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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Americans in three U.S. military communities in Italy will get a chance next month to see dozens of the world’s top cyclists pedal near their homes.

The 2011 Giro D’Italia, generally considered second only to the Tour de France in terms of importance, is set to pass near Camp Darby, Naval Air Station Sigonella and Aviano Air Base during its three-week run.

This year’s race is supposed to feature 207 riders from 23 teams — including four based in the States: BMC Racing Team, HTC-Highroad, Team Garmin-Cervelo and Team RadioShack. The race starts May 7 in Venaria Reale near Turin and finishes 21 stages later on May 29 in Milan.

In most areas, spectators are encouraged to stand on the side of the road and watch the competitors zoom by. In some cases, this means waiting for an hour or two to watch a few minutes of action as racers pass by. Spectators will also be able to buy T-shirts, hats and other memorabilia (mostly in shades of pink) from the dozens of vans that precede and follow racers along the route.

Race routes in recent years have passed through Vicenza and Naples, but those cities won’t be close to the action this year. Instead, routes close to American bases are:

• May 10 — Quarto dei Mille to Livorno. The 208-kilometer stage might pass right outside the perimeter of Camp Darby, depending on the specific course that organizers choose.

• May 15 — Messina to Etna. The end of the 159-kilometer stage is a short drive from Sigonella. It’s the only stage this year in Sicily. Competitors board planes after the race and fly north.

• May 22 — Conegliano to Gardeccia Val di Fassa. The 230-kilometer stage will pass through Aviano — probably along the Mountain Highway — early on in the stage as riders climb to Piancavallo and spend the rest of the day in the Dolomites.

Biking enthusiasts based in Aviano or Vicenza might also want to check out the time trial on May 24 that starts in nearby Belluno and ends 12.7 kilometers later in Nevegal. In such stages, there’s a greater chance to see individual cyclists in action.

More details about the race, including a map of the course, are available at the official website, www.gazzetta.it/Speciali/Giroditalia/2011/en/index.shtml, and www.steephill.tv/giro-d-italia.

harrisk@estripes.osd.mil

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