Chris Froome declined to commit to defending his Giro d’Italia title as the route was announced on Wednesday.
The Team Sky rider won the Italian Grand Tour in May to complete a remarkable ‘grand slam’ as it followed on from his Tour de France and La Vuelta wins in 2017.
Froome attempted an ultimately unsuccessful Giro-Tour double this year as he went on to finish third in the Tour de France, which was won by team-mate Geraint Thomas – leaving Froome still one short of matching the record of five Tour victories jointly held by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain.
The 33-year-old seems certain to target the Tour in 2019, and the shorter gap between the Giro and the Tour in 2019 – three-and-a-half weeks rather than five and a half this year – will discourage another double attempt.
Froome appeared on stage at Wednesday’s launch and was asked if he was likely to race.
“I still don’t know,” he said through a translator. “It’s a decision that I have to take with the team.”
Froome was repeatedly teased by the presenters about whether he would race but laughed off their attempts to get anything more concrete from him.
“We’re all together in December at a training camp so I think in that period we will decide everything for next year,” he added. “One thing is certain – if I’m not there one of my team-mates will be coming to try to win.”
Sky appear to face a selection dilemma for next year’s Grand Tours, with Thomas’ unexpected victory leaving them with competing leaders.
Thomas has suggested he has “unfinished business” at the Giro after his 2017 bid fell flat, but will be keen to return to France as the defending champion.
Whoever does race the Giro will face a balanced route which takes place almost entirely within Italy’s borders following last year’s start in Israel, venturing out just once on an individual time trial into San Marino.
Over the course of 3,518km, the riders will tackle famed climbs including the Passo Gavia and Passo del Mortirolo and lesser-known gems such as the Colle de Nivolet to Lake Serru, which appears on stage 13.
There are a total of seven summit finishes – two of them on individual time trials. The final week is loaded with mountain tests but the overall winner will not be known until the final day and a third individual time trial which finishes in Verona’s amphitheatre.