Praise be to all the Gods above, we have finally reached the Alps and the decisive part of the Giro. Pinerolo was a teaser and although we got quite a bit of early action this is the real stuff. And we get an introduction to two entirely new climbs in the Giro as well, Pian del Lupo and the Colle del Nivolet.
We stay in the area close to France, bypassing Turin before we turn into the valley heading west to Ceresole Reale, the little village named as the finish but which is in reality just the starting point of the final 12 kms of the climb to Lago Serrù. On the way we pass two quite serious climbs, the Colle del Lys and the Pian del Lupo.
I’m not going to go on too much about Colle del Nivolet since Will has already covered it extensively in his mountain preview and all I can add after having ridden it (the last part from Ceresole Reale) with him is that if anything he is understating how great it is.
The final climb is hard to pinpoint, they’re actually going uphill for over 45 kms. Mostly gentle gradients in the beginning but it gets gradually harder and there are parts that are tough enough even before they reach Noasca with 20 km to go. The real action will likely begin after they go through Ceresole Reale 8 km later and this is when things start getting beautiful as well.
After getting through the forest the climb comes up in an open pasture valley that has evil switchbacks with stretches of 9-10% and this is no doubt where the bigs will make their moves. The picture below looks down the valley and shows some of the nastiest bits .
Beyond the finishline at the dam/lake Lago Serrù the road actually continues past a second lake and up to the pass via a bunch of gorgeous hairpins. Due to environmental (and practical) concerns this bit is not included in the race but we will for sure see plenty of helicopter footage of it if the weather cooperates. Just like the Gavia, Nivolet still has quite a lot of snow cover by the looks of images.
Did You Know?
The finale of this stage plays out in the Gran Paradiso national park. It is Italy’s oldest national park and was originally intended to protect the alpine ibex from being hunted into extinction. Nowadays it is a protected area for many species, Golden Eagles most notably for the Giro as it will directly influence TV coverage. There are a number of restrictions placed on the race to allow it to enter the park. As mentioned we will not go all the way to the top of the pass and helicopters also have a number of no-fly-zones to consider in order to not disturb the nests of the eagles. Park rangers will be onboard the TV helicopters to make sure they respect these restrictions too, this is no joke.
The road ends in a dead end at the Colle del Nivolet above Lago Serrù, in fact the whole valley is a dead end with big mountains surrounding. So post-race the whole circus will have to go back the same way they came to get out of the valley to reach the stage 14 start in Saint Vincent which is in the neighboring Aosta valley. Being so relatively remote and isolated is probably one of the reasons the Nivolet isn’t even more famous than it is. It’s a place you sort of have to seek out and not one that easily connects with other destinations.
Also did you know?
Ceresole Reale breakfasts are better than most other breakfasts. This was on offer before we climbed Nivolet.
Combined with the other local cheeses we had the night before it’s a minor miracle I could get on a bike at all.
Who’s Gonna Win?
There is no risk whatsoever that we won’t see significant GC action here. Riders have been waiting for too long not to grasp the opportunity when it finally appears. You’d also think that with the uncertain weather talk about the Gavia stage some people might not want to do too much waiting for later just in case some of the later mountain stages get neutered. There’s going to be early attackers, some with their eyes on the mountain jersey and the first big points haul, but you have to assume that things will be going fast enough that this stage win will be for the GC favorites.
We saw already how Astana and Movistar are willing to try stuff to get back in the game and you can be pretty sure that it didn’t go unnoticed how Roglic was isolated early either. The terrain won’t really be open to attacks before the final climb unless it’s a really massive team effort and I kind of doubt we get that already. It’s also possible that teams may be more weary about letting random helpful Astanis and Movis up the road early after they tipped their hand already on the road to Pinerolo.
Unless some of the Jumbos were saving themselves on stage 12 it’s almost a given that Roglic will have to let some of the climbers who lost a lot of time in the TTs go and ride a smart stage in his own pace or he may risk exposing himself following too many attacks. After what we’ve seen so far he should probably do well enough at that and you wouldn’t be surprised if he went on the offensive himself quite early rather than sit and wait for others to hit him. That UAE should be able neutralize the dangerous attacks for him and to do too much to defend Polanc’s jersey seems unlikely. What they can do is probably keep the race reasonably in check over the two first climbs and hope he can defend well enough in the finale.