Stage 14: Alpago -- Corvara, 210km
At long last, the wait for the Giro d'Italia GC battle to begin is over. There is no bleeping way this is not at least a partially decisive stage.
What's It About?
Mostly this is about the trip to the mountains, mostly renowned Dolomite ski areas, and also a pretty good capture of the famous Maratona dles Dolomites sportive. We also say Ciao to the lowlands for a while, though not before a truly lovely departure from the mountain vistas over Lago di Santa Croce back in Alpago -- which I am prepared to move to now, sight unseen, and with no further information. It simply has to be a wonderful place. But yeah, let's not prattle on about the endless string of subalpine scapes. There's real work to be done.
So many but let's start with this one:
It's the only way to make sense of it all. This also adds some perspective:
Basically, the stage begins all too close to sea level, back in Alpago, climbs steadily for a while before the peloton is hit with four fast and furious climbs, then spreads out a bit more before tackling two mega-climbs, and finally applying the excruciating cherry on this Sundae of Pain with the Giat climb and an uphill drag to the line.
Now le salite, all seven of them! The weather is cooperating at the moment, and all the roads should be nice and dry, albeit with some snow around to pretty it up a bit.
The Passo Pordoi ranks as the #2 climb on the day from Will J's charts, but that has more to do with length of the climb, which will hurt, but which will not see too much action given its placement. Still, anything with a monument to Fausto Coppi on it has to be awesome.
This is the Pordoi's 38th appearance, including four finishes. Coppi was first over the top four times, though none were stage finishes. Still... OK, on to #2:
In his post Will described the Sella Ronda, a veritable playground of summits to climb, and in this case there are three inside of 24km. Enough to loosen up the legs, to be sure.
And here's the third climb in quick succession. Just to remind you that this stage is more than wattage and incline statistics, here's a photo from Tifosa of the Passo Gardena:
Photo by Susie Hartigan
OK, after a bit of descending there's time for one more of the Sella Ronda climbs...
Kind of a palate-cleanser at this point. From the summit there are 27km of mostly descending with some small climbs, before the Giro will explode.
This is the main course, nearly 10km at 9.4%, and the fourth-hardest climb in the entire Giro. It's still nearly 40km from the finish, so the technical descent may cause more dramatic changes than the climb itself, but it's the headliner to cyclists, cycling fans and tourists alike. OK, last big uphill...
You can see the numbers for yourself. Obviously if the contenders are together at the start of this climb, they'll still be together for another 4.5km or so, at a minimum, but the latter two-thirds will be more of a test, and the small spike at the end could cause some splits that translate into action on the ensuing descent to Corvara. Well, almost to Corvara; it falls a bit short, where the riders are forced to endure one last big of misery:
And one longer drag to the line:
Riders to Watch
All of them? Certainly there is no place to hide on this course. If you are a middlin'-to-mediocre climber, it'll be a challenge to make the time cut, though at least with 210km in length the buffer will be large. If you have dreams of winning, you won't make today your all-out, make-or-break moment, unless your rivals force you to (or are suddenly looking vulnerable). If you have a weak team, this won't be a good day for getting assistance. You'll be at the mercy of Movistar and Astana all day long.
Apart from the obvious GC battle, there are a TON of KOM points on offer, so expect current classification leader Damiano Cunego to follow wheels and either take max points or at least not miss out on his share entirely. Giovanni Visconti sits 30 points back, and might be called on for more important things, so for now Cunego is sitting pretty. Less certain may be Bob Jungels, who struggled on stage 13, and his Young Rider classification rival Davide Formolo has undoubtedly been waiting for this stage. But Jungels has looked far better than Formolo so far, overall, and has almost six minutes in hand.
AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings
Each stage we bring you suggestions regarding the local fare from AmyBC. Check out her blog Winebookgirl for more.
Wine: Nusserhoff Lagrein
I love this grape. I love this producer. From the importer:
"The Nusserhof estate, consisting of 2.4 hectares of organic vineyards, lies directly beside the Isarco River facing south, practically in the center of the city of Bolzano. The warm climate and the deep alluvial soils, rich in eroded porphyry, make this the perfect place to ripen grapes in northern Italy. Elda & Heinrich Nusser are the latest generation of their family to work this land where the records date back to at least 1788. The Nusserhof gets its name from the hazelnut trees that once lined the house on the river side."
Food: Loacker "Rose of the Dolomites"
How could I resist? I went with the dark chocolate version. Alfons Loacker started in his little patisserie in Bozen in 1925. All products are produced and processed in Auna di Sotto/Unterinn (South Tyrol/Italy) and Heinfels (East Tyrol/Austria), according to traditional family recipes.
Pick to Win
Steven Kruijswijk. Watch the Giro turned on its head.