MILAN — Three-time world champion Peter Sagan will compete in the Giro d’Italia for the first time next year — and then could quit cycling.
The Slovakian has never ridden the Giro, making it the only Grand Tour stage victory he lacks from a much-decorated 10-year professional career.
Sagan announced his decision to compete in the famous Italian race — as well as the Tour de France — during the presentation of the route of the 2020 Giro, at a televised event in Milan on Thursday.
The 29-year-old, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, then hinted he could retire.
"I always said that I want to do the Giro before I finish my career," Sagan told reporters. "Then maybe after Giro I can finish my career."
When complimented on the "joke," Sagan replied: "How do you know it is joke?"
When pressed still further about it, he would only say: "Who knows."
Next year’s Giro starts in Hungary, which borders Sagan’s native Slovakia.
Sagan also has several ties to Italy — he used to live in the country, speaks the language, and turned professional with the Italian-based Liquigas team.
Richard Carapaz, who became the first rider from Ecuador to win a Grand Tour with his triumph in this year’s Giro, said he wants to defend his title but that the decision ultimately lies with Team Ineos, which he will join from the start of next season.
"I can’t guarantee it but I really think I will be there," Carapaz said. "I will do my utmost to be there."
The 102nd edition of the race runs from May 9-31 and consists of 21 days of racing, totalling 3,579.8 kilometres (2224.4 miles) between the start in Budapest and the finish in Milan.
There are seven summit finishes, and a total of more than 45,000 metres of vertical elevation.
Here are some aspects of the 2020 race:
For the 14th time, the Giro will start outside of Italy.
Next year’s Grande Partenza (big start) will be in Budapest, with an individual time trial through the city and across the Danube.
There are then two more stages for the sprinters — a 195-kilometre leg from Budapest to Gyor and then 204 kilometres from Szekesfehervar to Nagykanizsa.
All three stages appear to suit Sagan and there is a good chance he could be wearing the race leader’s pink jersey when the Giro transfers to Italy, and the island of Sicily — which will also host the start of the 2021 edition.
There are three stages on the island, with the riders climbing up Mount Etna on day five. Two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali, who is from Sicily, also announced that he intends to compete.
Unlike in previous years, there is no early rest day, with the riders having to wait until after nine days of racing to give their legs a break.
PROSECCO TIME TRIAL
As in most years, there is a "wine stage."
Stage 14 is a time trial in the Prosecco vineyards from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene.
It is the second of three individual time trials in the race, with the final one coming on the last day — a 16.5-kilometre ride to Milan’s Piazza Duomo.
There is another novelty the day after, with the 15th stage starting from the Rivolto Air Base, the home of the Frecce Tricolori, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Italian air force’s aerobatic team.
The riders will have a second and last rest day on May 25 before the race climbs into the high mountains and the potentially explosive final week.
Stage 16 is packed with short climbs before the first of three grueling mountain stages the following day — a 202-kilometre leg from Bassano del Grappa to Madonna di Campiglio with more than 5 kilometres of climbing.
That comes before what is arguably the queen stage of next year’s Giro, the 209-kilometre ride from Pinzolo to Laghi di Cancano over the legendary Passo dello Stelvio — the highest point of the race at 2,758 metres.
Stage 19 is the longest in next year’s race at 251 kilometres before the final showdown, a 200-kilometre route from Alba to Sestriere that crosses into France and includes a grueling climb up the Colle dell’Agnello at the start of the day.
"We’ll decide if I ride the Giro and then we’ll study the route more in-depth," Carapaz said when asked if the penultimate stage would be one suited for him to win. "But certainly it will be a very important stage."