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May Madness

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With little more to say about the race and riders on the eve of this incredibly nail-biting Giro d'Italia's final two-day showdown, I suppose we can spend the calm-before-storm time getting to know the mountains a little better. Major hat tips here to ClimbByBike.com and of course Google Earth. Feel free to use this as an open thread for all info related to these climbs, including links or photos or personal experiences.

Friday: Vivione-Presolana-Monte Pora

According to the experts, the Passo Vivione runs about 6.6% for 20km, not the kind of grade that's going to kill anyone. In crappy weather, it will undoubtedly soften up the legs, so as an hors d'oeuvre it should do the trick. What's more of an issue is the Passo della Presolana, a two-part climb with a fair amount of 10+% gradient, and a max of 16%. Considering it's the finishing climb, this is where the action is likely to play out.

I'm a little uncertain as to which road is which, but here's an attempt at a Google Earth shot, if you're at the line looking down:

Presolana_medium

Saturday: Gavia-Mortirolo-Aprica

The Passo Gavia is the legend of legends, by Giro standards. Here's the Climbbybike description:

The road is paved, but after a couple of km, it turns to a dirty narrow one lane road, where it reaches suddenly 16%. The Passo Gavia a really hard climb with 18% in parts. It never really gets below 10% with steady, steep grades, lots of switchbacks.Every few hundred meters there’s a little parking place carved out of the mountain, for cars to pull over and pass… The top is paved for about 3 km. Then it turns back to dirt on the way down, pretty much a one lane road with again, an incredible number of switchbacks…

Charming. There is an avalanche of articles out there celebrating Andy Hampsten's successful attack on the Gavia in 1988, but none is better (or more VH1-soundingly titled) than the Hampsten.com first-person account, The Day the Strong Men Cried. The Gavia had been excluded from the Giro for some time, but has become more of a destination a la Alpe d'Huez. Can't seem to track down statistics at the moment... so look at a picture:

Gavia_medium

As hard as that seems, several people including one Lance somebody refer to the Mortirolo as the hardest climb in Europe, never dipping below 7.8% with an average over 10% and a max of 18%. Though distant from the line, you can be assured that something will go down here. It has to.

Mortirolo_medium

 Weather for both days looks like crap, although not legendary crap. Still, things change pretty fast in the mountains, so you never know.