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Giro Stage 16: Rosa Mountain Majesties

It’s the Queen Stage of the 2017 Giro

Passo Mortirolo
Tim de Waele

Stage 16: Rovetta — Bormio, 222km

We may not know where this Giro d’Italia will ultimately be won. We may not even be able to say where the peloton will suffer the most (Stage 18 says hello too). But we know one thing for sure, this day will be the highest point in the race, the longest day in the saddle, and a hard, memorable, classic Giro stage. Also I love the name “Giogo di Santa Maria,” on the assumption that it means “St. Mary’s Jog.”

Without much further ado...


St 16

A bit truncated because of, never mind, but this is the good part.


Stage 16 profile

Mortirolo Specs:


Distance: 12.6km

Average: 7.6%

This isn’t the side that makes grown men cry; that’s the western approach which is much steeper. And the descent will be a third route, not the western madness, though apparently it’s still somewhat technical.

Stelvio Specs:


Distance: 21.7km

Average: 7.1%

This too is not the legendary side; that’s the one from Switzerland with its 48 hairpins, and the race descends that. But 40 hairpins for the uphill side is nothing to sneeze at.

Gioga di Santa Maria/Umbrailpass Specs:

Gioga Umbrailpass

Distance: 13.4km

Average: 8.4%

Not much to add except that the finish is down the other side of the pass, back into Italy. Will says that the downhill portion is actually part of the road they climbed over the Stelvio, and as you can see St. Mary’s Jog is part of the same hunk of rock as the Stelvio.

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day

We’ll be back in a moment with this.

Did You Know!

That the Stelvio Pass was built by the Austrian Empire to connect their traditional land base with their possession now known as Lombardia? Will had some Stelvio construction history in his Mountains Preview (which is essential reading this week), and I won’t repeat it. But if you wonder about all the German names in this area and to the east in the Dolomites, it’s simply about the 18th-19th century history possession of certain areas by the neighboring people, now an arm of Switzerland but previously part of Austria.

The moving border here is actually much more stable than what we will see in two days in Sudtirol, which has more of a recent German lineage and whose status in Italy is a bit less clear. Lombardia (including up to the Stelvio), on the other hand, hasn’t changed shape very much, and last changed identity in the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859. [Did you know! That there was a first Italian War of Independence against Austria? And that it didn’t go very well? If at first you don’t secede...].

Back in the day cities were the headliners, and the existence of Milan gave the Lombardia region some gravitas. Again, compared to Sudtirol I think this is an historical difference. Lombardia and Venetia (Republic of Venice) were a package deal for a while, but Sudtirol was outside that area for a long time. It’s complicated in general. But around the Stelvio it’s maybe not that complicated. This is Italy, via Lombardy, with roots all the way back to Rome (sort of) and the Kingdom of the Lombards in the 6th century.

Oh, and the Lombards were German tribes (the Italian name is the longobardi, who may or may not have invented the longboard and named it after themselves), but because the administrative region goes back so far, the Italic and Germanic folks assimilated with each other so long ago that it became a singular identity well before Modern Italy took shape.

OK, I’ve stalled long enough.

What’s the Stage About?

Long, long climbs on a long, long day in the saddle. Of the 32 rated climbs in the Giro, these are numbers 1, 2 and 7 on Will’s scale. But as daunting as that sounds, the concluding descent means that the best descenders will perhaps be able to extend their advantage or minimize their losses. Quintana is a decent descender sometimes, and struggles other times. Someone a bit closer to his career could probably tell you what sort of descents he likes and dislikes. Don’t be shocked if the downhill stretches work against him. Unless he breaks Dumoulin completely, it’s possible the gaps will be minimized by the shape of the stage. It’s also possible Quintana himself will be on the wrong end of those gaps. But if he’s fit enough to win, this will be the stage where we take official notice.

One thing I think we can discount is a successful breakaway. Never say never, but such distance means we will see anyone up ahead run out of steam, probably on the final climb. A more interesting question will be whether Movistar have people up the road — not to win the stage, of course, but to play out their overall strategy. So the breaks will be of great interest, but not because of the potential for a stage win. Is my thinking.

Pick to Win

Adam Yates. I am not sold on Nairo’s form, and Yates looks terrific, while still being far enough back that people don’t have to react to everything he does. That’s a nice set of circumstances for a stage win, even if Orica are still muttering darkly about the Blockhaus.