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Giro d'Italia 2011: Stage 14 Lienz to Monte Zoncolan

Warning: due to cowardness from Giro organizers (despite heroic attempts to prevent this from happening from the brave Angelo Zomegnan) the race will not take its anticipated course.

The events in the following 2 posts are therefore purely fictitious.

150 years in the making



The day is almost upon us. One of the hardest profiles in Grand tour history.

We should perhaps start by giving a warm Giro welcome to the Crostis.

Every grand tour has its mega climbs, the ones that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The Giro has the Passo di Mortirolo, the Tour has Mont Ventoux. The Giro has the Passo di Stelvio, the Vuelta has Angrilu. The Giro has the Colle delle Finestre, The Giro has the Monte Zoncolan. Now the Giro has The Monte Crostis.

The stage starts in Austria. The words “mini tour of Lombardy” were used to describe stage 5, but they are just as useful to describe the first 140km here. In fact throughout the stage it is difficult to even find a flat section.

At the 27.8 km mark, comes the riders first challenge. Though 400m will have already been climbed by then, the riders will have to show their faces to Italian border police making sure Alejandro Valverde isn’t hiding in the pack as the race crosses back into Italy.

Starting at 685 m altitude, The peloton will pass the Passo di Monte Coroce Comellico having already climbed to 1636m and go down to as little as 375m at Villa Santina. In between they will pass the 9 k at 5% Passo della Mauria, and the 4k at 6% Passo di Santantonio together with various other uncategorised climbs, while the 6k at 7% climb to Avaglo, comes minutes before the start of festivities in Ovaro.

Then the race hits the Crostis.


yes that really is the Crostis and not a random mountain.

First into the firing line will be the breakaway, hopefully containing one or two good climbers, perhaps Sella. And boy will this be exciting. You’ve never seen a breakaway disintegrate so quickly as will happen on Saturday when they hit this beast.

The climb starts at 7.2 % for the first km. About the average gradient for a proper hc tdf climb of this length.

The gradient never gets this low again.

It then hits double figures at just over 10% for the second km and then hovers in and around the mid 9’s for the next 3.

Any attacks now would struggle to get answered but might be suicidal considering whats to come. But even that is just a warm up for the next section.

Km 5 to 6 is 11.2 and 6 to 7 is 10.1 % At this point the break will have ceased to exist as a unit. Its protagonists likely skattered across the road for km’s. Anyone feeling the slightest weakness in the pack will be unable to hide it. This isn’t etna were you can hide behind the next guy and get a small draft. The rider in front of you will drop you without knowing it. But its only the half way mark.

A short restbite at 9.2 is followed 12.7. and 11.2 for km 9 and 10. Some will likely struggle to stay on their bike.

If the preceeding 8km had somehow failed to do the trick, these 2km are Zomegnan saying to the riders, “ you are going to make this stage epic one way or another”.

But the riders wont be hearing anything as their bodies will be screaming in pain. Their legs struggling to fuction, their lungs gasping for air, the brain struggling to think with the lack of blood.


Some might suggest that people might be scared to attack on the Crostis because of whats to come. While that may happen the thing about the Crostis is that its so hard, you can drop people without knowing it. At that pace, theres practically no slipstream. Remember how the organizers let people ride behind one another in the Kronplatz tt because theres no drag. Well this one has even less drag. The race essentially becomes 150 time trials at once. Oh and did I mention that much of it is unpaved.

The final km lets the riders see the top of the climb, and a generous dive back into single figures, helps the riders a bit as they triumphantly cross the banner.

A fascinating end to what surely will have been an epic stage.



The riders don’t even have time to rest before the next difficulty is thrown at them.

Lets remind ourselves of the race up to now. We have a long stage, starting at very low altitude, going to very high altitude, then back again, nonstop climbing, a killer day before hand, and 11km of absolutely insane grades.

What more would you want from a Giro stage.

Ummm. Strade Bianchi. Ok, how about, Strade Bianchi on a mountain stage.

What more?

Put the Strade Bianchi on the top of the mountain, at 2000m altitude, once the group is already fractured by a climb. Yeah, lol wouldn’t that be something.

But that’s just not geographically possible.

The Giro has other ideas. The Crostis was built for this purpose.

This is mud, unpaved road, which throws the riders bikes around and causes havoc to groups. Normally a recipe for success. But this particular stretch of mud, has certain advantages not available to a Moltacino finish.

For one, it comes at altitude, which makes any riding so very much more difficult. It also comes after an insane climb meaning the groups will already be split, and a pack of cards sorted by climbing ability, will now be reshuffled based on bike handling slkills. Look to see many riders pass and join various groups.

Another thing is that the view to the side adds a danger factor. While the riders should have no problem staying on the road, they can also see that they are only meters away from a very very very long fall. This favours riders willing to take risk. This lasts for 8k.


So 9.9% average for 11km Followed by a flat. Think of it as Col Du Laurent Jallabert (Mende) x4. In fact that’s almost exactly what it is, considering the 8k flat at the top instead of 2 and 11km of climbing rather than 2.5.

Only one thing Mende doesn’t have is a descent so dangerous, there were loud calls to have it taken out. Does the Crostis have this?


Contrary to some reports, the descent itself is paved and should prove similar to other descents like Gavia used in the past. Only like the way up, it is very very steep.

The following profile shows the side they are descending (hence should be read right to left)


Its danger means that nets will be put in place as a safety precaution. It is also very very long. Last Giro, 2 major mountains had a descent and both proved very important. The preceeding 160km will also have an effect on the riders as they attempt to think and control their way through turn after turn of full 80kmph + riding

Every single rider will feel relieved, and as if they have accomplished something, once they make it to the bottom.

But the real fun, is only just about to begin.
BOOM (No, not that one)

No sooner does the descent stop that the 10% grades turn upside down again as the riders (by now better referred to as “survivors”) pass the sign saying “Gateway to hell”.

So after a 10k climb that the other grand tours, would literally, move mountains to have, what else would you want from a stage like this.

Errrr. Monte Zoncolan?



Etna was epic with a max grade of 12%. Zoncolan has 12% as its average (well 11.9 for the pedants).

The climb starts at 7k for the first km, followed by 8.8 and 9.1

But to say the first 3km are a warm up is to understate the point. You thought Crostis was hard. You aint seen nothing yet. The sign at the bottom says “Gateway to hell”. The sign only really refers to the first few km because once they hit the middle of the climb, the riders will have no illusions as to which side of the gateway they have ended up.

Km 4 is 16.1%. Most would struggle to cover such a gradient if they had a downhill going into it. The Minute per 10k rule becomes the minute per 10m rule.

This is followed by 14.9% and 14.2. By now looking at fellow survivors in front is like looking at them through water. Its an illusion. They seem within reaching distance and yet they are minutes in front.

Km 4 5 and 6 are Zomegnan saying to the survivors

“you feel that big boy, that’s pride ****ing with you”

Then comes kilometre 7. Possibly the hardest km in world cycling. 15.3 % attacked with no momentum, and little energy. It is here that the notorious 23% grades are hit. Some cyclists might just decide to quit the sport right here. Others will be unable to stop as the mountain will have put them into a robotic state where they just continue pedalling without realising what they are doing. Kilometer 7 is God (aka Zomegnan) telling the riders

“son, you have sinned in a past life”.


The next 2 kilometers seem easy by comparison at 12.6 and 11%, so it is perhaps a good time to remind ourselves that these would be maximum gradients on any other climb.

The Mountain then shows some humanity for 1 short km as it goes down to a practical false flat at 6.2%. It is at this point that the riders hit the famous tunnel, signalling the final section of their life changing journey. As they leave the tunnel they will feel like Gladiators going out into the coliseum, as thousands of screaming fans pack what is already known as the “Estadio Monte Zoncolan”.


But the race isn’t over just yet. For the final 500m, the race goes back to 12 %.

Going into the final turn, being able to see the finish line, the survivors will know what Odyseus felt like when after 20 years he finaly saw Ithaca again.

And once all the dust is settled, when all the smoke is cleared, once the podium celebrations are over and the riders sit in their car reflecting on how it is the last 6 hours seemed like a decade, general managers and soigneurs will be giving the riders Zomegnan’s final message.

“You ready for stage 15?”
The Protagonists


Alberto "EL Pistolero" Contador

Pros – Is Alberto Contador. The Great GC rider of our time. Won on Etna.

Cons- In 5 gt victories, has only once won on the big hc climb of the race. That was against a weaker field at the Vuelta. Failed at Ventoux, Tourmalet, didn’t win a stage at the 08 Giro.
Miight be saving himself for Tour a bit. Let non threats to his gc go.


Vincenzo “The Shark” Nibali

Pros - Great bike handler. Greatest gt descender. (with possible exception of Samu)unpaved roads and suicidal descents give him a chance to put minutes into his challengers. Won the Vuelta on a steep climb.

Cons- Lost 3 minutes last time the Giro visited the Zonc. Yet to prove himself against this kind of lineup on mtf’s


Jose Rujano

Pros- Says hes coming into shape. 2nd on Etna. Claims to prefer steeper climbs. Ryo Hazuki says he can win.

Cons – Hasn’t shown much in Europe. Struggles to see over his handlebars. Ryo hazuki says he can win


Michelle Scarponi

Pros- Was impressive last year on the 2 hardest climbs. Having an awesome season.

Cons. May be losing form after great season. Wasn’t in the shape on Etna.

Igor “Fuji” Anton

Pros- Regarded by some as possibly as good a climber as Contador. Showed at Vuelta he might be as good as they come at climbing .

Cons - Mainly targeting the Vuelta. Not shown any fireworks yet.
El Pistolero said:
That worries you while Igor Anton is in the race? I see him killing 5 people in that descend including him self


Emanuele Sella

Pros Says he targets these stages. Won top mountain stages in 08. Could be given leeway due to poor gc placing. Having a good season.

Cons-Might rely on having to be in the breakaway. Might not have the same “preparation” as in 2008


Stefano Garzelli

Pros - Shown himself to be on top form. Might not be seen as too much of a threat. Likely to target one big stage.

Cons- 37 years old. This might not be the stage..


Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez.

Pros - Excels on the steep stuff. 3rd at Tourmalet.

Cons- Performing poorly. Very inconsistent. Might prefer shorter climbs.
Jul 28, 2010
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Ah, it ain't got nothing on Mt. Baldy! :p
Seriously though, Crostis and Zoncolan sure is going to be EPIC!
Baldy ain't bad, though, should be a fantastic full day of racing!
Mar 10, 2009
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Whenever I see the abbreviation "MTF" my brain always associates it first with "m@therFxxxx", instead of mountaintop finish. In this case, they are truly interchangeable.:p
Jul 28, 2010
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From Velonews on the Crostis descent.
Those efforts seemed to have mollified the peloton, who have promised to race the full stage so long as there’s good weather. Riders have hinted that if it’s rainy, windy or snowing, they will refuse to ride down the narrow, twisting downhill section.
Let's hope for good weather then!
Crostis is such a messed up climb, there are so many kinks in the road in that middle section (I counted 20-25 hairpins, switchbacks or big corners from 4.5km to 12km). The view across the top would be something else... It just drops off, and the valley runs all the way through to Comeglians, or they could peer across to their next challenge. The real technical part of the descent is from 1865m to around 1500m.

The weather looks to be good btw, Sunny and light winds. Guess it can be anything on the mountain though.
Mar 31, 2010
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sucks so hard I can'ty see it saturday. going to a festival party and the after is sunday but I might have to skip that because I must see the damage rujano does here


Apr 28, 2010
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@ Hitch great introduction, probably even better than any of the giro threads last year. Just one thing I would like, with the Protagonists you should include Kreuziger and Menchov
Feb 15, 2011
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@Hitch: nicely done with the introduction!

This is going to be one bad *** stage (probably a tad less epic than the introduction, but heck, I'm fired up now).

seaby71 said:
do you guys think contador will go for stage 13 or 14. which one would he want more? Or would he go for both?

Didn't Conti state he wanted to win Zoncolan?
seaby71 said:
do you guys think contador will go for stage 13 or 14. which one would he want more? Or would he go for both?

This stage is so hard that the course will dictate who wins. It will be like a climber's drag race from the Crotis onward. Just turning the pedals will push a stronger rider forward and a weaker one "backward".

In this case, the strongest man wins. And that should be Contador unless he has a bad day.
Jun 16, 2009
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Hitch's preview is brilliant. Chapeau to you sir.

If anyone (even contador) has a bad day, their giro could very well be over. If you have a bad day, even a good climber could lose 10-15 minutes.
Jun 29, 2009
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If Rujano can back up his Etna performance he should put minutes into everyone but Contador, we are talking bout a 12-16kg difference to his main competitors on 10+% climbs. But i'm most curious about Nibali attacking on the descent
Mar 31, 2010
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nibali can't attack in descent because he will be down on the top. he will pursuit in downhil yes but nibali's downhil skills are intesnely overrated. I don't see him getting back on a scarponi or contador there