Eshnar said:STAGE 16: Rovetta – Bormio 222 km
START TIME: 10.25 CEST
With all the flaws this route has, one cannot really complain about this stage. The queen stage of the 100th Giro is indeed worthy of the occasion. After a pretty depressing third weekend and a (perhaps unnecessary) rest day, the riders will start from the town of Rovetta and descend immediately into the Valcamonica valley, where they'll face a long slightly uphill drag 57 km long, up to one of the most famous towns for cycling fans, Edolo, where the descent of the mythical Mortirolo ends and Aprica starts. Today, however, we're not gonna do that. Instead, the peloton will tackle the mountains in an unusual way, climbing the Mortirolo from the Edolo side, for the second time in history. They did so only in 1991, the very first time the Giro raced this climb. On the history point of view, it is appropriate, even though admittedly the Passo del Mortirolo (GPM1, 12.6 km at 7.6%) from this side isn't as intimidating as it is from pretty much all its other sides. Being this early in the stage however, it will do nicely as a warm-up climb. From the top, the riders will keep heading north, descending the Grosio side (as they did in 2012) into the Valtellina valley, the favourite valley of all cycling fans. Another uphill drag, this time only 23 km long, will bring the riders to the finishing line in the town of Bormio, where they'll hear the familiar sound of the bell signalling the last lap. Unfortunately for them, this is quite a lap. The road will immediately ramp up, towards the highest point of the Giro, the Cima Coppi. The real one. The mythical Passo dello Stelvio (CC, 21.7 km at 7.1%, 2758m a.s.l.). Climbed from its Bormio side it isn't as hard as it could be, but it's still a long, consistent climb at very high altitude, which pretty much guarantees at least some kind of action and sore legs. The riders will have to be on their toes both uphill and downhill, as they'll have to descend its eastern side, the one with the famous 48 hairpins. After 25 km of a technical descent, the riders will turn west and, climbing a short 4.5km at 5.5% ramp, they'll enter Switzerland, crossing the border for the only non-Italian kms of this edition. After roughly 5 km of flat (with some small ramps) within the Val Müstair, the peloton will arrive to the town of S.Maria, where the last difficulty of this stage starts. The Umbrailpass (GPM1, 13.4 km at 8.4%), which can be seen as the northern side of the Stelvio, is an extremely serious climb, very steep but fairly regular, and despite being much shorter than the Stelvio it is definitely the hardest climb of the day. The climb tops as it connects to the Bormio side of the Stelvio, at the "Giogo di S.Maria", and from there the riders will go down the same way they went up earlier, towards Bormio, This is another very technical descent, where one will also need to pay attention to dodge all the fans that will presumably fill the road. Once everybody safely reach Bormio, there will be only 1 km inside the town to finally get to the finish.
Passo del Mortirolo GPM1
One of the most famous climbs in the Giro, it's been ridden 12 times, the first in 1990 from the same side as they will do today. Which is not the classic one, since it was used uphill only that time, as it is normally raced as a descent. The classic side, from Mazzo di Valtellina, has been used 10 times, while the other used side is the one from Tovo, in 2012. From today's side it's not a crazy climb, but still... 9 km at 8%, a little 1 km false flat section and again 2 km at over 9%... It's no joke.
Passo dello Stelvio CIMA COPPI
Long, high and tough. The highest mountain pass in Italy had to be the Cima Coppi of the 100th Giro. It's just a bit of a shame it is from this side and not the eastern one, but this side is alright too, also on the history point of view.
Never used in the Giro, this is simply the Swiss side of the Stelvio. It connects with the side of Bormio 3 km before the top. It had an unsurfaced section until a few years ago, but it's full tarmac now. Very steep and regular ramps, almost always between 8-10%.
What to expect:
I don't expect more than second tier attacks on the Stelvio, both on the climb and the descent, as the false flat after it will probably discourage any main GC guy. However, anything different than a full blown carnage on the Umbrail will be a huge disappointment (and surprise).
As with the Etna stage, let's just hope this stage can indeed be raced. Although this time the problem is not the lava, but its opposite...
It was June 1st 1953, stage 20 (the penultimate) of that Giro. From Bolzano, the peloton was due to finish in Bormio. A short stage, that presented a new climb, the hardest ever ridden in the Giro yet. The Passo dello Stelvio (to be climbed from its hardest side, the one from Prato) was not on tarmac yet, and if it considered hard today, just imagine how it was back then. The pink jersey that day was Hugo Koblet, winner of the Giro 1950, first non-Italian to ever win the overall. In second place, Fausto Coppi, who the day before had tried everything to drop Koblet without success. On the finish in Bolzano the two had made a deal: Koblet would not sprint and let Coppi win the stage, and in exchange Coppi wouldn't attack on the following day and concede the overall.
In the morning however Koblet is visibly spent, and Coppi's team kept trying to convince him that the Giro was still within reach and he should have attacked. They also made him read the declarations of one of Koblet's teammates, who claimed that the day before the Swiss could have dropped Coppi but just decided to gift the stage to the old champion. Coppi started the stage in a very conflicted mood, and slowly decided to act. At around halfway the Stelvio, the group of favourites was very small. Coppi approached Defilippis, a young proising rider, and suggested he should attack. Defilippis obliged, and Coppi didn't follow deliberately, leaving a gap. Koblet fell to it, and accelerated to bridge to Defilippis, dropping Coppi. At that point Coppi felt free to claim the pact was nullified and unleashed one of the most devastating attacks of his career. He arrived at the top of the Stelvio with 4'30'' over Koblet, and on the descent both riders had some misfortunes, Koblet even fell off and lost time, and at the end Coppi arrived in Bormio with enough time to win the pink jersey with little over 1' to spare, winning his fifth and final Giro d'Italia.
Fast forward to 1965, stage 20, from Madesimo to Solda, with the Stelvio (from the Bormio side) towards the end. It's 5 years after Coppi's death, and the organizers created the Cima Coppi prize, in memory of the day I told you about. A small avalanche at the top led the stage to be shortened and become a MTF to the Stelvio. The winner was Graziano Battistini, with Vittorio Adorni in pink jersey. From that edition, the Cima Coppi was assigned to the winner of the highest GPM of the Giro. It was the Stelvio for 8 times. In total, 17 different passes have been Cima Coppi. But the highest, of course, is this one. The original.