The Giro d’Italia is reportedly set to start in Japan in 2018 in what would be the most ambitious – and furthest flung – opening days of any of cycling’s three Grand Tours, including a summit finish on Mount Fuji.
Turin-based newspaper La Stampa reports that the Far Eastern country icould host the opening four stages of the race.
The newspaper says that race director Mauro Vegni has already visited the Shizuoka Prefecture to sign a preliminary agreement with its governor, Heita Kawakatsu.
Vegni is said to have contacted the UCI to request two rest days to accommodate the near-10,000 kilometre journey back to Italy and allow the riders at least partial recovery from jet lag.
La Stampa adds that among those involved in the project are Enzo Cainero, who has twice organised the Italian national championships in his native Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region and who was also responsible for the introduction of Monte Zoncolan in the Giro d’Italia.
Significantly, he organises in partnership with the Shizuoka Prefecture a Gran Fondo that “twins” the Zoncolan with Mount Fuji.
The Italian mountain will play host to it on 28 August 2016, with riders from Japan participating, and Mount Fuji will be the scene of a similar event the following month.
With the Giro proving popular on Japanese TV and the country also home to a cycling industry that includes Shimano, the cost of staging the first four days of the race is estimated at some €35 million, including expenses of between €250,000 and €500,000 for each of the participating teams.
It’s not the first time that Giro d’Italia owners RCS Sport have contemplated starting the race outside Europe.
In 2009, it was reported that the US capital, Washington DC, was bidding to host the opening two days of the 2012 edition of the race, and by February of the following year, an announcement was said to be imminent.
Instead, due to the impact of local elections in the US city and the departure of race director Angelo Zomegnan, the foreign start in 2012 went to Denmark – while Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty found himself in a spot of bother after accepting a gift of a $12,000 Colnago bike.
Presented by Ernesto Colnago himself at a reception at the Italian Embassy in February 2015 when the city’s bid was still alive, it comfortably exceeded the $10 maximum value officials are permitted to receive from those looking to conduct business with it.
Tour de France organisers ASO have already moved into Japan, with the Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France held there every year from 2013 with a field comprising local riders as well as stars such as John Degenkolb, who won last year from Fumiyuki Beppu and Chris Froome.
Plans to start the Tour de France itself outside Europe are mooted periodically, for example on the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe or Martinique (both French overseas departments, and therefore officially part of France and the European Union).
ASO also considered holding part of the race in the United States during the 1980s, but logistical issues, as well as the potential effect of jet lag on riders, mean that foreign Grand Departs have so far been confined to Europe.
Following this year's hugely successful Big Start in the Netherlands, the 2017 Giro d'Italia - the 100th edition of the race - will reportedly begin in Sardinia.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.