The queen stage. More GC action than today, I hope.
Eshnar said:STAGE 14: Farra d'Alpago – Corvara in Alta Badia 210 km
Stage start: 11.05 CET, 21 May
The Queen stage! Yes, the queen stage. Despite not having such a threatening profile as stage 20 has, and despite being squeezed in the middle of a 3-days mountain raid, this 210 km long stage is definitely the hardest of the whole race, with its respectable length and 6 categorized climbs, for a total of ~4800m altitude gain.
Starting from the town of Farra d'Alpago, the peloton will head towards the Dolomites, gaining altitude slowly but surely, to reach the town of Caprile. Here, the ramps will start to be irregular, with pretty steep slopes alternating with flat section. After climbing roughly 1200m, from the 400m of Farra to the 1600 of the town of Arabba, the proper stage starts. The peloton enters the route of the famous “Maratona Dles Dolomites”, the famous Granfondo that is raced every year on these roads. We are on the Sella Ronda, a loop of 4 climbs. The first one is a classic of the Giro history: the Passo Pordoi (9.25 km at 6.9%, GPM1) from this side is a top category climb only if you consider all the climbing the peloton has already done to reach Arabba. Topping at over 2200m, after having incessantly climbed 1800m already, legs will feel heavy. After a short descent full of hairpins, the peloton turns north to climb the Passo Sella (5.55 km at 7.9%, GPM2), going over the 2200m level again, before heading downhill into the Gardena valley. Here the riders will turn east to climb the final few km of the Passo Gardena (5.75 km at 4.3%, GPM3), whose average gradient is lowered by a flat middle section. After a very technical descent, the peloton enters the Badia valley and reach the town of Corvara, where the finishing line is. There is still a long way to go though. From Corvara the riders will head south to the last climb of the Sella Ronda, the Passo Campolongo (6 km at 5.8%, GPM2), which with its 1875m of altitude is by far the lowest of the stage. A very short discent will close the loop, bringing everyone to Arabba again. Here the terrain becomes quite irregular, with a false flat section and a couple of little climbs, the latter being the Colle S.Lucia, famous for being the entering hallway of the mythical Passo Giau (9.85m at 9.4%, GPM1). Topping at 2236m above sea level and at 41 km to go, this is the key point of the stage. Its descent brings the riders to the last categorized climb of the day, the Passo Valparola (11.5 km at 5.8%, GPM2), that will behave as the standard “easy” climb after the much harder previous climb. A bit like the Mortirolo – Aprica combo, only at 2200m of altitude. The descent of the Valparola is quite technical at the beginning but becomes easier pretty soon. It finishes at 5 km to go, but the fun will not be over yet. In fact, those 5 km begin with a short wall called Muro del Gatto, 360m at 13.1% (19% max), and then continue with an ascending false flat all the way to Corvara.
4800m altitude gain (at least) makes this the hardest stage of the Giro climbing-wise. Two GPM1, three GPM2 and one GPM3, all in the heart of the Dolomites.
Passo Pordoi GPM1
This climb is part of the Giro history. Ridden 37 times in the Giro, it has been MTF 4 times, the first in 1990 (winner Charly Mottet), 1991 (Franco Chioccioli), 1996 (Enrico Zaina), and 2001 (Perez Cuapio). Due to its altitude, that makes it marginally higher than all its neighbors, it has also been Cima Coppi for an impressive number of 17 times.
Passo Sella GPM2
Much less famous than its brother Pordoi, this pass has been ridden 13 times in the Giro, being Cima Coppi only twice, the last time in 1998, when Pantani won the price and got the jersey after the descent.
Passo Gardena GPM3
Sharing pretty much the same Giro history as the Sella (many times being ridden the same stage as its neighbor), this freakishly long pass will not be ridden entirely... Its overall numbers from the very bottom are 31 km at 5.3%... unfortunately on this day the riders will have to face only the final 6 km or so.
Passo Campolongo GPM2
The last climb of the Sella Ronda, the Campolongo is much lower than all its neighbors.
Passo Giau GPM1
One of the most famous Dolomite passes, the Giau has actually been ridden only 7 times in the Giro, the first in 1973, with Fuente being the first on the top. Its fame is very recent, being ridden 4 times between 2007 and 2012, and being planned but cancelled due to snow in 2013.
Passo Valparola GPM2
This climb has been ridden only 5 times in the Giro history, the last one in 2012. Worth remembering its 1992 appearance, featuring pretty much the same finale of this year, with Franco Vona getting the win and Indurain securing its pink jersey.
Muro del Gatto
Never raced in the Giro, this wall is a recent addition to the Maratona.
What to expect:
This is tough to call. As I said, I consider this the queen stage, but will the riders do the same? Will they be scared of the MTT? Will they be spent after Cividale? Will any GC guy need a big time gain? We don't know yet.