The 2012 Giro d’Italia is almost here, folks, and it is high time we start preparing seriously for it. 

The first Grand Tour of the season starts May 5 in Denmark, which, you will note, is not Italy. In fact, there will be three Danish stages all together, starting with an 8.7km prologue to kick it all off. It’s becoming rather popular to start national tours in the wrong nation, but it’s a very interesting way to include other countries and increase audience. This year, in particular, is intriguing because it means the riders get a rest day after just three stages, one of them only a prologue at that. There will be some seriously tired legs by the time the Giro finally reaches the high mountains in the final week.

Our first look at a decisive stage comes in fair Verona, Shakespeare’s favorite town he’d never been to.But there’s nothing fair about a team time trial if you’re, say, Jose Rujano with a tiny team and you’re not a time trialer yourself. Teams with solid men against the clock not only stand to win the stage, but position their riders high up overall. One benefit here helps teams with strong time trial pasts that may not be readily apparent. In years past, the Giro opened with a TTT, meaning win the jersey and your squad has to ride on the front for a few days until someone takes it. Now, with three days in Denmark, teams could actually win and stay out of the race lead. A rider like Mark Cavendish, who is capable of a strong prologue and a team with solid TT riders, may, however, take the jersey twice in a span of a few days. And with Cav, he may even be holding the sprints jersey after two road stages in Denmark as well.

It was Cav’s HTC-Highroad team that won the TTT in 2011, but that’s been torn up and  shuttered about the rest of the professional peloton. RadioShack, sans the Lay-OH-pard element, was high up last year as well, and they will only be stronger in 2012 with their additions. Fuglsang, in particular, is a strong TT man with GC ambitions, along with Tiago Machado as a dual threat.

The TTT is a 33km route with one small lump coming in the first third of the race. It’s no mountain, but it is certainly a rise capable of throwing off the rhythm of a team uncomfortable riding together. SKY, Garmin and RadioShack-Nissan all can be counted on for strong teams, though Liquigas-Cannondale is going to have a strong Vicenzo Nibali backed by a very strong squad as well. GreenEdge may already have a jersey in its team, with a very strong Matthew Goss racking up two second places finishes in Turkey this week. For a squad the is looking to scalp as many stage wins as possible, the team time trial must figure highly on the list.