Japan start mooted for 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Milan (AFP)

Japan could host the opening stages of the Giro d'Italia in 2018, various sources have suggested to AFP.

The three-week Tour of Italy is no stranger to staging a start beyond its national borders, with Denmark welcoming the Giro in 2012, Ireland in 2014 and this year the Netherlands.

But visiting Japan would be a new and far more ambitious undertaking and would also mark the first time one of the 'Grand Tours' (Giro, Tour de France and Vulta d'Espagna) have begun outside Europe.

Aside from the novelty and exotic nature to the idea there is also the not inconsequential aspect of financing such a move.

According to La Stampa, holding a proposed four stages in Japan, one of which could see the peloton tackle the iconic Mount Fuji, could be worth in the region of 35 million euros ($40m) with each team likely to receive between 250,000-500,000 euros as compensation for the vast logistics involved.

Tokyo is almost 10,000 kilometres from Rome, with a flying tome of over 12 hours.

Most of the team chiefs consulted by AFP stressed the complexity and cost of such an enterprise.

"(For this year's race) you need two different structures, one in the Netherlands for the first three stages and another in Italy for the rest of the Giro. Only the riders remain the same," said AG2R La Mondiale boss Julien Jurdie.

"These ideas only make sense from an economic point of view," added the team's general manager Philippe Chevallier.

"Even if you give the riders a rest day after the travel (back to Italy), athletes need proper rest. To have to suffer from jetlag after racing hard for three days kind of goes against the idea of sporting ethics at a time when we're trying to put some credibility back into the sport.

"It's just not reasonable."

FDJ team manager Marc Madiot also voiced his concerns, claiming the only interest for such a move is economic.

"It would create a lot of logistical problems and that makes life difficult for the other (race) organisers," he said.

"But there's a non-negligable sum to be made from it. And money talks."

In the 1980s, the Tour de France flirted with the possibility of holding a start on the other side of the Atlantic in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe only to ditch the plan due to the huge costs involved.

Whatever the outcome for 2018, Italian media suggest next year's 2017 centenary Giro will stay at home, with a start possibly in Sardinia.