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Giro Stage 15 Preview: Conegliano - Gardeccia/Val di Fassa, 229km

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Tschuss!

Today's destination is the heart of Dolomiti ski country. The Val di Fassa, from this cute little old map, is apparently littered with ski lifts. Just up the road is Cortina d'Ampezzo, which every Bond fan knows is a famous, glitzy ski resort where people are incapable of noticing how old Roger Moore looks. Bring your skis, your fur coats (boo!), your unnecessary jewelry, and your Visa card. But don't bring your road bike... unless you've come here not to indulge but to suffer.

The masochists at RCS seem to have an endless supply of ways to hurt the Giro d'Italia peloton. Sure, the Zoncolan and Finestre get the headlines, but to the peloton, a single awful climb is nothing compared to six-plus hours of going up one nasty climb after another. But that's what the Giro has offered as a reward to the survivors of the Zoncolan -- a stage which is even worse (now that the Zoncolan stage has lost Monte Crostis) than the one which had people talking all winter.

Stats: (and see our big chart of climbs here)

  • Five total rated ascents, three cat-1s, one cat-2 and the Cima Coppi, the highest point in the Giro (which comes with a nice little cash prize)
  • The Piancavallo opening climb, where the leaders will try to conserve their strength, is probably the hardest by the numbers, 14.5km at just under 8%. Second, the Forcella Cibiani, is no slouch at 10km x 7.2%.
  • Then the Cima Coppi: the Passo Giau, longest climb of the stage at 16.3km, and a more comfy 6.3% average grade.
  • Number 4 of five is the Passo Fedaia, a brute at 11km x 8.2%, but that's misleading. The bulk of the climb, the upper 6km, is all above 10% and maxes out at 18.
  • And in case anyone's legs haven't exploded, the last 7km of 229 are spent on the climb to the Rifugio Gardeccia, said to average 10% but with an opening km at 12% and a closing km at 13.8%.

Stage Battle: The most certain thing you can say about this stage is that the KOM battle will be joined. If someone wants to stop Alberto Contador from winning it by default, today is the day to do so. The Cima Coppi is worth double points, the biggest single cache in the Giro, and with two major climbs beforehand, an enterprising breakaway artist can bag three huge peaks before i big even start their workday. The right such break might survive to the stage win, although that would require incredible fortitude.

Maglia Rosa Matters: Massive. In a sport sometimes measured in seconds, today there are fistfuls of minutes to be won, or lost, when the blasted road juts up again, after six hours of misery. The same guys is favored over every kind of terrain, but these different flavors of oblivion will jumble the other places back and forth viciously.

Cue Opera For: Pretty much everyone, except Contador and maybe Rujano. And the KOM guys, they'll be zombies at the end, but in a good way.

Serious grafix porn on the flip...

Click on these images for the ginormous version.

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