100th Giro stage 15: Merano - Aprica 195 kmStage type:
Giro 1994 stage 15Climbs:
Passo dello Stelvio (Cima Coppi), Passo del Mortirolo (GPM.1), Aprica (GPM.3), Passo di S.Cristina (GPM.2)Overview:
Easily the queen stage, by modern standards. The only time in history that Stelvio (from Prato) and Mortirolo (from Mazzo) have been raced in the same stage. The next day is NOT a rest day (although it's far easier than this stage), so the riders could keep that in mind... but it would be a waste.Giro of the stage:
The 1994 Giro route looks totally legit at a first glance. However, a second look will leave you with the feeling of something odd. Starting in Bologna with 2 fractions, a very short road stage in the morning and a prologue afternoon, the race goes south, with an early MTF to Campitello Matese on stage 4, then after reaching its southern point in Caserta it starts going north for good, with an important ITT from Grosseto to Follonica on stage 8. All sensible until stage 9. After that, a 300 km long transfer (with no rest days) would bring the peloton from Pontedera to Marostica, and from there to Austria and the central Alps of the second week. After those, the third week went west, with a mixed ITT to the Passo del Bocco and the final two mountain stages to Les Deux Alpes, in France, and Sestriere... both of them much lighter than the stages in the second week. Years later, the Giro director of the time will admit that the route was that weird only because he changed it overnight, a few days before the official presentation, since the route had been leaked (all of it, profiles included) by Tuttosport (the rival newspaper of Gazzetta) a week before and he didn't want to let them have their win. Originally the route was supposed to go first to France and then to Austria, with no ITT to the Bocco but a MTT to Monte Bondone, and ofc no silly 300km transfer overnight.
At the start of the Giro the main favourite was one only: the winner of 1992 and 1993 editions (both Doubled with the Tour), Miguel Indurain. His main opponents were the Italians Claudio Chiappucci and Gianni Bugno, and two possible Russians outsiders, Pavel Tonkov and the young, surprising LBL winner, Evgenij Berzin.
The prologue was won by the Frenchmen Armand de Las Cuevas, who lost the jersey on the following day to the Italian Moreno Argentin.
At the first GC test, in Campitello Matese, an even more surprising Berzin won, taking the jersey, with Indurain and Bugno arriving in the narrow GC group, a group without Chiappucci, who lost 5 minutes. Chiappucci was looking so bad that day, that his team (Carrera) let the young and promising domestique Marco Pantani to stay in the GC group. And the guy did it, arriving at the top with Indurain and Bugno.
Berzin kept the jersey easily all week, and in the ITT to Follonica won again, against a not-so-good Indurain. He seemed invincible. On stage 14, the first real mountain day, finishing in Merano after the Passo Monte Giovo, the main favourites stared at each other while Pantani attacked near the top, and thanks also to a great descent managed to get his first win. Stage of the stage:
Even if this is now regarded as one of the best stages ever ridden, today's forum(s) would spend the first 3 hours of the stage complaining about the shameful lack of action. The Stelvio was ridden at an amateurish pace. The slow pace however allowed interesting movements. The Italian Franco Vona broke away alone, and behind him a small group was chasing, including Chiappucci, the Colombian Nelson "Cacaito" Rodriguez and the Italian Wladimir Belli. Such was the situation in Mazzo di Valtellina, the nowadays mythical town where the Mortirolo starts.
Only a few minutes after entering the climb, Pantani attacks. Berzin immediately follows him, as the Italian was starting to be a threat in GC. Also De Las Cuevas follows, while Bugno and Indurain try to react but seem in difficulty. Shortly after, De Las Cuevas blows up, and while Indurain drops Bugno riding tempo, Pantani and Berzin start reeling in the group of Chiappucci. After a few kms, though, Berzin blows up as well, while Pantani reaches a completely crushed Vona to get first to the top. Behind him, Indurain's tempo increases to the point that he reaches and drops Berzin, getting third to the top at 50" (after Rodriguez), with the pink jersey at around 1'30". On the descent Indurain and Rodriguez catch Pantani, and the trio goes well together towards Aprica, arriving at the top with over 2' to Berzin's group (featuring Chiappucci and Belli between others) and 3' to Bugno's group (with Tonkov). Starting the climb to S.Cristina Pantani raises the tempo again, and again he drops quickly Indurain and Rodriguez. Indurain here bonks horribly. Behind him, Chiappucci and Belli attack Berzin, who appears in difficulty as well. The two manage to reach Indurain and Rodriguez, and Chiappucci even manages to break away and go for the second place alone. Berzin suffers but luckily for him Indurain suffers even more.
Pantani arrives in Aprica with 6h 55′ 58", with his former leader Chiappucci 2nd at 2'57"! Belli, Rodriguez and Indurain at 3'30". Berzin arrives at 4'06", keepin the jersey with little more than 1' over Pantani, who was now clear 2nd in GC, with Indurain at 3'. The legend of Il Pirata was born.
Despite Pantani's and Indurain's efforts, Berzin will manage to defend the jersey easily in the third week, even winning the Bocco ITT, and will win the Giro with almost 3' on Pantani and 3'30" on Indurain.
Ironically, even if Pantani's name is tied to the Mortirolo, this was the only time he ever raced it. What's even more ironic is that, the day after Madonna di Campiglio, there was a stage with Mortirolo and S.Cristina (but no Stelvio, with Tonale and Gavia instead) waiting for him.Protagonists of the stage:Marco Pantani:Miguel Indurain
and Evgenij Berzin
Gianni Bugno:Next stage:
There's still one very very famous stage that I really have to celebrate here in the surroundings. Shouldn't be too hard to guess.