After the most exciting joy-for-cycling-fans-globally ending of the Giro on Stage 18, with Damiano Cima of the morning’s break holding off the charging peloton, and Ackermann overtaking Demare for the ciclamino jersey, the final three stages are bound to be a bit of a letdown.
Last year, the race exploded on Stage 19, with Froome going on his long range attack and Simon Yates cracking, completely upending the narrative of the race. If that’s going to happen this year, it’ll have to wait to tomorrow’s Stage 20. Instead, Stage 19’s battle will be subtler— more suited for microaggression than aggression— but could be just as important with the looming time trial. A swing of 20 to 30 seconds in either direction between Roglic and Carapaz could mean the difference between putting the pink jersey out of reach or making it all in for pink at the final TT.
The Giro begins it’s final mountain sojourn with two days in the Dolomites. The first of the Dolomitian duo has a bumpy 137 kilometers prior to a 13.6 kilometer at 5.6% gradient final climb to San Martino di Castrozza (which I believe translates to Saint Martin, the Castrato. I like the German name better, anyway- Sankt Martin am Sismunthbach).
It’s a good day for the break (but aren’t they all) with lots of ups and downs, though only 2 categorized climbs before the finale.
The category 3 Passo di San Boldo climb would have been a good launching point for attacks, but unfortunately it comes 85 kilometers prior to the finish with a long flattish valley section before the next climb. The climb will hit a maximum kilometer at over 13% gradient. Fans of sexy hairpins will get their money’s worth, however, as the snaking turns even make it difficult to climb in Google street view.
For the last bit of sexy hairpins, you’ll have to engage your imagination, however, as the climb takes the riders in and out of a bunch of tunnels.
Spelunking will be a theme of the day, as the riders will go through beaucoup tunnels on the way to the final climb. Those looking to make a long range attack may try on the category 3 climb, but the Lamon is likely to be a lemon, as it’s gradients of 4 to 6% probably won’t provide much of a springboard.
For the GC, it should be all about that final climb, which looks like this:
Map of final climb:
It’s long at over 13 kilometers, but not steep. It’s doubtful that any of the top 4 contenders will be able to put time into each other, but someone further down on GC may be given some leeway.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Dolomites get their name from the French mineralogist Deodat Gratet de Dolomieu, who was the first to describe the carbonate rock that makes them up. In Italy, the Dolomites are also known as Monti Pallidi, or Pale Mountains, based upon the golden and pink hues of their rocks as the sun rises and sets. One of the legends of the Dolomites involves how the Pale Mountains got their color. Honestly, the legend is a bit of a mess and probably could have used a good editor but can be summarized like this: A Dolomitian prince wants to go to the moon, finds some old men with a spaceship who he gets to take him there, falls in love with a moon princess, goes blind from the white flowers on the moon, returns to earth with his moon wife, who brings the moon’s white flowers with her and plants them around the Dolomites, moon wife gets homesick for the moon’s white mountains and scared of the earth’s dark mountains and returns to the moon, the prince is left behind, is lonely and becomes a hermit in the woods but meets a cave gnome, cave gnome promises to get the moon wife back for the prince if the prince gives the gnome’s people a country, the cave gnome is given a country (actually New Jersey) and gets his gnome compatriots to climb up the mountains and rip off threads from the moon to cover the Dolomites, moon wife sees the white mountains and reunites with the prince. So, I guess the moral of the story is that moon wives are hard to keep happy.
WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN?
The big question is whether Carapaz’s hopes are going to explode like dynamite in the Dolomites. His performances this year and last year suggest they won’t. Last year, he survived Froome’s long range attack, coming in second on that stage and leaping up 4 spots on GC. Carapaz would also finish with the small front group of favorites on the following mountainous day last year. This year, he’s picked his spots to move into pink, though a stage win on Stage 4 and then 11 days later on Stage 14 may suggest that he’s been holding onto form for a while and is due for a drop off (hey, you gotta try to manufacture drama where you can). Anyway, this is a stage that shouldn’t worry him— as it’s unlikely that either Nibali or Roglic will be able to do damage on the relatively gentle gradients of the finale nor is their a good opportunity for a long range attack. Rather, it’s all pointing to a final showdown on Stage 20, as more likely than not, the front GC riders cross the line together in a small group.
You can almost guarantee that Simon Yates and Miguel Angel Lopez will try something— and they’ll probably be granted a little leeway as they are far enough down on GC, but not enough leeway to be let in the morning break. And more likely than not, that morning break will be fiercely contested, as this stage may provide the last opportunity for a victory from a break. You can expect a common cast of characters to make it in the break— De Gendt, several Androni, Brambilla, et al. As for a winner, damned if I know, but let’s go with Tunnel Kangert to stay true to the theme of this stage.