Another day, another mountain stage at this Giro d’Italia. This final week of racing is all about the climbing, and stage 17 sticks to the pattern. It’s a long stage running from 230 kilometers from Feltre to Tirano with two significant climbs and a descending finish. Paging Vincenzo Nibali.
The Passo Tonale and the Aprica are the climbs on the menu for this stage. The Passo Tonale is mostly in the 5%-6% range with short sections in the neighborhood of 7% and 9%. Child’s play, this Passo Tonale, relative to monster passes this Giro has already climbed. The Aprica is easier still, with the gradients mostly remaining under 6%. The sinuous descent to the finish is tricky with its dizzying hairpin curves.
Stage Battle: With so many riders now sitting several time zones out of the general classification, today is a good day for the Saxo Bank team of Alberto Contador to let the break go all the way. At least, that’s what I would do, but they didn’t ask me. The climbs are not really difficult enough to force a selection among the general classification riders, though a good descender could sneak away on the final descent. Again, paging Vincenzo Nibali.
Maglia Rosa Matters: After dominating Tuesday’s time trial, Alberto Contador looks comfortably in control of this Giro d’Italia. Indeed, Nibali said in a post-race interview on Tuesday that the race for the Pink Jersey is mostly over. Anything can happen on the road, of course, but it will take an unusual turn of events to unseat the Saxo Bank rider from the top of the standings. He currently leads second-placed Michele Scarponi by 4:58.
The race for the podium positions remains closer, and less than a minute separates Scarponi from Vincenzo Nibali. Wednesday’s descending finish is made to order for Nibali, and it’s possible that he will try something sneaky on that final descent to Tirano. John Gadret, meanwhile, sits 1:50 down on Nibali, and won’t find much opportunity on this stage. A significant reshuffling of the general classification is unlikely on this stage. Patience, my friends, it’s still a long way to Milano.
Cue Opera For: The unhappy descenders. The descent from Aprica serpentines through tight switchbacks down to Tirano. It’s not for the faint of heart. The riders who descend like a sack of spuds (Simoni snark!) will find nothing to smile about. The final kilometers are flat, but the finish line comes up quickly, which leaves little room for mistakes on the descent.
Stage 17 Maps and Profile at La Gazzetta. (Click Altimetria for the profile.)