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Giro Stage 20: Grapping at Straws

Monte Grappa and a cheezy finish to the Giro’s climbing phase

Asiago Bell Tower
DEA W Buss

Stage 20: Pordenone — Asiago, 190km

Last call for the climbers. You can almost hear the groans...


Stage 20 map


Stage 20 profile

Final climb to Foza

Foza ascent

And then 15km of rolling and descending. Nobody picked this as a day to decide the Giro, so of course...

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day

Quintarelli Bianco Secco Ca'del Merlo 2015

Special wine alert! From the importer:

Blend: Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Bianco, Chardonnay, Saorin

It is impossible to speak about Quintarelli without superlatives. The name itself stands for so much: the family, the wines, a style, a tradition, a way of doing things. After all the time, effort, patience, and care that go into the making of a bottle of Quintarelli, it truly does mean so much more than wine. Giuseppe, fondly known as “Bepi” to those closest to him, was a perfectionist in every way. From the beautiful handwritten labels, to the best possible quality cork, to the exquisite wine in the bottles, the Quintarelli name is a stamp of authenticity and the ultimate indication of an artisanal, handmade, uncompromising wine of the highest quality.

Asiago cheese

Did You Know!

It’s grapes and cheese day? Monte Grappa and a finish in Asiago... I am hungry already. I can’t find any translation of Grappa, though maybe Susie Hartigan can help us here. I had assumed it was about grapes, but Italian for grape is “uva” (thanks Duolingo!) and grappa the liquor made from leftover grape skins is named after Bassano del Grappa where legend puts its invention. So Monte Grappa is not “Grape Mountain,” but when you get down to the valley you can certainly find some quality grape liquor.

Of course, Monte Grappa does have an extensive war history, since it’s the massif that overlooks the lowlands of the Venetian Plain. In WWI the Austrians were in the process of overrunning northern Italy in 1917, but the prior construction by the Italian army of artillery and fortification on the top of Monte Grappa gave them a position from which they halted Austria’s advance on Venice. Then there was another battle, and another, and in WWII it was a hideout for partisans but that ended badly. Now it’s just a nice, peaceful mountain that has nothing to do with grapes.

Asiago, on the other hand, is very much the home of the famous cheese. It’s a cow’s milk product, although cow’s milk only completely replaced sheep’s milk in the area in the 19th century. There is the smooth, fresh pressato Asiago as well as the aged variety that’s more like parmesan (Asiago d’allevo). And with this, here’s a primer on Italian cheese.

“Pecorino” is the name to know, it refers to sheep’s milk products, and of the 42 officially designated denominazoine di origine protetta cheeses, six are pecorino varieties from all over, not just Romano. Plus another five sheep cheeses. Then there’s one “buffalo” cheese from the milk of the Mediterranean water buffalo: mozzarella, and several products that stem from that, like burrata, straciatella and yogurt. Plus a couple goat varieties, but then mostly cow products. There’s also a Stelvio cheese (a.k.a. Stilfser), and I’m sure it tastes lovely with a nice beer and some crackers, and 48 switchbacks in your legs.

What’s it About?

Good question. Before the race started we collectively shrugged our shoulders, but now it’s the scene of an intense, tightly fought GC battle. The climbs themselves are #s 8 and 10 on Will’s list, and since Piancavallo was #5, then that’s saying this is a tough stage. 190km is another long day in the saddle, and really it’s become a war of attrition now. Monte Grappa isn’t terribly steep, just over 5% average, but 24km long and pretty unforgiving at first. [This being one of nine approaches to the summit, per Will.] Should Dumoulin come unstuck then — or Quintana or Nibali or anyone else who’s seconds away from both glory and misery — it will be a long chase back with 20km of descending and the stiffer Foza climb averaging just under 7%. That ascent is making its Giro debut, while Monte Grappa has shown up on several occasions before, including a day when Quintana won the time trial there in 2014.

Finally, there are 15k of... something else besides climbing that finish off the stage, so if the race is blown to hell by then, it’ll come down to who has the best group to hammer out some pacelining with.

Pick to Win

Probably Landa again. No? OK, I’ll take the GC boys and Thibaut Pinot on the line.