Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time
Eshnar said:STAGE 20: Pordenone – Asiago 190 km
START TIME: 11.55 CEST
The last chance for the climbers. A stage where one has to attack from far out to gain any time. Starting from the town of Pordenone, this final mountain stage starts with 35 km of flat, before hitting the first difficulty of the day, Ca' del Poggio (GPM4, 1.1 km at 12.7%), which is just a steep wall, that might only help definining the breakaway of the day. This breakaway, however, might be crucial for the GC guys ambitions. The 50 km that follows features some small climbs and in general a bit of a rough terrain, not demanding but good to warm-up the legs in case a team goes full gas. At km 98.5 the road changes drastically, as the peloton starts the mythical Monte Grappa (GPM1, 24.2 km at 5.3%). From this side of the Grappa the road isn't as steep as pretty much any other side, but that doesn't make this climb easy. The first part is the steepest and most regular, with 8.5 km at 7.8%. After that, the climb becomes very irregular, with false flats ans short descents followed by steep ramps. From the top, the riders will face a very demanding descent (the same as 2010, when Nibali broke away and won in Asolo), fast and technical, leading to the town of Romano d'Ezzelino. Here, there will be 13 km of flat terrain, that will bring the peloton to the foot of the final climb of the 100th Giro, which is a new one. Foza (GPM1, 14 km at 6.7%) wasn't exactly a candidate when one thought about the final climb of a Giro at all, even more considering this is not "just" a Giro. But yeah, we got this one. It's not a bad climb though: very regular and consistently with a gradient of 7%, it's definitely enough to favour any kind of action. What makes it much more interesting, however, is that there is no descent. From the top, every rider will face 14.8 km of rolling false flats, where small groups and temporary alliances might win or lose minutes, a bit like what happens on the usual road to Aprica. Leaving aside the (non-existent) prestige of the last climb, this is a fitting final mountain stage.
Ca' del Poggio GPM4
Just a steep wall. Too isolated to matter much.
Monte Grappa GPM1
Raced only 5 times in the Giro, this classic climb has been ridden from 3 different sides. The first one, in 1968, was a MTF from the side of Romano d'Ezzelino, the road they'll be descending today. This side was also climbed in 1982, in a stage that finished in S.Martino di Castrozza. In 2010 and 2014 they climbed the side of Semonzo, which we won't see today at all, while the side they'll climb today was first raced only once, in 1974. It starts with a consistent section of 8.5 km at 7.8%, and then becomes very irregular, with false flat sections and steep ramps.
Never used before in the Giro. Very regular and consistent.
What to expect:
As I said, a stage where one has to attack from far out to gain any time. And that means, either attack on the Grappa and use your teammates in the breakaway to stay away on the flat, a bit like what happened last year on the way to Risoul, or completely shatter the field on the last climb and stay away, counting on the fact that everybody should pretty much be by themselves. Who wears pink at the end of this stage won't have it in the bag yet, though...
June 7th, 1974. It's the last mountain stage of one of the best Giros ever. 194 km from Misurina to Bassano del Grappa. 4 passes: Falzarego, Valles, Rolle and this one, the Monte Grappa. One man broke away, he is alone in front of everybody: José Manuel Fuente Lavendera, one of the greatest climbers of all time. His Giro has been a roller-coaster. He started in a great shape: he won in Sorrento, dropping everybody on the Monte Faito and getting the pink jersey. Then, he proceeded to win again in Carpegna and Il Ciocco, and even pulled out the ITT of his life, only losing 2' to his main rival, Eddy Merckx. Unfortunately for him, he blew up in a medium mountain stage towards Sanremo, losing over 10' and of course the jersey. But he didn't give up. While Merckx was worried about his two GC rivals, Felice Gimondi and the young Giambattista Baronchelli, Fuente attacked every time the road went up, and won solo on Monte Generoso and on the day before, on Le Tre Cime di Lavaredo, when Merckx looked on the brink of collapse and got dropped by Baronchelli, saving the pink jersey by only 12''. Gimondi lingers in third position at only 33'', and Fuente is fifth, at just over 3 minutes. At 5 km to the top of Grappa, the situation looks lost for Merckx. Fuente is up the road, with a reported advantage of 3'30''! Additionally, Baronchelli and Gimondi are on his wheel, and he's forced to pull by himself. It's raining and there's a heavy fog everywhere. But at the top of the climb Merckx can't believe what he sees: Fuente is there, he just got over the top with 5'' advantage. Nobody really knows what happened. Fuente will claim that the motorbikes made him take a longer route (there are lots of secondary roads near the top, so it's possible). Merckx will manage to prevent anybody from escaping during the descent, and to win in Bassano, securing the Giro. Fuente will never win the Giro, but with this edition will win the first green (sigh) jersey, created that very year to indicate the leader of the GPM competition.
To this day, RCS celebrates this stage constantly by trolling hard with their GPS gaps.