, the Giro d'Italia's winner in the general classification wears a pink jersey called the maglia rosa, reflecting the paper color of the sports newspaper originally sponsoring the race.
Riders hoping to be a winner in the Tour de France generally use the Giro as a training opportunity and do not seek to win, and riders who contest the Giro usually peak early in the year and are unable to regain their form for the Tour de France.
This has the effect of making the Giro a showcase for younger, up-and-coming riders and some teams (and sponsors) that may not make the Tour de France. Another aspect of the Giro is that conditions in the Alps are still harsh (see the photo of a training ride taken this week, above).
In 2011, the current alpha-Euro-cyclist Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) is riding the Giro, and has insisted that his decision to race has not been influenced by the possibility that he might be forced to forgo the Tour de France due to a positive finding of clembuterol.
Stage One of the 2011 Giro opens Saturday May 7, with a Team Time Trial between Venaria Reale and Turin, a distance of 19.3 km (12 miles).