A couple of related news items affecting this week in Grand Tour mountain stages
1. Giro Stage 20 Altered Because Briancon is Will Not Let Them Pass
This has been rumored for some days but, and I may've the details wrong, the mayor of Briancon, France will not let the Giro through his town, citing COVID restrictions. (That the Giro can't go into France is true; I just may be wrong about the authority that is deciding that.) That doesn't mean the stage is cancelled though as the Giro had a Plan B and then a Plan C ready to go. Plan B was to go up Finestre but that gravel road is snowed in. On to Plan C!
Remember the original stage 20 journeyed into France but ended in Sestriere. So they are keeping the finish town and climb up to it three times now. Knee-jerk reactions around the twiterverse are calling this way to easy and possibly they may be right. Or not. The Sestriere climb isn't hard- around 11km @ around 6%, BUT the peloton will be spending a solid 78km at over 1500m in latitude with Sestriere itself being over 2000m and that has got to hurt at the end of three weeks of bike racing. Here’s that climb in detail:
But one thing that the stage 20 change means is that tomorrow’s stage 18 up over the Stelvio the absolutely-must-see-queen-stage cause this is most likely where the GC is gonna get decided:
See you tomorrow on a thread near you!
2. Weather Looks Good For racing!
Oh yes- some folks are wondering about the weather. It looks like we are gonna be blessed with some sunny if cold (bot not freezing) weather atop the mountains. Seems like any chance of cancelling a stage because of snowfall is remote. Yay racing! And don’t look for huge snowbanks atop Stelvio either. There’s snow but this is fall, remember? The snowpack is just getting started. Here’s a picture from the top of the Stelvio pass from today.
3. But What About The Tourmalet On Sunday?
Good question.. So we got two potential problems, weather and COVID.
- Weather. It is looking good for the Tourmalet as well as the Giro mountains. It may rain on Sunday but it is not supposed to snow.
COVID. Yes, the Tourmalet is in France and most of the stage is in France. Will the Vuelta be blocked from reaching it? Right now no one is saying that this is a problem; the local politicians who I understand have the say on restrictions, and not the national government, are allowing the Vuelta to pass through and are not yet making ominous noises of closing the border so this is what we are looking forward to:
The Alto de Portalet is the border between Spain and France. I presume it has bathroom facilities? Just asking’. Given how few times the Tourmalet has actually been the finish line of a stage, even in the Tour, this could be special.