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Giro Stage 18: The Fiddler's Elbow

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Climbing a-plenty is on the schedule for Friday's stage

The Passo Valparolo back in 2012
Tim de Waele/Getty Images

We’re in the Dolomites for the ante-penultimate road stage, and if you’re looking for flat racing, this isn't the day for you. Only 137km long, but up and down like a yo-yo* with five categorised climbs, and about 4,000m of vertical ascent.

* - yes, you’re right. I cleaned up that simile.

Mappa

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AmyBC’s Wine of the Day - Pomodolce croatina

Azienda Pomodolce is located in Piedmont, within the district of Alessandria. Specifically Montemarzino, where you find three different production zones; Fontanino, Pomodolce e Barone. All vineyard work is done according to organic viticulture, with respect to quality and yield.

A bit on the grape Croatina. AKA Bonarda; this is an ancient varietal is planted throughout Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. In Lombardy’s Oltrepo’ Pavese and Emilia’s Colli Piacentini it is known strictly as Bonarda. 100% Bonarda is grown in Piedmont, however it is typically blended with other varietals.

Did you know?

It’d be nice to think that the end of the northern classics season would also bring an end to the discussions of the first world war in this section. Sadly, that conflict left scars all over Europe. The stage passes through Canazei, which hosts a museum to the fighting in the Fassa Valley. Soldiers on every front suffered appalling privations, but "the white war" was especially grim. The Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers manned trenches through the awful winters among these high peaks. On one day, 10,000 soldiers were killed not in battle, but by an avalanche.

DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI/ Getty Images

In happier news, this is now skiing country, and one famous resident of the region is Isolde Kostner, multiple medallist at the winter Olympics and world championships. We won’t quite see descents at the speeds she hit, but Nibali seems to have taken inspiration from his countrywoman this spring.

What’s it about?

Like I say, it is about 4km of climbing. The official site calls this the queen stage. I wouldn’t agree with that, as none of the climbs are truly brutal, but there is a cumulative impact. Will has, of course, done the hard work for me and I’ll simply take his word that we’re seeing the 9th, 12th, 15th and 17th and 29th toughest climbs of the race, before finishing with a 4km stretch at a 3% incline.

One theory on Dumoulin is that he can handle one tough climb but runs out of energy when faced with repeated long efforts – if that theory is correct, he’ll surely suffer here. It seems more likely to me that we’ll see a large group of favourites together, keeping their powder dry with two further mountain stages, and a time trial, still to come. This will definitely soften legs ahead of the final stages even if it isn't decisive in itself.

Who’ll be winning?

It isn’t impossible that we’ll see a battle royale for GC, but if I’m right and the leaders aren’t separated, expect to see plenty competing for the spotty comp maglia azurra. It says here that Mikel Landa picks up the stage, and enough points to keep the jersey secure until Sunday.