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Race Design Thread

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My first Po valley flat stage with some additional insight into Colli Euganei, which may or may not be a little bothersome to some sprinters.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 13. Modena – Monselice, 157km, flat.


Teolo – 3,5km, 3,9%, cat. 4, 166m

Arquà Petrarca – 400m, *

The most interesting to you are probably the last 35km inside Colli Euganei. They feature the only categorised climb of Teolo good 30km from the finish – something the breakaway will like to snatch and a tiny but potentially bothersome sting in Arquà Petrarca that is 400m at 9% on easy cobbles, roughly 6,5km from the finish line. It's preceeded by another little ledge of 500m at 7,7%.



The cobbled climb in Arquà Petrarca.

Other quite interesting aspect (for me) is Lombardia and the Province of Mantova, which for some reason extends very far to the east, almost reaching Ferrara. I didn't wanted Lombardia on this stage. There will be time for it so i needed to do some additional twisting. Thankfully, the Padan roads are mostly wide, in good condition and there's a fine bridge over Po in Ficarolo that's just outside the grabby Lombardian hands. However, this forced me to have one rail crossing slightly before that. However, that's good 90km from the finish so it shouldn't matter.

I've decided to start in Modena as otherwise i deemed the stage to be a bit too short. Because the last stage was in Bassa Modenese/Mirandolese i needed to bypass it. The easiest way is definitely from east, using Cento as an anchor. That however forced me to slightly clip the metropolitan areas of Bologna and Ferrara so i hope there's no ill will on their side. When crossing the Po and entering Veneto the situation is easier with only the provinces of Rovigo and Padova in the stage.


Piazza Grande, Modena.

I won't be focusing on the Estense gem that Modena is. However, this stage may as well be dedicated to these very rich Italian magnates, as during it there will be plenty of places founded by them. I guess i can mention that the entire central square – XII c. Piazza Granda with its Duomo and its bell tower Torre Ghirlandina are part of the UNESCO WHS. Also worth noting may be the VII c. lombardian Nonantola abbey, during the middle ages one of the most powerful in Europe and often a subject of disputes between the Holy-Roman Emperors and the Popes. Pope Hadrian III was buried in the abbey after his death in 885. One of abbey buildings is now used as the town hall of Nonantola.


XVII c. Palazzo Ducale, Modena.


Abbazia di Nonantola.

The first 65km in Emilia Romagna are inside a historically dispute area between Modena, Bologna and Ferrara. The stage also sort of runs alongside the borders between Modena, Bologna and Ferrara. The first 17km are eastwards towards San Giovanni in Persiceto that includes the passages through Nonantola and Sant'Agata Bolognese renown for being the HQ of Lamborghini. San Giovanni in Persiceto is the chief town of a little area of Persiceto located northwest of Bologna. This area was a Longobardian duchy created in 728 after the Lombards won it from the Byzantine Ravenna. The duchy was abolished as a result of Charlemagne's invasion in 774.


San Giovanni in Persiceto.

From San Giovanni in Persiceto the stage will mostly head north towards Colli Euganei. To not end up in Finale Emilia, which was on the last stage i need to go through Cento. It's the largest town in this general triangle of Bologna, Ferrara and Modena. While now it's inside the metropolitan area of Ferrara, historically it's linked with Bologna. It even has a nickname of "La piccola Bologna" as its historical center for some people resembles that of Bologna. The town was founded in 1185 by the bishops of Bologna, who in 1378 also founded the Rocca di Cento. In 1502 the Pope Alexander VI took the town from Bologna and gave it to Lucrezia Borgia. Cento's Palazzo del Governatore was built on the occasion of a marriage between Lucrezia Borgia and Alfonso d'Este. The town was quite badly damaged by the 2012 earthquake. In 1995 the 12th stage of the Giro finished here and was won by Ján Svorada in a sprint.




Rocca di Cento.

The race will cross the Po and enter the region of Veneto between the towns of Bondeno (on the Emilia-Romagna side) and Ficarolo (on the Veneto side). Bondeno is known as the place of first printing manufacture in Italy, done in 1463 by a printer from the Guthenberg factory in Mainz. The town is also home to one of these tiny Ferrara castles in a nearby village of Stellata overlooking the Po. The Rocca Possente was created in XI c. as a postguard on the river. The modern appearance was created by Nicolas II d'Este in 1362. It was restored once again in 1521 after a Venetian sacking. This castle is part of a UNESCO WHS entry on Ferrara. There was also a similar postguard in Ficarolo on the other side of the Po but now it's in ruins.


Rocca Possente, Bondeno.

In Ficarolo the stage enters the province of Rovigo (region of Polesine). After roughly 10km the stage enters the province of Padova over river Adige where it will stay to the finish. The crossing over Adige is done in Badia Polesine – the administrative and industrial hub of Alta Polesine. The town is also home to X c. Abbazia della Vangadizza founded by the duke of Mantova Almerico. The abbey was abolished in 1789 and designed for demolition in 1810 but some buildings like the chapel and bell tower were spared. One of the earliest memebers of the Este dynasty Alberto Azzo II is buried here. Also worth noting is XI c. Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Pra' located in Ponso, a village between Badia Polesine and Este.


Abbazia della Vangadizza, Badia Polesine.

Soon the stage enters the town of Este at the southern tip of Colli Euganei. However, the stage will go around Colli Euganei first and then enter them from north. A Po valley bronze age culture was named after the town. The town itself dates back to antiquity, when it was known as Ateste. It later gave name to the Este dynasty after in 1073 Alberto Azzo II founded a castle/residence in the town. In 1240 Este moved their residence to Ferrara as Este (town) fell to Venice. The town is home to 3 large necropoli from spanning from the Bronze Age to the Roman Empire, Duomo di Santa Tecla rebuilt after a 1688 earthquake, XI c. Chiesa di San Martino and Museo Nazionale Atestino (inside XVI c. Villa Mocenigo) housing many pre-Roman artifacts of the Este culture and of course the eponymous castle.


Castello di Este.


A glimpse of Colli Euganei, Monte Rusta (396m).

Colli Euganei is a sub-alpine hilly range that cuts deep into the Po plains and separates the Po plains from Friuli-Veneto plains. Highest peak is Monte Venda at 601m. Since antiquity the hills were famed for baths, since plenty of places with Terme in names like Abano Terme, Montegrotto Terme, Galzignano Terme or Battaglia Terme. They were also popular with many artists and nobiblities, hence a large amount of lavish villas and gardens.


Monte Gremola (281m).

Colli Euganei were also quite densly populated in the Prehistoric so there are now a lot of places with very long history and a number of archaelogical sites. Such an example can be Lozzo Atestino just north of Este. Lozzo's possibly Roman or earlier fort was in XIV c. transformed into a full fledged castle Castello di Valbona.


Castello di Valbona, Lozzo Atestino.

The stage enters Colli Euganei in Vò (very unusual name for an Italian town with a quite unusual letter backing it up). Like many other towns in the area it dates back to prehistoric. In antiquity it was known as Vadum. The modern town was created in XVI-XVII c. as a spa/summer location by various Venetian nobilities, who built some villas which were later repurposed like Ca' Erizzo which is now a town hall. The town is also a local wine center, cultivated on nearby hills of Boccon and Valnogaredo.


The center of Vò with Ca' Erizzo.


Rocca Pendice (304m), Teolo.

I've previously mentioned Arquà Petrarca. However, there are also other small hills. The most prominent one is to a picturesque villlage of Teolo. It's a cat. 4 climb with 3,5km at 3,9%, which should be a tasty cookie for today's breakaway. The descent leads to Treponti. While small, it is quite technical with 4 harpins inside the first 1km. Just east of Treponti is XI c. Abbazia di Praglia. It's the main monastery of Colli Euganei. I could do a much harder variant of the stage by going deeper into Colli Euganei but i wanted to have a sprint stage foremost and also wanted to limit myself to larger and better quality roads. I feel the last 35km should still be more interesting than just a pan-flat approach.


Piazza Tito Livio, Teolo.


Abbazia di Praglia, Treponti.

From Treponti the stage heads south via SP25 towards Monselice. It seems to be a popular training side for cyclists as i've seen plenty of them on the road. It's mostly flat, hugging local post-volcanic hills but there is a small bump between Torreglia and Galzignano Terme that's 800m at roughly 6%. Before Torreglia the peloton will pass in front of Villa dei Vescovi – one of those lavish Colli Euganei villas. This XVI c. former Padvian bishops residence is possibly the most recognizeable of all of Euganei villas. There are also other nearby villas like a Venetian XVI c. Villa Barbarigo in Valsanzibio south of Galzignano Terme. The stage will basically pass right in front of its main gate.


Villa dei Vescovi, Luvigliano.


Villa Barbarigo, Valsanzibio.

The last significant part of the stage starts just south of Valsanzibio and its the climb to Arquà Petrarca which i've spoken on before. At the bottom of this climb the stage will pass close by Laghetto della Costa – a tiny lake with a major archaelogical significance as it was a bronze age village. Now this site is part of UNESCO WHS under the Alpine prehistoric pile dwellings.


Arquà Petrarca.


Villa Barbarigo's main gate seen from SP25.

The town of Arquà Petrarca was historically known as just Arquà. The postfix was added in 1870 to commemorate the famous poet Francesco Petrarca, who lived here during his final four years between 1370-1374. His tomb is now located near the town's center. While the town itself has antique origins (it was known as Arquata) the modern nucleus originates from X-XI c. Since XV c. it started to develop as a summer resort to various noble families of nearby Padova and Venezia, i guess partly thanks to Petrarca's fame. Since XVI-XVII c. the town went into hibernation and most of it's architecture with many XV-XVI c. civil and public housing stays intact to this day.


Arquà Petrarca is full of such cobbled climbs.

Arquà Petrarca is only 6km from the finish line that's in Monselice. It's a quite large town on the southeastern edge of Colli Euganei just 20km south of Padova. The town is overlooked by Rocca (110m) – the outermost hill of Colli Euganei. Thanks to this strategic location it was an important stronghold dating back to pre-Roman times. The mythological founding of this stronhold is assigned to a Trojan hero Opsicella. In antiquity it was known as Mons Silicis. During XII c. the town was strengthened by Ezzelino III da Romano of Treviso, at the time one of the richest guys in Veneto. He was also known as a tyrant and pillaged plenty of local regions including Colli Euganei. After some local disputes and sieges between various noble families it landed in the Republic of Venice to which it was a popular holiday destination. Plenty of downtown's palazzos date back to this period.


Castello di Ezzelino, Monselice.


Santuario delle Sette Chiese, Monselice.

The town is overlooked by a castle rebuilt by Ezzelino III as commisioned by the Holy-Roman Emperor Frederick II, XIII c. Torre di Ezzelino and XV c. Palazzo Marcello within the castle. Nowadays the castle is home to one of the largest medieval weapon and armor collection in Europe. Other sights include a large medieval park Parco Buzzaccarini dating back to XII c. XIII c. Chiesa di Santa Giustina, XIII c. Torre Mazzini, XV c. Palazzo del Monte di Pietà and many reinassance and baroque villas like Villa Duodo, Villa Emo or Villa Pisani. In Reinassance and Baroque the town was a popular pilgrimage spot thanks to late XVI c. Santuario delle Sette Chiese commisioned by a Venetian nobleman Pietro Duodo. I tried to find if there was any Giro stage that started or finished here but inside the last 40 years i couldn't find anything.


Torre Mazzini, Monselice.


Villa Duodo, Monselice.

Maybe i should had to go harder with Colli Euganei but the next 3 stages will be deep in high mountains so today i wouldn't expect anything outlandish and there are already two-three stages designed for the breakaways and they will still have their chances while for sprinters it's one of their last chances to shine even if that tiny stint at Arquà Petrarca could potentially be problematic for their positioning. I wonder, how many peeps will drop off from the race after this stage.
Oclini has a lot of buzz thanks to its western dirt side. I personally don't care about it as there are more than plenty of different options and one of them will be the first stage of the Alpine triplet i'm planing. Because German is hard to write for me i'll be mostly using the Italian names of the places.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 14. Bassano del Grappa - Passo Oclini, 180km, mountain, MTF.


Passo Manghen – 23km, 7,1% (max 15%), cat. 1, 2042m
San Valentino di Sopra / Obergummer – 12,3km, 8,3% (max 14%), cat. 1, 1341m
San Floriano / Obereggen – 6,9km, 10% (max 16%), cat. 2, 1561m
Passo Oclini / Grimmjoch – 10,3km, 6,9% (max 13%), cat. 2, 1989m

Today's stage includes some of the Trentno/Alto Adige muritos that are not associated with Bolzano, besides maybe San Valentino di Sopra/Obergummer. While there are already two cat. 1 climbs in the race this might be the first stage to feature actual HC climbs (Manghen and Obergummer).

While technically it's a Dolomiti stage, it doesn't focus on the Marmolada/Sella Dolomites, but on the Fiemme Dolomites (Fleimstaler Alpen). Of course the name derives from Val di Fiemme (Fleimstal), which will be sort of a focal point of the stage (joint with Val d'Ega/Eggental). The Fiemme Dolomites cover the area between Bolzano and Valsugana vertically and Adige and the Marmolada group horizontally. For an Alpine range Dolomiti di Fiemme is relatively low lying with Cima d'Asta (east of Manghen) at 2847m being the highest peak.


Cima d'Asta (2847m).


Val di Fiemme near Moena.

For the start, i need to somehow reach the Fiemme Dolomites. Orginally i had the start in Feltre, but because the town is the very middle of Giro's 3rd week i decided to move it back to Bassano del Grappa. It's well known in the cycling and military circles but touristically it's a rather underappreciated, very decently looking city. It's one of Italian Alpine hubs, at the mouth of the Brenta valley and the second largest city of the Province of Vicenza. Of course just north of the town is Monte Grappa and just west is Marostica (Giovanni Battaglin) and Asiago.


Bassano del Grapa.

The city was founded in II c. BC by a Roman noble Bassianus. The city's name derives from his name. In the middle ages it was one of the main cities of the Republic of Venice and an administrative center of the Brenta valley. It was located near the border with the Duchy of Feltre, which was in Primolano. In 1796 two major back to back battles between the Austrian and the French during the Napoleonic Wars took place near Bassano. They were part of an Austrian campaign to relief Mantova from then an ongoing French siege. The first (September) battle was the last Napoleon's victory during his perfect streak, as the 2nd one (November) was won by the Austrians. The orginal name of the town – Bassano Veneto was changed after WW1 to commemorate the battlefield of Monte Grappa.


Piazza Garibaldi, Bassano del Grapa.

Bassano del Grapa still has a well preserved historic center with plenty of reinassance and baroque manor houses like XVI c. Villa Angarano, XVI c. Villa Ca' Erizzo Luca, XIII c. Palazzo Pretorio – former Podestà – an Italian equivalent of a medieval town hall or XIII c. Castello degli Ezzelini. Other sights include XV c. Duomo di Santa Maria in Colle, XIV c. Chiesa di San Francesco, XIII c. Chiesa di San Donato, XIII c. Chiesa di San Giorgio alle Acque or XIV c. Ponte degli Alpni.


Castello degli Ezzelini, Bassano del Grapa.


Chiesa di San Francesco, Bassano del Grappa.

Just north of Bassano del Grappa, deep above the Brenta valley is Calà del Sasso. It's the longest staircase in Europe. It's part of a track linking Valstagna in the Brenta valley and Sasso on the Asiago plateau. The track was commisioned by a XIV c. duke of Feltre (and most of the Po valley) Gian Galeazzo Visconti to comfortably bring down trees from the plateau to the valley. Valstagna is a quite picturesque little town squished on the left side of Brenta, dating back to XI-XII c.




Calà del Sasso.

I won't be doing any Monte Grappa ascents as the stage is already quite long, so the first 47km are in the very picturesque Brenta and Valsugana alongside the ancient Via Claudia Augusta. This valley ride ends in Borgo Valsugana, which is home to the 1st intermediate sprint (in the frazzione of Castelnuovo).


Monte Grappa.

The Brenta valley includes some very high rocky walls. I could consider it a gorge. There's even a 1km high wall of Sassorosso (1195m), Monte Cismon (1588m) and Cima Lasta/Monte Mèzza (1679m) that drops down straight into Strada Valsugana (SS47). On these local hilltops you can find old military forts from before WW1, when it was a border between Italy and Austro-Hungary.


Cima Lasta/Monte Mèzza (1679m).



Brenta valley north of Bassano del Grappa.

The most interesting fort in the valley is defintely Covolo di Butistone near Cismon del Grappa. It was a small X c. castle that's built in a cave above the valley. It was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars and commisioned by Napoleon himself to be dismantled. Cismon itself is the oldest village in the valley, dating back to XII c. In the middle ages the area was part of the Republic of Venice, besides a short period during the XVI c. War of the League of Cambrai when it was in possesion of nearby County of Tirol. In Cismon del Grappa starts a 70km long bike bath Ciclopista della Valsugana towards Levico Terme, which covers the ancient Via Claudia Augusta. In nearby Primolano the stage enters Trentino.


Cismon del Grappa.



The flat part of the stage ends in Borgo Valsugana. It's the largest town of Valsugana. The name of the valley derives from the Roman name of the town "Ausugum", when it was a stop on Via Claudia Augusta – a transalpine Roman road linking Altino (antique Venice) with Augusta (Augsburg) in Germany via Passo Resia and Fernpass in Austria. Because of the road the valley was strategically quite important. In the middle ages it was in the middle of long lasting tensions between the prince-bishopry of Trento and the county of Feltre, to which the valley belonged to. Since 1413 Borgo Valsugana belonged to the county of Tirol, close to the border with the Venice Republic. This borderland situation lasted to WW1, when Borgo Valsugana and the town of Telve (just above Borgo, en route to Passo Manghen) where part of a "no man's land" between entrenched armies.


Covolo di Butistone.

The modern Borgo Valsugana is a relatively fresh town. It was destroyed by a freak fire in 1862 and WW1. Back then the town's archtecture was mainly wooden Alpine huts so not much had been left. Just outside of the town is the XIII c. Castel Telvana – once a fort over Via Claudia Augusta and an administrative center of the valley. The name derives from the town of Telve, just above Borgo Valsugana. Borgo Valsugana is also the birthplace of a certain Matteo Trentin and also the entrance to a certain Passo Manghen.


Castel Telvana, Borgo Valsugana.

I guess you know Manghen quite well. It's part of the Lagorai Occidentale – the southernmost massif of the Fiemme Dolomites. This might be the southernmost paved mountain pass of the Dolomites and also the southernmost over 2000m pass of Alpi Sud-orientali and maybe the entire Eastern Alps system (besides maybe Dosso dei Galli). Manghen is the only trans-Lagorai pass directly linking Valsugana with Val di Fiemme. It splits the Monte Croce group to the west with Cima d'Asta to the east. Of course it's part of the Sportful/Campagnolo granfondo race. I hope the road will be someday repaired after the October/November torrential rains.


Profile of Passo Manghen.


Lago Cadinello at the top of Passo Manghen.

I may bring a closer look at the normally descended and sort of neglected northern side of the pass, which is only slightly easier than the other side. It's 13km at 8,5% with the last 8km at very regular 9,7% (max 11-12%). If the south side will be repaired then you could think of a tricky descent finish in either Telvo or Borgo Valsugana. Combine it with Lavaze from Bolzano and you would have a quite demanding two-peak mountain stage.


Passo Manghen from Molina di Fiemme.


Monte Croce di Lagorai (2490m).

I assume Val di Fiemme doesn't need any further explanation and i'm only brushing it via Molina di Fiemme for a large detour down to Alto Adige and a small visit in Bolzano before going back to Val di Fiemme from north. In Molina di Fiemme (a village just west of Cavalese) i'll be heading via SS48 into Ora (Auer) roughly halfway between Trento and Bolzano.


Ora / Auer.

The descent is in a local Val d'Ora, which starts in the village of Redagno (Radein) just below Passo Oclini – the finish of this stage. There is a road from Redagno to Oclini, but it's on a quite ruff dirt. Even if apparently it's possible to do it with a road bike i decided to not do it, mainly because of its popularity. You may also know the area for Trodena (Truden), a decent climb right in the middle of Monte Corno range that's adjacent to the valley. The climb is often used as an extension of Oclini. Starting from Ora there are 27km of flat, which includes going through Bolzano. The final part of the stage will start in Prato Isarco with Obergummer.




XIII c. Castel Cornedo/Schloss Karneid, Cornedo all'Isarco/Karneid.

Obergummer or San Valentino di Sopra (a quite rare case of the German variant being easier to remember) should be well known to you. It's one of those Alto Adige muritos concentrated around the Bolzano area. It's the westernmost part of the Latemar group and also the northernmost part of the Fiemme Dolomites, bordering Seiser Alm (Sciliar-Catinaccio or Schlern-Rosengarten) to the north and east. It's located between the Ega valley (Lavazè & Costalunga) to the south and the Tires valley to the north (Nigra).


Sciliar-Catinaccio / Schlern-Rosengarten.

There are three versions of this climb. From south, starting in the Ega valley is the easiest variant including plenty of harpins and the village of San Valentino In Campo or Gummer. This variant is 6,7km at 7,8% (max 12% at the bottom). This one will be descended. The road is relatively wide and in nice condition, but its technicality makes it quite difficult. From north is the side i gonna be climbing.


One of the harpins on the descent from Obergummer.

The variant i'm taking starts in Prato Isarco or Blumau, near Bolzano. It's a climb composed of two distinct halfs. The first half is the steeper section of the climb with 7km at relatively regular 9,8% that includes a 1km at roughly 11% (max 12-14%). This part is very twisty with the first 4km having 16 harpins.


Very twisty opening of Obergummer.

The other half are the last 5km from the top at a much milder but also more irregular 6,6% including some small parts of 11-13%. Overall, it's 12,3km at 8,3%, making it the first proper HC climb of the race. The road is mostly wide and in good condition. The area is mostly covered in foliege, but it does sparsely open up to showcase some quality outlook of the Sciliar-Catinaccio group.


Profile of San Valentino di Sopra / Obergummer.


Sciliar-Catinaccio seen from Obergummer.

The last variant is a narrow track from Cardano (Kardaun) – a suburb of Bolzano. While i'm associating it with Obergummer, it tops roughly 5km before the village on a local hill Dosso di Monte Larice (1223m). This side is roughly 10,3km at fairly regular 9% followed by a 5km plateau.


Profile of Obergummer from Cardano.

At the top is the village of Obergummer or San Valentino di Sopra. It's part of a larger muncipality of San Valentino in Campo or Gummer. The "sopra" part of the village is in the middle of a local hilltop, quite densly forested Rosengarten plateau while the main village is roughly half-way down the slope.


San Valentino in Campo.

When reaching the Ega below San Valentino in Campo there are roughly 2km of flase-flat to Ponte Nova or Birchabruck, when the valley splits into two – to the east towards Costalunga and to the south towards Lavazè. We're taking the south variant but only for 1km before entering a side valley of San Nicolo. All of the roads here are quite major so they're wide and on good surface.

When reaching the San Nicolo valley starts a demanding murito to San Floriano d'Ega or Ega di Sopra (Obereggen). The climb is one of two possibilities of reaching Passo Pampeago / Reiterjoch from north, so you can count it as half-Reiterjoch. The other side that starts in Novale (Rauth) will be descended. The side the peloton will climb may as well be the steepest climb of the whole Giro with the last 5km at rather intimidating 11,7% (max 16% in the very middle) besides the very last 1km at roughly 7%. Overall it's 6,9km at 10%, quite similar to Fedaia. It's a borderline cat. 2/1 climb. I've downgraded it to cat. 2 as i will have a surplus of cat. 1 in the race.


Profile of San Floriano / Obereggen (only to the eponymous sign).

The road is wide, on nice surface and is sort of a more typical to the German school of mountain roads – very straight roads discarding the slope. I mean only in Germany and Austra you have major roads reaching 20%. Thanks to its location right at the bottom of the Latemar group Obereggen has some nice views of the massif.


The road towards Obereggen in San Nicolo d'Ega.

The climb was used at least once in 1998 during the stage 18 to Alpe Pampeago, which was a street battle between Pantani and Tonkov. At first i've mistaken it for the stage, where Pantani did 1:30 on Simoni, but that was a year later. It was also the last stage, when Alex Zülle was in contention for the GC podium before faltering down the ladder Yates-style. If i remember correctly Zülle was very unstable and that wasn't his first sudden big loss but maybe i'm mistaking him with Olano as both had quite similar racing profiles.


Profile of the 1998 Pampeago stage.

The Latemar massif is the closest looking to typical Dolomiti range of the Fiemme Dolomites. No wonder as it's the closest range to the Marmolada/Sella groups. The range split from closely afiliated Catinaccio/Rosengarten group to the north by Passo Costalunga. The highest peak is Cimon del Latemar at 2842m. The massif is mainly known for Alpe and Passo Pampeago.



The descent from Obereggen was featured in the 2012 stage that also went to Alpe Pampeago. Back then it was part of a larger descent from Passo Pampeago/Reiterjoch. It was the stage, where Kreuziger went on Lavazè to then win the stage and condemn his rather abysmal GC campaign. Roughly 30s behind him was Hesjedal beating Purito by 16s and those gains proved to be ultimately crucial in winning the whole race, making him the only Canadian to win a GT. The descent is only 3km long, quite steep (9-11%), mostly straight and wide. Even with the steepness it shouldn't be considered to be too difficult.


Profile of the descent from Obereggen, only to the Novale/Rauth sign.

Like in 2012, the stage starts to climb Lavazè in Novale. However, this time Lavazè won't be categorised as it will be part of a larger ascent that can only be Passo Oclini/Grimmjoch. Passo Oclini is the highest (at least partly) paved road of the Weißhorn (2318m), just west of Latemar. Passo Lavazè is the border between both massifs. Weißhorn or Corno Bianco is 2318m high. However, it's not the highest peak of this massif. The neighboring Schwarzhorn or Corno Nero is the highest peak at 2439m. Passo Oclini lies between both mountains.


Corno Bianco / Weißhorn.


Corno Nero / Schwarzhorn.

Passo Oclini (1989m) is quite popular on this forum thanks to it's western dirt side. However, Oclini is also a small ski resort, that belongs to Cavalese which is just to the south. There's some space not only at the top but also at the top of Lavazè and in Cavalese itself so i hope that the finish won't be that big of a logistical nightmare.


Passo and Lago di Lavazè.


Passo Oclini and Corno Bianco seen from above.

Passo Oclini is the easiest climb of the day. While the preceeding Obereggen should be cat. 1, Oclini is the only proper non cat. 1 climb of the stage. That doesn't mean it's not difficult as the last 2,5km below Lavazè are at 11% (max 13%). However, the last 3,5km from Lavazè are at fairly regular 5,2% with only a short stint near the finish at 8%. Overall, it's 10,3km at 6,9%. The road to Lavazè is obviously wide and in good quality while the extension to Oclini is slightly narrower and in a bit worser state.


Profile of Passo Oclini / Grimmjoch (from Rauth / Novale sign).

So, the last 40km are mostly uphill with each climb getting slightly easier and easier. In terms of height it's sort of a crescendo, while in terms of difficulty it's decrescendo. There's hardly any flat between the climbs and the descents are qute steep and tricky (especially the first one). I guess Obergummer will provide a quite large selection while Obereggen will left only the main GC pundits with maybe one gregario for each. I guess the main action will be provided by the first steep kms of Lavazè. Because of Oclini's profle i expect the time splits between the main GC favourites to not be too big but the next group can earn quite sizeable loses and if you're in trouble on Obereggen then i guess you can wave goodbye to your GC chances. I guess Manghen mid-stage may provide some trouble for the grupetto to finish within the time limit.

This stage is preceded by the queen stage of the race, that will feature an additional amount of Alto Adige muritos, but this time there will be no Bolzano in sight. There will be also a small cameo of the "main" Dolomites, but no Fedaia.
I consider it to be the queen stage of the race.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 15. Predazzo. Val di Fiemme – Valles. Gitschberg Jochtal, 187km, mountain.


Passo Sella / Sellajoch – 11km, 7,2%, cat. 2, 2244m
Passo Gardena / Grödnerjoch – 5,6km, 4,4%, cat. 4, 2121m
Antermola / Untermoi – 5,9km, 8,1% (max 16%), cat. 2, 1559m
Passo delle Erbe / Würzjoch – 6,3km, 9,4% (max 12%), cat. 2, 1987m
Alpe Rodengo / Rodenecker Alm – 7,7km, 11% (max 14-15%), cat. 1, 1715m
Forcella delle Cave / Kieneralm – 9,5km, 9% (max 16-17%), cat. 1, 1741m
Valles / Vals – 6,2km, 4,1% (max 10%), cat. 4, 1371m

Originally the start was in Cavalese but i decided to shorten it and start from Predazzo, manly known for Trampolino Dal Bien – the main Italian ski jump. Of course the stage will feature plenty of winter venues, mainly Val Gardena and Alta Badia. Throughout this stage i'll be mostly using the Italian names. Alto Adige is a bilingual region with the majority of population being German, but i found the Italian to be much easier in writing.


Cima Valbona (2842m), Latemar Group, Val di Fiemme.


Sass de Putia (2875m).

The stage takes place mainly in the northwestern part of Dolomites like the Latemar group (2842m) or Dolomiti di Gardena and later flirting with the southern edges of the Zillertaler Alps. Dolomiti di Gardena is mainly the Sella group (3152m), Puez-Odle group (3025m), Sassolungo group (3181m) and Plose-Putia group (2875m). The latter half of the stage ventures into the southern edges of the Zillertaler massif, mainly the Fundres group including Wilde Kreuzspitze (Picco della Croce, 3135m) or Hochfeiler (Gran Pilastro, 3510m).


Sella (3152m).


Sassolungo (3181m).

You can associate the Sella group (Sellagruppe) with Passo Sella (Sellajoch) and Passo Gardena (Grödnerjoch), Puez-Odle (Puez-Geislerspitzen) and Sassolungo (Langkofel, Alpe di Siusi) with Passo Eores, Plose-Putia with Alpe Rodengo (Rodenecker Alm) and the Fundres group with Forcella delle Cave (Kieneralm).


Picco della Croce (Wilde Kreuzspitze).


Hochfeiler (Gran Pilastro).

I don't think these mountains need any more space as i guess you know them very well. I also expect you to know a lot about these cols. However, i may argue that Fedaia ain't that special. I know Libertine has an instant peak just on the pure sound of this pass but i don't get the hype. All of the Dolomiti passes (going as far south as Passo Duran) are mostly very picturesque thanks to the distinct shape of local peaks but besides Serrai di Sottoguda, which is just a good looking gorge (nothing out of this world) it's nothing outstanding. I will argue that the best looking pass in the area might be Passo Sella as it goes straight through the "pipe organs" of the Sella group.



Passo Sella.

Of course the stage will partly cover the Sella Ronda – a ski/cycling path running around the Sella group consisting of Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Pordoi and Passo Campolongo. Starting from Canazei Sella is 11km at 7,2%, a strong cat. 2. It's immediately followed by the two-stepped ascent of Passo Gardena (here a cat. 4). Of course the stage will pass through both famous alpine skiing venues of Selva Val Gardena (Wolkenstein in Gröden) and Corvara Alta Badia (Kurfar in Hochabtei).


Passo Sella.


Corvara Alta Badia with the Sassongher peak (2665m).

Interestingly, because of their rather remote location throughout the history the Ladin language (possbly an offshoot of the Rhaeto-Romance group) is still preserved. I'm not sure about this as my knowledge of alpine skiing is nonexistend but it seems the skiing culture in the region dates back to the early 70's. I guess worth mentioning might be the ruins of a medieval Castel Wolkenstein built within a rockface near Selva Val Gardena. It dates back to XIII-XIV c.


Castel Wolkenstein, Selva Val Gardena.

After a 20km false-descend towards San Martino in Badia the peloton will start the two-stepped ascent of Erbe. This time i've chosen the Antermola variant. While i decided to split the ascent into two i guess you could also treat it as one. I could had used the classic Longega/Zwischenwasser side an considering the theme of this stage is the Alto-Adige muritos maybe i should go that way. Then i guess it would be a cat. 1 ascent as the mid-descent is shorter.


Passo delle Erbe with Antermola.

I'm doing Erbe because the main part of the stage will be just east of the Isarco valley, which is on the other side of the Puez-Odle group. I guess it's because the road to Erbe is quite narrow that lately this pass isn't seen too often in cycling. The descend to Bressanone (Brixen) is very long and leads through the Gunggan plateau (where the Erbe and Eores climbs meet) and the false-flat of Eores (Kofeljoch). The main descend starts in Plancios (Valcroce) after roughly 14km and it lasts for another 15km at mostly 7%.


Passo delle Erbe from Longega/Zwischenwasser.

Originally i was doing only Sella and then the stage was supposed to descend down to the Isarco valley and ascend almost the full Eores from Chiesa / Klausen (SP163) via the Funes (Villnöss or Villnöß) valley. It goes through picturesque villages of San Pietro and Santa Maddalena di Funes, which is home to a XIV c. church Chiesa di San Giovanni in Ranui (Johanneskapelle). The road is rather narrow but mostly open, with beautiful outlook of the Puez-Odle group.


Santa Maddalena di Funes (Sankt Magdalena in Villnöß).

This variation is roughly 20km at quite irregular 6,7%, an ok HC climb. This includes a 6km in the middle at roughly 9% and at least one to two small false-flats mixed with some small over 10% ramps (max 14%). It can be either part of Erbe or you may descend down to Bressanone roughly 3km before the top (at roughly 1740m alt). I wouldn't recommend descending via this side as the road is rather narrow.


Profile of Erbe via the Funes valley.

The town of Bressanone (Brixen) is the largest town of the Isarco valley (2nd is Vipiteno/Sterzing) with 20000 inhabitants. The town was founded in 901 by the monks from nearby Roman village of Sabiona (Säben) and it's abbey that dates back to at least VI c. They got the rights to found the new town from the Carolingian king Louis III the Child. It was at the time when modern Germany and northern Italy were part of East Francia created by Charlemagne.


Sabiona (Säben).

In the early middle ages Brixen was a prince-bishopry (like neighboring Trento) but later it struggled against the quickly arising power of Tyrol. However, it was only abolished in 1803 and fully annexed by the Austrian Empire. The Holy-Roman Emperor Henry II invested heavily in the bishopry, giving them the whole Venosta valley to ensure they're on his side during the Investiture struggle. In 1080 a synod was held in the town in which the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV managed to put Clement III as the antipope against Gregory VII. After the WW1 Brixen was annexed by Italy.


Piazza Duomo, Bressanone.

Main sights are the Duomo (Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta e San Cassiano / Dom Mariae Aufnahme in den Himmel und Sankt Kassian) dating back to XIV c. and often suffered from fires, XI c. Chiesa di San Michele (Pfarrkirche Sankt Michael), XVI c. Palazzo Vescovile – former bishop's palace, XII c. Castello Pallhaus and some remains of the XI c. city walls with three gates – Sabiona (Säbener Tor), San Michele (Sankt Michaelstor) and Sole (Sonnentor). Just north of Brien is the Novacella (Neustft) Abbey. It was founded by the bishop of Brixen Hartmann in 1142. The abbey is also home to a private school run since basically the abbey's foundation.


Duomo di Bressanone.


Porta Sabiona, Bressanone.


Abbazia di Novacella.

In Brixen i'm entering the Luson (Lüsen) valley, which cuts through the Plose group. Of course the main hub of this valley is the village of Luson just below Alpe Rodengo (Rodeneck Alm). Alpe Rodengo is topped by a XII c. manor house Castello di Rodengo (Schloss Rodenegg) later modernized in XVI c. by a troubadier Oswald von Wolkenstein. Unlike the recent Trentino/Tour of the Alps stage i'm not going to the village but leaving the main road just before it.


Castello di Rodengo.

From here i want to introduce you to a 3rd side of Alpe Rodengo. Technically it starts when leaving the main Luson road just before the village but the main climb starts after a roughly 3km ride alongside the Luson river. The road (which is called Kreuznerberg) is very narrow. Not counting the first 2-3km on a false-flat the last 7,7km are at mostly stable 11% (max 14-15%). That makes it sort of a half-Mortirolo. While climbing there are 15 quite tight harpins. I've checked if Libertine mentioned it in his dissection of the climb but it seems he didn't or i just missed it with my rather sloppy eyes.


Profile of Alpe Rodengo.



The road of Alpe Rodengo.

The descent to Rio Pusteria (Mühlbach) is 11km at 8,9%. The same side was recently descended in Trentino/Adige/Alpes/etc. It's definitely a difficult descent with a not that wide road and plenty of turns and sweeps. There are at least 10 harpins or larger turns. It's a demanding descent but definitely not the most difficult of the last 10 years (Trivigno north, Cason di Lanza). The descent is fairly regular with slopes at mostly 8-9%. There are however two very small false-flats and a roughly 4km section in the middle at 10% (max 14%).


Profile of the descent from Alpe Rodengo.


The Luson valley seen from the higher slopes of Alpe Rodengo.

Rio di Pusteria (Mühlbach) is the main hub of the Gitschberg Jochtal ski area (main ski centers are Valles and Maranza). It's on the very north of Italy, just east of Vipiteno/Sterzing and Brennero. I think this ski area is considered to be the northernmost part of the Dolomiti Superski consortium, which basically covers everything between Belluno and Brunico (includng Alta Badia and Gardena) even if this ski area is the southernmost part of the Zillertaler Alps (Alpi Aurine).


Rio di Pusteria (Mühlbach).


XIII c. Chiusa di Rio di Pusteria.

The Gitschberg Jochtal area is a fresh creation, dating back to 2011. It consists mainly of Gitschberg (Monte Cuzzo, 2512m) and Monte Domenar (2718m), all of them part of the slopes of Wilde Kreuzspitze (3132m). There are of course smaller peaks Monte delle Cave (Grubenkopf, 1827m) just above Maranza. Just west of this peak is a minor col Forcella delle Cave (Kieneralm), which will be the last major climb of the day. However, to reach it's hardest side i need to borrow a roughly 3,5km of Via Pusteria and then have a roughly 7km stint in the Fundres valley (Vallarga) starting from Vandoies di Sotto (Niedervintl).


Meransen, Gitschberg Jochtal.

The aforementioned Kieneralm is the main pass inside Gitschberg Jochtal. It's located just above Maranza and Rio di Pusteria. Like with Rodengo there are three sides – from Rio di Pustera, Vandoies di Sotto (at the base of Terento) and Vallarga. From Rio di Pusteria it's 13,3km at 7,2% (strong cat. 1) and from Vandoies di Sotto it's 11,3km at 8,5% (low HC). Both sides merge roughly 2,3km before the top. I'm however doing the 3rd option from Vallarga, which i think might be the hardest optionof all. Theoretically the Vandoies side is the hardest but then i couldn't do the full climb andit doesn't have the nasty percentages the Vallarga side has.


Profile of Cave from Rio di Pusteria.

I've also chosen the Vallarga side because the Rio di Pusteria side is the widest and the most refined with the Vandoies one being very smilar to that Alpe Rodengo variant i've used. So, now to the maths. The climb is 9,5km at 9%. It includes the middle 4km at roughly 12% with slopes reaching the heights of 16-17%. Just after this murito is a roughly 1,5km on flase-flat before the last 4km at relatively stable 9,6%. Ultimately it's not as difficult as Rodengo, but the middle 4km may provide plenty of action. The road is mostly narrow and seems to be in okay-ish shape.


Profile of Kieneralm.



Road to Kieneralm.

The Rio di Pusteria side is the descent. It's slightly wider and more refined but it's still dangerous and technical with 14 harpins. The descent ends 3km above Rio di Pusteria, when the peloton will move deep into the Zillertaler entering the Valles (Vals) valley after a tunnel. The road to Valles is wide and on smooth surface. The last 6,4km in the valley are irregulary uphill.



The descent of Kieneralm.

The top of Kieneralm is 17km from the finish line. The top of Alpe Rodengo is 47km from the finish line. They're reinforced by decent cat. 2 or 1 (here cat. 2) climbs of Sella and Erbe. Between Rodengo and Cave there's 10km of valley. Consdering the difficulty of both climbs i guess the last 50km can turn out to be very interesting and i guess the differences between the groups may be quite large. I'm not expecting the return of let's say Chianale 2003 but i hope it may turn out to be one of the better stages in Giro's recent history.


Valle di Valles (Valler Tal).

The finish line is just above the village of Valles. The village is home to Jochtal ski, part of the Gitschberg Jochtal ski area. The valley goes quite deep into the Zillertaler and ends just below Wilde Kreuzspitze. The climb to Valles is similar to a ladder – small steeper parts of 7-9% mixed with periods of false-flat. The hardest part is 1,3km in the village at roughly 10% and it ends 1km before the finish. While a rather obscure ski resort it has more than plenty of open space to house the finish.


Profile of Valles, starting from the Maranza sign and w/o the last murito.


XIV c. Chiesa di Sant'Andrea, renovated in late XIX c. Valles.

After the rest-day in Alto Adige the next stage will start in Vipiteno/Sterzing and it'll be sort of a homage to the Jafferau 2018 stage.
I realized i have a shortage of stages starting with a big climb and the peloton doesn't like to have huge hurdles right from the go. However, i feel such stage best work when they're rather short as then it can promote bolder GC moves. Here the large flat of the lower Venosta and the impending giant of Stelvio should neutralize any early GC threat.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 16. Vipiteno / Sterzing – Resia / Reschen am See. Val Venosta, 197km, mountain.


Passo Monte Giovo / Jaufenpass – 15km, 7,5% (max 10%), cat. 1, 2094m
Tanas / Vinschgauer Höhenstraße – 8km, 8,2% (max 13%), cat. 2, 1573m
Passo dello Stelvio / Stilfserjoch – 23km, 7,8% (max 12%), Cima Coppi, 2758m
Alsago / Alsack – 9km, 7% (max 14%), cat. 2, 1538m

The Monte Giovo/Jaufenpass here is mostly cosmetic as you can tell Stelvio will be all the rage. I guess you can also tell the stage is inspired by the Froome plant going Chernobyl on them pawns this/last year (wrote that piece just before the new year's eve). Worry not, i'm not expecting the same kind of racing on this stage.

There were three main reasons for me to have Monte Giovo early on – Bolzano on the Val di Fiemme stage, Bressanone on the Valles stage and lack of stages with big climbs at or near the start. The race visited a number of relatively large towns in Alto Adige and Vipiteno/Sterzing is the only one absent here. Because the town is at the bottom of Monte Giovo it means the climb is very early. That also does open up more possibilities for Val Venosta.


Profile of Passo di Monte Giovo.

Later on i've also realized the profile is not far from a typical Stelvio-Livigno stage. Last time seen in 2005. I think that stage was also the last time the Prato side was climbed. I do however know that Foscagno is on paper slightly tougher than Alsago as even if my choice has higher percentages, it's also significantly shorter. If my memory is correct the aforementioned Livigno stage was also the one where Basso has his teeth problems and rounded up the stage with the groupetto.


Profile of the 2005 Livigno stage.

Vipiteno/Sterzing is the least Italian town of Italy. The region is almost 100% populated by Germans. It's the chief town of Wipptal or Alta Valle Isarco – the upper portion of Isarco, the main tributary of Adige. The upper part starts just below Sterzing and ends at Brennero. In antiquity it was a military camp on then fresh Via Raetia, which went to Raetia (modern Bavaria) via Brennero. The modern Sterzing was founded by Duke Meinhard of Carinthia as a trading center on then crucial Brennero. It was also a silver mining hub tied to nearby Ridanna (Ridnaun) and Fleres (Pflersch) valleys. In 1443 a fire destroyed part of the city. The destroyed part was quickly rebuilt and now it's called Neustadt, while the old part is Altstadt. Just after WW2 a number of wanted Nazis were waiting in local Hotel Goldenes Kreuz for forged passports to Brazil and Argentina.




Via Gänsbacher and XV c. Torre delle Dodici/Zwölferturm, Vipiteno/Sterzing.

Main sights include XV c. Chiesa della Madonna della Palude/Unsere liebe Frau im Moos Kerk, early XV c. Chiesa di Santo Spirito, 46m high Zwölferturm/Torre delle Dodici that was built in 1470 to separate the old town (Altstadt) from the new town (Neustadt) after that 1443 fire, XV c. town hall (Rathaus), XVI c. manor house Palazzo Jöchlsthurn and XIII-XV c. Castel Tasso/Burg Reifenstein in Campo di Trens/Freienfeld near Sterzing.


Castel Tasso/Burg Reifenstein, Campo di Trens/Freienfeld.

The majority of the stage will take place in the Venosta/Vinschgau valley created by the upper Adige, which has its sources below Passo Resia – a transalpine pass on the Austro-Italian border that ends the valley. The valley splits the Ortler Alps (Ortles-Cevedale) to the south from Ötztal Alps (Alpi Venoste) to the north. The main towns in the valley are Naturno/Naturns, Silandro/Schlanders and Malles/Mals. The valley ends at Curon/Graun and adjacent to it Lago di Resia/Reschensee renown for its partly submerged bell tower. The valley is also renown for its marble quarries (mainly near Laas/Lasa).


Panorama of Val Venosta with Alpi Venoste/Ötztaler Alpen in the background.

The main road of Venosta is of Austrian origin and dates back to 1850's. However, the valley was a major transalpine route as far back as the Roman Empire, when the Via Claudia Augusta went there. It was one of two main transalpine routes linking Italy with Raetia (modern Bavaria). The other one was Via Raetia through Brennero.


Merano with Val Venosta and Alpi Venoste in the background.

Venosta should also be known as the origins of what's now Tirol/Tyrol. The medieval county of Tyrol orignates from an eponymous castle above Merano, established in XII c. by an eponymous family. It later belonged to the house of Gorizia, Wittelsbachs and since 1362 the Habsburgs. With Styria and Carinthia it created the modern Austria. Before the county of Tyrol the valley belonged to the bishops of Brixen/Bressanone. The castle felt into obscurity in 1420 after archduke Frederick IV Habsburg moved the capital to Innsbruck.


XII c. Tirol Schloss/Castello di Tirolo, Merano.

Other characteristic to Val Venosta castle is Castel Juval or Juval Schloss above Senales/Schnalstal. This manor house dates back to XIII c. but the modern appearance is from early XX c. when it was renovated by William Rowland. Now it's a residence of mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who created a mountain museum dedicated to important in mythology peaks like Olympus, Ararat, Sinai etc.


Castel Juval.

Venosta is not renown for having ancient towns with intricate history. Most of them date back to late gothic or early reinassance. The oldest surviving structure seems to be a tiny rural Chiesa di San Procolo/Sankt-Prokulus-Kirche near Naturno/Naturns that dates back to VIII-IX c. It's home to invaluable Carolingian frescoes of VIII-IX c. Other ancient structure is Chiesa di San Benedetto/Sankt-Benedikt-Kirche in Malles/Mals that also dates back to the Carolingian period. It's also home to the examples of Carolingian frescoes.


Chiesa di San Procolo/Sankt-Prokulus-Kirche, Naturno/Naturns.


Chiesa di San Benedetto/Sankt-Benedikt-Kirche, Malles/Mals.

The largest and possibly the oldest towns in the valley are Malles and Silandro, both of Celtic origins and later stops on Via Claudia Augusta. Near Malles is Burgusio, which is home to XII c. Abbazia di Monte Maria and associated with it XIII c. Castello del Principe. The abbey is considered to be the highest Benedictine abbey in Europe located at 1335m. It was founded by the bishops of Chur in 780-786, possibly on behalf of Charlemagne. From the get go it was closely associated with its sister Abbazia di San Giovanni in Val Müstair. The modern structure originates from XII c. by Von Tarasp family from Tarasp in lower Engandina (next stage), when they moved the old monastery to Scuol near Tarasp. The abbey was decimated by the Black Death with only four monks surviving. Since 1724 the abbey operates a humanistic high school in Merano.


Abbazia di Monte Maria/Abtei Marienberg, Burgusio/Burgeis.


The abbey with Castello del Principe.

Stelvio from any side and especially from Prato doesn't need any additional help and the location of the climb means only the easiest side from Bormio can dream of any larger attachments (mainly Gavia – 2013/2014 Val Martello). The Prato side starts right in the middle of a large valley l'Alpe style but there's a small climb right on the other side of the valley to a local hillside village of Tanas. I've did an investigation on the climb and i can tell the more interesting eastern (Lasa) side is wider and in better quality. That was rather unexpected for me. That would mean if you would think of doing it in real life then the easier western side from Sluderno should be the climbed one. If approaching it from upper Venosta that would be fine but if you (like me right now) approach it from Alto Adige then it's rather inconvienent.




The climb to Tanas with some glimpses of Val Venosta below.

Below you'll see, why i think Tanas should be climbed from the other side.



Descent from Tanas.

The climb to Tanas is quite demanding. It consists of one big climb with a little cherry on top after a 1km flat. The main chunk are the first 5km at 10,1% (max 13-14%) and it kicks off instanly with an entire 1km at 11,1%. The aforementioned cherry is the last 1,5km at 7,3% with a roughly 700m at 9-10%. Overall it's 8km at 8,2%, a good cat. 1 and a very strong Giro cat. 2 (potentially borderline cat. 1). The descent is easier with the first 6km at 4,2%, barely reaching 6% in places. The last 4,5km are way tougher at 8,8% with 1,5km in the middle at 10,5% (short bursts of 13-14%). The descent ends in Sluderno/Schluderns, roughly 6km before the bottom of Stelvio.


Profile of Tanas.


Profile of the descent from Tanas.

Stelvio starts after roughly 6km of valley. It's hard for me to believe the Prato side was last ascended in 2005 (en route to Livigno). Stelvio-Mortirolo or Stelvio-Livigno are no brainers, yet last time it was Umbrail that was ascended. I have nothing aganst that though as Umbrail itself is a very good climb and in terms of difficulty Umbrail side of Stelvio is not far from the Prato side. However, for this stage i deemed the Prato side to be more logical, which i think should mean the full Umbrail side would be descended for the first time in Giro's history. For training pros and amateurs it's nothing new as the Umbrail side is the most popular descent route from Stelvio. While theoretically not as difficult as the descent to Prato, it's still very twisty and demanding with a large number of back to back harpins. There are also some narrower bits in Santa Maria Val Müstair. I assume it'll be pretty wet/snowy, which means you can theoretically gain big chunks of time if you feel adventurous (or lucky – Quintana 2014).


Profile of Stelvio.

The main descent ends in Val Müstair but a slight downhill continues for the next roughly 10km, where the race will come back to Italy and Val Venosta. Val Müstair or Val Monastero in Italian is a side valley of Venosta that ends at the Ofenpass/Passo del Fuorno in the Svizzer National Park. The valley is part of the canton of Grisons. With Samnaun in lower Engandina it's the easternmost region of Switzerland.


Val Müstair.

The main river of the valley is Rom/Rombach but the name of Val Müstair derives from Abbazia di San Giovanni or Kloster Sankt Johann. It's a Benedictine monastery founded by the bishops of Chur in 775 possbly on behalf of Charlemagne, who just managed to capture Grisons. The modern facility is from XII c. The abbey is renown for its Carolingian frescoes from VII-VIII c. and Romanesque art from XII c. which earned it a spot in the UNESCO WHS. As you also probably know thanks to LS elaborations, Dario Cologna comes from the valley.


Abbazia di San Giovanni/Kloster Sankt Johann, Müstair.

The last climb of the stage starts in Glorenza/Glurns below Malles Venosta, where both valleys join. Glurns was founded around XII c. and soon it was elevated to a city status while possibly having less than 100 inhabitants, making it one of the smallest if not the smallest city within the modern borders of Italy. The upper Venosta and Müstair (that includes both abbeys) were ravaged by the XV-XVI c. Swabian War between the Habsburgs and the Swiss confederation, which created what's now the modern Switzerland. During said war the village was completely razed. This incident was the main rason to enclosure the village with walls. These walls stay intact to this day. From air it looks like a little Murten. It's worth noting the passage through the village includes some very light cobbles and one very short and narrow section under a city gate.



From Glurns i'm using a shortcut of SP85 that directly leads to Malles. It's the lowest part of Passo Resia/Reschenpass – the main pass of Val Venosta. Passo Resia/Reschenpass links the Italian Val Venosta to the south with the joint Suisse/Austrian Inn valley to the north. It also splits two major Alpine ranges Alpi Venoste/Ötztaler Alpen to the east and the Sesvenna Alps (highest peak – Piz Sesvenna at 3221m) to the west. Because of it's strategic location and low altitude (1500m) Passo Resia was with the Brennero the main transalpine track during the ancient Rome. It was part of Via Claudia Augusta. At that time it was just a steep straight. The modern, very distinct road with its 6 wide switchbacks was built in 1850's.


Passo Resia with its two main lakes Lago di San Valentino and Lago di Resia.


Piz Sesvenna.

Because i'm using a shortcut i'm dodging Sluderno/Schluderns. Above the town is Castel Coira/Churburg. This castle was commisioned in 1260 by the bishop of Chur but it soon fell into the hands of the counts of Tirol. The castle is mainly nown for its large armory museum considered to be one of most important in Europe.


Castel Coira/Churburg, Sluderno/Schluderns.


Malles Venosta.

Originally i had a rather easy 4-6% of Passo Resia but ultimately decided on a much smaller but also way more difficult climb that's parallel to Resia. This climb heads to a village of Alsago/Aisack. The climb technically continues for another 1km to Piavenna/Plawenn, but it's a dead end. Below you can see the road to Alsago.




Climb to Alsago.

It's not easy to talk about this climb as i couldn't find any profiles and the climb hugs a (covered in heavy foliege) steeper mountain slope so the Google Maps profile is probably scewed. Starting from Malles Venosta the climb is 4,8km at 9,1% or 9,2% (you may round it up to 5km at 9%). It seems the climb is split into two parts with a 1,5km to 1,8km of slightly easier climbing (~6%). The first harder part is roughly 1,5km at 10,3% while the second one is roughly 1,8km at 10,1%. Combining with the first 3,6km at 5,2% to Malles Venosta overally it's 9km at 7% (it's more of a guestimation though).


Profile of Alsago w/o last roughly 1,1km.

The descent is only 2,7km at rather irregular 3,1% (last 500m at roughly 7%). It's mostly straight but on a tiny road. Once again it might be a case of a much harder side being easier to descend. Said descent leads to San Valentino Alla Muta – the first town of upper Venosta, right at the top of Passo Resia.




Descent from Alsago.

Starting from San Valentino Alla Muta the last 11,7km to the finish are flat. The finish is so far away because there you can find a nice, big, juicy parking lot of Lago di Resia / Reschensee. This lot is also part of the main ski station of upper Venosta – Belpiano / Schöneben. The exact finish line would be on the other side of the Resia lake (main body of water of Val Venosta) with quality views of the valley and nearby mountain peaks. However, you may try to seek a less capable finish place if you want a higher potential of smaller groups.

The ride in upper Venosta goes mostly around Lago di Resia/Reschensee through the towns of Curon Venosta/Graun im Vinschgau nad Resia/Reschen am See. The lake was created in 1950 and is mainly known for the partly submerged XV c. bell tower of the former church of Curon Venosta.


Lago di Resia/Reschensee.

There is an alternative finish possible. I think objectively it should be a better way but my choice was specifically to sort of commemorate the last Jafferau stage. Said alternatve is to finish in a small ski station Pramaggiore/Pramajur roughly halfway down Passo Resia. The station is located above the village of Burgusio/Burgeis and Malles/Mals. The climb starts from the first switchback above Malles. It's 7,3km at fairly regular 7,4%. The hardest seems to be 1km at 10% (max 12-14%) roughly in the middle. You can combine it with Alsago and then descent half of Resia to have back to back TdF cat. 1/Giro cat. 2 climbs. The road is quite wide (but a narrow part in the village) and in decent condition. At the top there is a small parking lot.


Profile of Pramaggiore.

Originally the next stage was supposed to be somewhat different but because of the Svizzer N.P., Lecco being a complete nightmare to navigate and Como already being on Giro 2019 i've decided to have a somewhat less obvious choice for the next stage. It still should be a breakaway fare though.
Just a breakaway stage to give the guys and the fans some fresh air after 3 consecutive (with a rest day though) high mountain days. Even if it's just a transitional stage, i struggled with the design. Originally there was Como, then Lecco and finally i've settled with a less natural choice.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 17. Scuol-Tarasp / Scolio-Taraspo – Barzio. Piani di Bobbio, 174km, medium mountain, HTF.


Ardez / Ardezzo – 4,1km, 5,1%, cat. 4, 1431m
Parlasco – 5,2km, 5,6%, cat. 3, 497m
Piani di Bobbi – 3,2km, 5,9% (max 10%), cat. 3, 818m

I've realised i have a lack of hilltop finishes and a lesser known ski resort in Altopiano Valsassinese (upper Valsassina) might be interesting. The resort is part of Pianni di Bobbio connected with Rifugio Trifoglio in Valtorta at the end of the Brembo valley (Passo San Marco, Foppolo, San Pellegrino Terme). This discovery was born in pain. Firstly there was Como with a cat. 4 climb of San Bartolomeo north of the city. After 2019 Giro decided to have a finish there i've changed to Lecco. I knew i would struggle with putting a finish in this rather chaotically put city. I had this stage for a while and only recently i've founded about Piani di Bobbio and that's sort of how this stage was put.


Previous iteration of this stage.


Profile of Ofenpass.

As you can see above, the start was also different. Originally the peloton stayed overnight in Venosta and then reached Engandina via Passo Fuorno/Ofenpass. I decided to scrap it because Ofenpass is part of the Svizzer National Park and i have more than enough national parks on the route. An alternative would mean a short stint in Austria (Norbertshöhe), which i don't want to do. Thankfully lower Engadina is quite close to Venosta (roughly 40km away) so i decided for an overnight transfer through Austria to Scuol – the largest village in this part of the valley. I'm not sure if this village may have enough money to host a Giro stage so i also decided to incorporate nearby village of Tarasp for help.



Engadina derives from the Romansh (main language in east Switzerland) name of the Inn river. With Adige on the Italian side Inn is the main river of Tyrol. The lower Engadina is a nice looking deep valley between Silvretta Alps (highest peak – Piz Linard at 3410m) to the north and Alpi Retiche/Rätische Alpen (Svizzer Alps, highest peak – Piz Bernina at 4049m) to the south. I'm not sure if it was on the northern side of Silveretta (Vorarlberg), where the modern Alpine skiing was born. The valley is part of canton of Grisons (Grigioni/Graubünden). With Val Müstair to the south it creates the region Engiadina Bassa/Val Müstair (Unterengadin/Münstertal), formerly known as the Inn district. The valley is known for its large stone, often decorated housing – the so-called Engadinerhaus.


Unterengadin/Bassa Engadina.


Ochsental Glacier in Silvretta.


Morteratsch Glacier in the Bernina Group, Alpi Retiche/Rätische Alpen.

Scuol is the largest commune and administrative center of lower Engadina. It consists of Scuol proper (where the start is placed), Tarasp to the west and Sent (Sent im Unterengadin) to the east. Historically the main village is the youngest, dating back to XIV c. Both Tarasp and Sent were founded in XI-XII c. by a local Tarasp family that came here from either Como or Brixen/Bressanone. You may recognize the family from my previous stage as they in XII c. restored both Carolingian monasteries at Müster and Burgusio in Venosta. They bought the land from the bishops of Chur, who controlled the valley since the late antiquity. In 1464 the whole valley fell to the Habsburgs from Tyrol. The valley was the last region to join the Helvetic Republic (modern Switzerland) which happened in 1803.




Castello Taraspo/Schloss Tarasp and Lago Taraspo/Taraspsee.

The oldest part of what's now the commune of Scuol is Tarasp. This village originates from the XI c. Tarasp castle on top of a local hill above a small lake Taraspsee. For roughly four centuries the valley belonged to the Tarasp family, later being inherited by the Habsburgs. Thanks to the existence of local mineral springs in the hamlet of Vulpera the region developed as a spa resort with the first spa hotels already existing before 1850. The prosperity however ended with WW1 and the region switched towards winter tourism. The main ski resort is Motta Naluns located in Scuol with roughly 80km of slopes on both sides of the valley.


Castello Taraspo/Schloss Tarasp upclose.

Worth noting are two other fractions of Scuol – S-charl and Sent. The former is a very remote village hidden at the end of a local S-charl sidevalley that extends south to the Svizzer N.P. The village is situated at almost 1800m and is connected with the Engadin by a fine quality dirt road. Above S-charl is Tamangur – the highest pine forest in Europe reaching as high as 2251m at Pass da Costainas – a local pass connecting Engadin with Val Muster. The village was founded in XIV c. after the discovery of lead and silver deposits. After they depleted in late XIX c. the village transformed into a mountain hiking center and an entrance to Svizzer N.P. In 1904 the last brown bear in Sitzerland was hunted down in the vincinity. Main sights are probably the remains of a miners home Schmelzra and a mining and Swiss bear museum. You may think of having here a stage finish of a minor race. Starting from Scuol the mostly false-flat ascent is 12,7km at roughly 5% with the first 3,8km to Plan San Jon (Plan Sankt Johannes?) at 8,5%. The last 5,6km at 4,2% are on dirt.



The other mentioned fraction is Sent. It's located on a terrace north of the river Inn. The village was founded by the Tarasp family and is roughly as old as Scuol. Up to XIX c. it was mainly a farmland. The village is known for its late XVIII c. and early XIX c. Engadinerhaues situated on the main square known as... Platz (creativity at its finest). Since XIX c. the village is popular with artist and writers.



Finally to the stage itself. The first half mostly follows the 2009 stage 7. It went from Innsbruck to Chiavenna with a tricky descent from Maloja. It was won by EBH from a breakaway. It was either just before his prime or right at it. There are some minor changes to that stage like i'm moving the KOM from Maloja to Ardez that's much closer to the start to spark a good breakaway and i'm also doing an ascent to the very center of Sankt Moritz (intermediate sprint) rather than staying on the main road (route 27) below the town.


Profile of Giro 2009 stage 7.

In the middle ages Ardez was a feudal flef of the Frickingen family. Possibly it also belonged to nearby Tarasp. The seat was in the Steinsberg castle of late XII c. From XII to XV c. it belonged to the bishops of Chur, who gave it to various local families. The castle was destroyed in 1499 during the Swabian War (or Helvetic War) between Switzerland and Habsburgs. Since then it was not restored. The village itself is home to a number of XVII-XIX c. Engadinerhauses with painted facades. Not far from the village are the remains of a medieval village of Gonda, which was deserted sometimes in XVII c. caused by avalanches and floodings of a local creek. Preserved are the foundations of a XII c. church and at least 9 other buildings.


Lower Engadin in Ardez with Steinsberg on top of a hill.

Roughly 15km from Scuol is the village of Susch (Susio in Italian) where the Engandin enters its middle phase, which spans for the next 5-6km to Zernez. That's where the valley is at its tightest. In Susch the main road splits. I'm of course sticking with the main Engadin road as the other one leads to Davos via Flüelapass. Like many places in Engadin also Susch was destroyed in 1499 during the Swabian War but two XIII c. towers Praschun and Planta. Above the village is Fortezza Rohan – a citadelle built in XVII c. during the Thirty Years war.


XII c. Planta tower and XVI c. Sankt Johanneskirk, Susch.

Zernez (Cernezzo in Italian) is one of the largest villages of Engadin with roughly 1500 inhabitants. It's located at the junction of the main Engadin road with the Ofenpass road that leads to Val Müstair. That's also where the stage joins its original design. In the village the Engadin widens up significantly creating Upper Engadin (Oberengadin). The village is home to Planta-Wildenberg castle originating from XII c. It belonged to the Sagogn-Wildenberg family, possibly on behalf of Tarasp. The castle was destroyed in XVII c. during the Thirty Years War and rebuilt after the war by a local nobility Johann von Planta.


Conjunction of lower and higher Engandin in Zernez.


Planta-Wildenberg castle, Zernez.

After another period of wilderness the village of Zuoz emerges. Historically nearby Samedan and Sankt Moritz were super effective against it. Zuoz is considered to be the original capital of upper Engadin. The village dates back to X-XI c. Originally it was in possesion of the bishops of Chur, but in 1244 they gave the village and the power over upper Engadin to the Planta family, which resided there untill French expelled them in 1798 and incorporated the valley to the canton of Raetia (now Grisons). Throughout the history there were many local skirmishes between Zuoz and nearby Samedan. During the Reformation period the village was home to a Swiss humanist and governor Johann Travers, who authored the first written piece of the Rhaeto-Romance language. At the same time the main square was also used as an open-air theater, where the plays were in Rhaeto-Romance. The modern Zuoz is mainly an upper class ski resort with a renowned alpine skiing school.



Neighboring Zuoz is a certain La Punt. You should know this little village pretty well as it's the traditional finish to the Albula (which starts here) stages in Tour de Suisse. The next larger village is Samedan, where the race will exit the main Engadina route 27 for an uphill intermediate sprint in front of Sankt Moritz. That's the only change from the 2009 stage, which didn't leave the main route.


La Punt.


XIII c. La Tuor in nearby Samedan. In the middle ages it was a residential tower belonging to the Planta family.

Like La Punt, Samedan is also a major road junction – this time with Passo Bernina. Closer to Bernina are Pontresina and Diavolezza-Lagalb, which can be a potential stage finish. This ski hub, part of the southern slopes of nearby Sankt Mortiz is 5,8km from the top of Bernina. It has plenty of space available (quite similar to Station des Rousses) and can be used in conjunction with a next day start in Sankt Moritz. 1,2km before Diavolezza-Lagalb, 4,6km from Bernina is also a smaller parking space of Curtinatsch. You can combine it with Mendola/Palade – Tonale – Gavia – Bernina or Stelvio – Bernina. Other options with Trivigno/Mortirolo should also be available.


Profile of Passo Bernina.


The descent from Bernina. Diavolezza-Lagalb is at around 6km mark.

If you want to have a finish further away from Bernina then you can try for either Samedan, Sankt Moritz or Pontresina, above Samedan. In the middle ages the village was a major stronghold over the Bernina road. From that time originates the XII c. Spaniola tower. This tower was probably also the seat of a local Pontresina family. I'm not sure but Pontresina may be a minor Biathlon site. I guess LS knows this way better than me.


Spaniola tower, Pontresina.

I don't think i will ever have an oppurtunity to mention this but Bernina was crucial during the 1954's Giro, being the hero of a "Bernina strike" story. The story itself is way too long for this post, including financing problems, Nivea sponsorships, Coppi's "private" life and stomach problems and "fuga di bidone" being better than expected. If you want to now more head in this direction.


Passo Bernina and the Bernina rail – i think the highest open railway in Europe.

The interemediate sprint is at the very front of Sankt Moritz. Unlike in 2009 i decided to climb to the very center of the town. The climb starts in Samedan and it's 1,5km at 5,6%. The descent back to route 27 leads through the center of Sankt Moritz and it is quite tricky. The road is quite twisty and not that wide. The race joins back the route 27 in Silvaplana – a little village at the bottom of famous Julierpass/Passo del Giulio. This pass was one featured in Giro during a ridiculously designed stage (visually speaking, it wasn't that hard), which featured Umbrail, Livigno, Bernina via Forcola di Livigno, Julier and a finish on the much easier southern side of Lenzerheide. A rare example, where a decent chunk of a stage is above 1700m alt. The stage was won by Mariano Piccoli in front of Giuseppe Guerini with the main pack rolling 2:06 behind.


Profile of the Lenzerheide stage.


Silvaplana, Lago di Silvaplana and Julierpass in the background.

The last 11km of the Engadin goes around the Silvaplana and Sils lakes. In between both of them is i think the 2nd bigges ski resort of the valley – Sils or Segl. The village was also a summer residence of Frederick Nietzsche between 1881 and 1888. Of course the valley ends with Passo Maloja and is followed by a very long descent towards Chiavenna – the same that in 2009 (if my memory is correct) was feared by some of the guys. Above Maloja is Passo del Settimo – a historic pass at 2310m dating back to the Roman Empire and linking Maloja with Bivio on the other side of Julierpass. It stayed as a stone surface hiking path. It was a very important pass as even the first German king to be titled Emperor Otto I crossed the pass in 961 to be later coronated by the Pope as the Holy-Roman Emperor.


Profile of the descent from Passo Maloja.


Sils and its namesake lake in the background.

The descent is very long. The toughest parts are the first 2,5km with 15 harpins and another 2,5km with 7 harpins 5km further down. Both sections are at 8-9%. The rest however is mostly straight. Becasue it's a major road it's wide and in very good state. Unlike the last time, this time the guys don't need to fear anything as the descent is in the middle of the stage rather than at its end. However, if you're braver and in the breakaway then you will be rewarded with the 2nd intermediate sprint in Chiavenna, where the descent ends. The race will cross the Suisse-Italy border around 20km from Maloja.


Upper hairpins of Malojapass.

The entire descent is in the upper Mera valley, known as Val Bregaglia/Bergelltal. The valley is surrounded by the Bregaglia range. Highest peak is Monte Disgrazia at 3678m. Geographically it's quite interesting as it's the only mountain range in Europe, where 3 major river basins have their sources – North Sea with Avers Rhine, Black Sea with Inn (later joins Danube) and Adriatic Sea with Mera (later joins Po). The descent is accompanied by a number of villages like Casaccia, Bondo, Stampa etc.


Casaccia and Val Bregaglia.


Monte Disgrazia (3678m).


Piz Badile (3308m).

Today i tried to focus more on Engadin as it's a rather overlooked region. No wonder as you have Fluela, Julier, Albula etc. in near vincinity. Because of this post's length the rest in Lombardia will be more rapid. Chiavenna is located in a place, where the Roman road to Chur (then Cuira) splitted. One road went via Passo Spluga, the other one via aforementioned Passo del Settimo above Maloja. The city is at the end of Val Bregaglia, where the valley widens up significantly (Valchiavenna) to end at Lake Como not far to the south.




Cascate dell'Acquafraggia near Chiavenna.

Next 40km are in Valchiavenna and partly alongside Lake Como. The race leaves the lake in Bellano, but to do that i need to cross some rail tracks (they may lead to Tirano and via Bernina to Engadina) and sadly they're unavoideable. After a cat. 3 climb that tops near the village of Parlasco the stage will enter Valsassina – a valley of river Pioverna located above Lecco. You may remember it from Pian dei Resinelli. It's created by the Grigna massif (2410m) renown for Pian dei Resinelli and Alpi Orobie (Piani di Bobbio). From south the valley can be reached from Lecco via Balisio or like in 2012 via a quite narrow Culmine di San Pietro from Val Brembana. Below you can see the valley's profile starting from Bellano to the Barzio sign 2km from Balisio.


Profile of the last 25km w/o the last climb to Barzio.



The finish is tied to the ski area of Piani di Bobbio. It's the 2nd largest station of Valsassina after Pian dei Resinelli. It's shared with Valtorta at the end of Val Brembana. The Valsassina side belongs to the village of Barzio, which is 1-2km below the station. The climb to the station is 3,2km at 5,9%. The climb is fairly regular but you can distinct two tougher parts separated by a slightly easier one roughly in the middle. The first tougher section is 1,4km at roughly 8% (max 10%). It's followed by an easier 700m at 2-3%% in Barzio. The last 750m to the station are at roughly 7,3% with the first 300m nearing 10%.




Grigna massif.

I think the only possible outcome is a large breakaway finishing way before the main group, which should be a little smaller than usually because of that cat. 3 (strong TdF cat. 3) finish. I don't expect anything of GC relevance to happen but there are still some stages left for that. Next stage will start west of Milan and head towards Piemonte.
The last flat stage of this race and a transition to the last mountain block of the race. It won't include anything of Piemonte Alps as Montoso/Rucas will be in the next Giro, but as a pass and not an MTF, which was my original plan.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 18. Abbiategrasso – Racconigi, 177km, flat.


Moncalvo – 1,5km, 5,3%, cat. 4, 258m

Today it's Lombardia and Piemonte, mostly inside the vast Po plains. There are however some bumps within the hilly regions of Monferrato (north of Asti) and Roero (north of Bra) that includes a dummy cat. 4 for the breakaway. The sprint outcome should be expected, especially as this will be the last chance for a bunch sprint finish. Both regions with nearby Langhe (south of Bra) are renown for their wines and are part of the UNESCO WHS. There might be some wind or bad weather threat (mainly hailstorms) as the general area of the Po plains likes to be stormy at this part of the year.

Lombardia is a rather vast but to my eyes artificial area covering the west side of the Po plains. For some reason at one place it extends almost to Ferrara. Its history is very similar to that of Emilia Romagna – a rather late but rapid development in the Roman Empire followed by a general destruction during the Germanic invasions. The region recovered during the Bysantine and Longobards (V-VIII c.) with many of smaller towns originating during that period.

After Charlemagne conquered northern Italy in 774 the region stayed within the borders of the Holy-Roman Empire and its next iterations. Like in the other regions of the Empire, this one also suffered from fragmentations to basically a polis-like states ruled by various families like Visconti, Borgha, Gonzaga, Sforza etc. that didn't particullary liked each other or themselves in that matter. The towns however were prosperous enough to the point of creating a Lombard League – sort of a separatist movement designed against the Hohenstaufen Holy-Roman Emperors, who wanted a larger political influence over Italy. This league was disbanded in 1250 after the last Hohenstaufen Frederick II died.

Later Lombardia was the center of the Italian Reinassance with Milan and Mantova at times bloodily competing with one another. The prosperity ended with the Thirty Years War after which Lombardy belonged to Austria and later the Napoleonic Empire. The region was finally annexed to then fresh Kingdom of Italy in 1859 after a short-lived war between Italy and Austria. The modern Lombardia is the richest regon of Italy, mainly thanks to a rapid industrialization of the region.



Abbiategrasso is a rather inconspicuous town over Ticino that flows west of Milan. It dates back to XI-XII c. From this time dates the Castello Visconteo – a residential/military manor house of Visconti and later Sforzas. Other sights include a XVI c. manor house Casa Albini and XIV c. Basilica di Santa Maria Nuova. The town is the birthplace of a well known AC Milan goalie Christian Abbiati. It's worth noting that the stage was created independently to the last Giro, when stage 18 to Prato Nevoso started in the town.


Castello Visconteo, Abbiategrasso.

Soon after leaving Abbiategrasso the race crosses Ticino and enters the region of Lomellina and its capital and a sort of twin town to Abbiategrasso – Vigevano. It's history is almost similar to the one of Abbiategrasso. It's an older town founded in X c. by late Longobards as a hunting lodge. In 1328 it was annexed by Milan and expanded into a major Milanese town by Visconti and Sforzas (who took the town by force in 1449). In 1452 Lodovico Sforza was born in the town and 4 years later he expanded the pre-existing lodge into a Reinassance residence (now housing a shoe museum) and commisioned an attached to it Piazza Ducale – the main attraction of the city.


Piazza Ducale, Vigevano.

Roughly 15km from Vigevano, right in the very middle of Lomellina is Mortara. It's one of the oldest towns of Lomellina, second after Roman Lomellum – now Laumellum roughly 10km south of Mortara. The town developed during the Longobard rule. At the time it was known as Pulchra Silva, but the name was changed after a nearby battle between Charlemagne and Longobard King Desiderius in 773, which the former won. In the middle ages it was a hunting lodge of Visconti and Sforza combined with a border stronghold near the border with Piemonte. After Milan fell to Savoy in 1713 it became the capital of Lomellina (to 1859, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy). Nowadays Mortara is a major rice production center. Main sights are XIV c. Basilica di San Lorenzo and Abbazia di Sant'Albino, that according to a legend was founded by Charlemagne after the aforementioned battle.


Abbazia di Sant'Albino, Mortara.

When the stage crosses the Sesia roughly 40km from the start it leaves Lombardia (more exactly Pavia province) and enters Piemonte (Alessandria province). Piemonte will welcome the peloton with an intermediate sprint in the village of Oltreponte near Casale Monferrato. In said village the race crosses Po and Casale Monferrato and later enters the hills of Monferrato (Alto Monferrato) and province of Asti.


Monferrato near San Marzano Oliveto with Monviso in the background.

Alto Monferrato is a hilly region roughly at the end of the Po plains separated from the Alps by Po itself and from the foothills of Ligurian Alps and Appennines by Tanaro. Highest hill is Albugnano at 520m. With the hills of Roero to the west and Langhe to the south it's part of the UNESCO WHS thanks to its vineyards. It's one of the main wine regions of Italy.


Landscape of Monferrato near Costigliole d'Asti.

The race enters Monferrato in Casale Monferrato. Historically Monferrato belonged to Mantova. However, because of the approximity to Torino and Milano, which weren't in good terms with Mantova the region was heavily fortified and Casale was the frontier of Monferrato and for a while also its capital. It was razed after the battle of Bassignano of 1745 between Sardinian-Piemontese and French-Spanish armies as part of the War of the Austrian Succession. In XIX c. it became a major cement and later asbestos hub, which caused huge health problem in the region. Main sights are XII c. Duomo di Sant'Evasio built on top of a previous Longobard church from IX c. XV c. Chiesa di San Domenico and XIV c. former citadelle Castello dei Paleologi. The town is also a production center of Barbera del Monferrato wine. Nearby Casale is San Giorgio Monferrato – a hilltop village topped by a massive castle. It dates back to X c. and it was a seat of various families, mainly from Mantova.


Castello dei Paleologi, Casale Monferrato.


San Giorgio Monferrato.

In Serralunga di Crea (just west of Casale) the race will enter SP457, which is part of a route that extends from Domodossola (Simplon) to Nice via Tenda tunnel. From here the stage will go through Alto Monferrato to Asti. Serralunga di Crea is a hilltop village that's home to Sacro Monte di Crea – one of the Lombardian sacred mountains, also part of the UNESCO WHS. According to a legend it was founded in IV c. alongside Oropa by a bishop of Vercelli Sant'Eusebio. The first sanctuary however dates back to XI-XII c. It was rebuilt in 1589 by the Gonzagas.


Santuario di Crea.

Outside of Serralunga starts the only categorised clmb of the day. It leads to a hilltop village of Moncalvo. Said climb is 1,5km at 5,3%. This commune of Roman origins is considered to be the first historic capital of Monferrato. However, not much of its antique history had survived. The modern Moncalvo dates to XIII c. It's home to XV c. Palazzo Manacorda, Casa Lanfrancone with some parts dating back to XIII c. and XIII c. Chiesa di San Francesco. The Moncalvo climb is followed by a smaller climb towards another hilltop village of Calliano, home to a XI c. Chiesa di San Pietro and X c. Chiesa di San Michele. Before reaching Asti there will be a rail crossing but the tracks don't seem to be used anymore.





With Torino, Novara, Alba and Alessandra Asti it's the largest town of the Po plains west of Milano. It dates back to the Roman Empire, when it was known as Hasta. After a Visigothic siege of Milano in 402 the West Roman Emperor Honorius had to flee to Arles, but was cut short in Asti. The city managed to resist the Visihothic siege and was freed after a won by Romans battle in Pollenzo (Pollentia) near Bra. There are still some antique remains in the city of which the most interesting must be a I c. Torre Rossa. It was probably part of a palace, later used as a prison and as a bell tower to attached to it XI c. Chiesa di Santa Caterina (rebult in XVIII c.).


Torre Rossa, Asti.

That's not the only ancient tower in Asti as it was home to over 100 of them. That was in the middle ages, when Asti was a large and rich prince-bishopric with a farfetched autonomy from the Holy-Roman Empire. It was also one of the strongest members of the Lombard League. The prosperity mainly came from controling a number of routes towards the Ligurian ports and French-Italian Alpine passes. Starting from XIV c. like any other Piemontese cities it was besieged countless amount of times, contantly changing hands between various Italian families, Savoie and France. However, it is relatively well preserved with a quite large medieval historic center around a XIII c. cathedral, originally from V c. The only surviving piece of the orginal cathedral may be a VII c. Cripta di Sant'Anastasio. One of the battles against the neighboring city of Alba is commemorated to this day as a Palio di Asti event.


Duomo di Asti.

Asti has a number of medieval towers and palazzos that survived like Palazzo Catena and Palazzo Zoya, both with parts from XIII c. or XIII c. former town hall Palazzo del Podestà. In the middle ages Ati was renowned for banker families, which were living in at the time lavish civic towers. There were roughly 100 of them, but only a couple of them survived to this day like XIII c. Torre Comentina, XIII c. Torre de Regibus, XIII-XIV c. Torre Solaro or XII c. Torre Troyana, since XVII c. a bell tower housing one of the oldest bells in Piemonte. Asti was home to a XVIII c. dramatist Vittorio Alfieri who's considered to be the “founder of Italian tragedy". It is also home to a number of Monferrato wines like Moscato or Barbera d'Asti.


Palazzo del Podestà, Asti.


Torre Troyana, Asti.

From Asti the race heads towards its neighbor and historic rival Alba, but not through the Tanaro valley but deeper inside Monferrato and later Roero in parallel to Tanaro Borbore valley. The main village of the valley is San Damiano d'Asti. This village is in the middle of a local hilly range of Colli Alfieri. The village dates back to antiquity, when it was known as Astixio. In XIII c. it found itself right in the middle of a bloody rivalry between Asti and Alba. It led to the full destruction of the village. The new San Damiano d'Asti was founded in 1275 as a fortified village on a geometric layout similar to that of a Roman camp. While both village gates were later repurposed the ramparts stayed intact to this day.


San Damiano d'Asti.

Overlooking San Damiano d'Asti is a hilltop village of Govone, home to an early medieval castle, which was damaged during the XIII c. battles between Asti and Alba. The castle was rebuilt into a Savoian royal palace, which means it's the first Savoian royal palace seen during the stage. In 1730 French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau stayed in here. I think the palace is now part of the UNESCO WHS under the royal palaces of Savoy listing.




Palazzo di Govone.

The valley ends in the former village and since 2011 town (roughly 5000 pop.) of Canale, where the stage enters the hillside vineyards of Roero. Landscape-wise it's basically a copy of Monferrato. You can even see them on the profile as the 2nd set of bumps that ends in the city of Bra. However, none of them are difficult enough to be categorised but you can find many local roads going up and down to local hilltop villages so it should be a nice playground for you. Canale itself was founded alongside San Damiano d'Asti by Asti. Now its mainly renown as a production site of Roero Arnesis white wine. The town is overlooked by a picturesque hilltop village of Cisterna d'Asti, home to a XII c. castle enclosed by massive ramparts.


Canale and hills of Roero in the background.


Cisterna d'Asti.

From Canale i'm dodging Alba with slightly smaller roads like SP29, SP10 and SP134 that will lead to Bra via Corneliano, Baldissero and Pocapaglia. These roads are used in a local bike race Gran Premio di Pasquetta. In the middle ages the region belonged to Alba, but it was close to the border with Asti which meant the villages were fortified. For example Corneliano was home to a military castle, which now is in ruins. A similar castle can be found in nearby Baldissero d'Alba. This hilly voyage through Roero ends in the city of Bra, where the race will enter the very end of the Po plains that extends from Turin to Cuneo.


Corneliano d'Alba.


Castello Colonna, Baldissero d'Alba.

Bra and nearby Pollenzo are gates to what i consider the main Piemonte. I differenciate it from Roero and Monferrato as most of their history was associated with Lombardia and their city-states (Asti, Alba and such) while the rest of the region was under a long standing rule of Savoie. Even the capital of Savoie was moved from Chambéry to Torino (1563) as it was deemed the Italian city-states were an easier threat than France. In 1720 Savoie expanded to Sardinia, creating the Kingdom of Sardinia and Savoy. During the Napoleonic rule it was known as Subalpine Republic. Piemonte was one of the originators of modern Italy and it was Savoian Vittorio Emanuele II, who became the first king of Italy in 1861. Savoie left a number of XVII-XVIII c. royal palaces that are now part of the UNESCO WSH.


Parts of the Pollenzo palace with Chiesa di San Vittore.

An example such palace can be found in Pollenzo which is situated over Tanaro just below Bra. The village dates back to the Roman Empire, where it was known as Pollentia. It's famous for the aforementioned 402 battle with Visigoths, when they were driven off from Italy. In the antquity the village was known for its wool and pottery. The modern Pollenzo was founded around XII-XIII c. with a manor house that belonged to local noble family of Romagnano. However, the whole village was built from scratch when in early XIX c. king of Sardinia and Savoy Charles Albert commisioned a royal palace to be built there.

Nowadays Pollenzo belongs to the hilltop city of Bra. I guess the name share with a certain lingerie piece is coincidental. Historically it was the other way around as it was Bra that was part of Pollenzo. Even if it was a small town allready in XIII-XIV c. it was significantly expanded in 1760 by Savoian king Charles Emmanuel III with a number of manor houses rebuilt like originally XV c. Palazzo Traversa or XIV c. Palazzo Mathis. The Giro finished here once in 1994 during the 19th stage won by Massimo Ghirotto and it was also the partenza to the famous '99 Borgo San Dolmazzo stage.


Palazzo Traversa, Bra.

From Bra the stage continues creeping closer to the Alps. The scare however will end not far from Bra, in the city of Savigliano, which i guess it's not too obscure for you as plenty of Piemonte stages started here. Maybe it's a bit overshadowed by Cuneo and Pinerolo. The town is located in the very middle of the Piemonte plains, roughly in the middle between Cuneo and Pinerolo. For a long time Savigliano was a village under the county of Saluzzo. It flourished in XVI-XVIII c. as a major French-Savoian stronghold. Main sights are XIV c. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pieve which may have some parts dating back to V-VII c. Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista with parts from XI c. and XIII c. Torre Civica.



The run-in to Racconigi will be exclusively on the main Cuneo - Torino route SP20. Before reaching Racconigi peloton will also pass through the town of Cavallermaggiore, mainly known as a residence of Ascanio Sobrero, who was the inventor of nitroglycerine. It's worth noting that the last 5km from Cavallermaggiore to the finish line in Racconigi are almost entirely straight besides a roundabout 3km from the finish and a slight right-hander 1,2km from the finish. The finish line is on Corso Principi di Piemonte right in front of the Racconigi's palace entrance. This exact finish was one of the options during my last Giro in 2016, when i decided to replace it with a tougher stage to Fossano. Maybe something like that stage should also be here as i'm sort of lacking in hilly stages. I feel the 1st week had enough such stages and this will be the last and oppurtunity for the sprinters so i decided to give them the easiest finish possible.


Racconigi's palace.

The first signs of Racconigi date back to late X c. where a small manor house was already mentioned. Later said manor house developed into a palace that you can see right now. The village itself was founded in XII c. by the counts of Saluzzo. The village was bought by the duke of Savoie Charles Emmanuel I in 1630 and he granted the estate to his nephew Thomas Francis. The newly commisioned palace was drawn by an Italian architect Guarino Guarini. Later the estate was repurposed as a summer residence of the kings of Italy. The last king of Italy Umberto II was born here. Its vast park is now a protected area, home to various birds like white storks or white-headed ducks. Racconigi was twice hosting a Giro stage. First time stage 14 of 1997 to Breuil-Cervinia (the Gotti scheme) and second time stage 15 of 1999 to Oropa. Both stages are quite famous for Gotti winning the Giro by a "smoke screen" and Pantani for being at his most ridiculous.


Front of the palace.

The last 3 stages will be GC relevant so hold on tight.
I'd always wanted to find a way to crowbar Rodengo and Kieneralm together in to a stage... you know the problem though because you mentioned it ahead of time: pas de Fedaia... however your stage to Reschenpass does rather let me on to some new thoughts for this series... a couple more of these and then I'll be set onto the next ordinary stage race project. I have far more Nordic Series options than I know what to do with, but since the switch of googlemaps to OSM in the cronoescalada builder, there's a problem that when I'm most thinking about wintersport, some of the roads are shut and the open road overrider isn't operational anymore.

Nordic Series #21: Le Brassus


A small resort town in the Swiss Jura, Le Brassus is located in the Vallée de Joux, well known to the Tour de Romandie and also occasionally the Tour de Suisse. It is adjacent to Le Chenit, and this area was last seen in the local race through Francophone Switzerland in 2015, when the Vallée de Joux hosted the race-opening TTT which was won by Team Sky. The Langlaufpisten are in the open areas behind Le Brassus to the north, around the Audemars Piguet hotel and resort.


The cross-country trails here have been done up recently with the victorious bid of Lausanne for the 2020 Youth Olympics; while the biathlon is, as has been mentioned in a previous post, being held across the border in France, at the Prémanon-Les Tuffes facility, the Cross-Country is to be held here at Le Brassus. The course has prepared itself with a couple of races at the Alpencup and Continental Cup level, where it was inaugurated earlier this month. Being aimed at ages 12-18, previous Youth Olympic champions have in many cases still yet to reach their peak years, since the Winter events only began in 2012 (the European Youth Olympic Festival is much older of course, but the Youth Olympic Games were inaugurated with the aim of being more international than that, although all hosts of the Winter version thus far have been European). Names you may have heard of who have come to success in the Nordic sports following Youth Olympic achievement include Anastasiya Sedova, gold in the 5km classic in Innsbruck 2012; Jonna Sundling, silver in the sprint at the same event; Anamarija Lampič, silver behind Sedova and now silver medallist in the Team Sprint in the same venue (Seefeld hosted the XC at the Innsbruck Youth Olympics) this year; the biathlon events in Innsbruck were dominated among the girls' events by three now staple international competitors, Franziska Preuß of Germany (a World Cup race winner and multiple World Champion in the relay, as well as a World Championships medallist and crystal globe winner in the Mass Start discipline back in 2015), Uliana Kaisheva of Russia (one of only four Russian biathletes to be cleared to compete in Pyeongchang) and Galina Vishnevskaya, multiple Junior World medallist of Kazakhstan who was recently also cleared to return to competition. René Zahkna, who won silver in both the boys' sprint and pursuit, has gone on to be a staple World Cup competitor but without further success, hampered in part by Estonia's lack of funding compared to the big guns. There was also a somewhat bizarre biathlon/XC mixed relay where Preuß was teamed up with Victoria Carl, who is now Germany's top XC skier following Denise Herrmann's defection to biathlon, and France's biathlon relay team included Chloé Chevalier, Aristide Bègue and Fabien Claude, all of whom have gone on to the World Cup. Anže Lanišek won gold for Slovenia in the ski jumping and has become a World Cup regular, but is eclipsed by the women from Innsbruck, as Sara Takanashi, the most successful female ski jumper of all time, took the gold ahead of Katharina Althaus; all three Nordic Combined medallists have also been successful at the top level, with Tomás Portyk winning from Ilkka Herola and Go Yamamoto. By contrast the stars of Lillehammer 2016 are still in the process of making their mark, though Kim Magnus has progressed through to the World Cup and competed in the Pyeongchang Olympics for South Korea before reverting to Norway (he has dual nationality) and a few of the biathletes who found success at the Games (Sivert Bakken, Saïd Karimulla Khalili, Franziska Pfnür, Juliane Frühwirt, Émilien Claude, Fanqi Meng and Danilo Riethmüller) have gone on to success at the Junior World Cup or Junior World Championships (and a few at the IBU Cup too). Ben Loomis and Ondřej Pažout won NoCo medals and competed at Pyeongchang, albeit without success just yet, while Slovenia's domination of the ski jumping came at the hands of Bor Pavlovčič and Ema Klinec, both of whom are now established in top level competitions, if not yet at the top level themselves - though Klinec has scored a few podiums in her time.


In the original planning phases for the Lausanne Youth Olympics, there were intentions to build a ski jump at Le Brassus too, with plans released to the public, however this was never able to go beyond this phase and so the ski jumping and nordic combined had to move across the border to Prémanon too. There used to be a big tradition of ski jumping in Le Brassus, however. The La Chirurgienne hill hosted competitions as early as the 1920s and was a formal hill from 1930 onwards; it fell out of use in the 80s due to no longer fulfilling FIS' requirements, and by 1997 it was disused entirely, being taken back by nature and with the local saut à ski club having the opportunity to travel to nearby Chaux-Neuve, across the French border, or Prémanon, likewise, there was simply not the need for the formal hill there anymore.


While the resort is pretty small, however, there are a couple of factors that sit in the favour of Le Brassus as a venue. Firstly, while it may be unlikely to host the Tour de France with its large space and personage requirements (though it wouldn't be impossible, with the Loipe filling a large flat expanse where the grassland could be appropriated for the race caravan much like happens in places like Mûr-de-Brétagne, and similar to previous Nordic Series posts on venues like Tschierv in Val Müstair), the Tour de Romandie would otherwise be the biggest game in town, as the Tour de Suisse only infrequently impinges on its regional brother's territory. The Tour de Jura is a .2 race, and we're a bit too far out of the way for the Tour de l'Ain (though that may reasonably consider an arrival at the station); other races that may consider the area such as the Tour de l'Avenir do not have the same requirement for space and so forth that the Tour does, and could happily set up in the Vallée de Joux without any problems.

There is also one other factor that may help the Tour de France come to town, though, and that is sponsorship. Obviously over time various companies have been involved in the official timing of the Tour de France and various watch companies have associated themselves with the battle on two wheels, with varying results (ask any cycling fan about Festina and you're likely to hear a lot about doping before the fact they're a watch company gets mentioned, for example, while Christina Hembo's unusual decision to build her entire marketing strategy around Michael Rasmussen was a brave if ultimately foolhardy choice); not one but two luxury watch manufacturers, Audemars Piguet and Blancpain, are based in Le Brassus, so should either choose to involve themselves in the timing of the sport or sponsorship thereof, there is an 'in' for the biggest races to come to town.

But how do you arrive in town? Well, the easiest way is along the Vallée de Joux road from the French border, a nice flat valley road, before looping left in the village itself into the adjoining valley (a gradual sauntering upwards for a couple of kilometres) for the finish. Or you can come from the shores of the Lac de Joux, too. The most immediately interesting from a cycling point of view, of course, is the descent from the Col du Marchairuz. The village is just 7km from the summit and the descent isn't that easy, so the ski station is 11km from the crest of the climb - easily enough for it to be decisive. It's also not a climb that will be automatically decisive if you don't take risks, especially in the biggest races where riders tend to be a bit more conservative. There are multiple sides to start the southern side of the climb though, and these include some tough options.


We won't just be coming over Marchairuz, but it's worth warning the riders first.

Proposal #1: Lausanne - Le Brassus, 201km


The first prospective stage - and probably the most achievable - connects Le Brassus with its nominal parent city as Youth Olympic host. This would make a very good Romandie mountain stage - probably for one of those years where you'd have a Valais stage early on, then this would be the roll-of-the-dice toward the end of the race, as the tougher climbs are early on in the stage. The Côte de Mauborget is known to cycling, for it was the decisive climb in a key stage of the 2009 edition of the race, finishing in Sainte-Croix after a bit of plateau. Roman Kreuziger beat Rein Taaramäe in a two-up sprint, and took the race leader's jersey from his compatriot František Raboň. The Col de l'Aiguillon is less known, but is a real challenge, being as it has 6km @ 10,3% in the middle of its slopes.


We then have a long looping around in France over rolling terrain before returning to Switzerland for the Col du Mollendruz. It would have been possible to then have around 30km flat along the coast of Lac de Joux to finish the stage but, let's face it, that wouldn't have been so interesting. Instead we head down towards the shores of Lac Léman for the finishing duo of climbs. Now, the Côte de la Bucheronne that I have used here is not a climb in and of itself but a stop-off on the way to the Col du Marchairuz; in that first profile of Marchairuz above, it is the section from between Bière to the junction for Saint-George, so accounts for around 7km at 7%. This of course means that the loop around Bière is optional and we could bring Mollendruz closer to the finish by 23km, at the expense of removing one climb from the stage. With 200km+ mountain stages seemingly out of vogue at the moment, that may be required, but I'd prefer it as it stands. And of course, as described, we just have a short descent then a slight uphill drag to the line, so there's no reason not to go for action on the Marchairuz.


Proposal #2: Morges - Le Brassus, 175km


Another stage which loops around Romandie, this one starts on the shores of Lac Léman but spends much of its decisive period and in fact the majority of its distance in France. This is more of a medium mountain stage, despite the presence of two cat.1 climbs. It also features a looping around on itself and criss-crossing the previous route that you can find in Classics and you sometimes see from races like the Vuelta (and occasionally the Giro) but not usually in the Tour. I'd assume therefore that once more this is best suited to Romandie.

The stage is built around two cat.1 climbs as its main challenges, firstly the Col de la Faucille, a climb first introduced to the Tour de France all the way back in 1911, and formerly a staple, won by luminaries such as Ottavio Bottecchia, Gino Bartali (twice), Federico Bahamontes (also twice), Julio Jiménez and Lucien van Impe. However, it has fallen out of favour and has only been seen twice in the last 40 years, in 1994 and 2004 (when it was used mid-stage in a transitional stage in week 3, so not in a position to be of any great impact to the race).


Where in 2004 they descended straight from the Côte de Lajoux that the climb backs onto, however, here we loop around via Lamoura as we're located around the Ski Station les Rousses outlying resort villages (we covered these in greater depth when I did Prémanon-les Tuffes in the Nordic Series previously). I could have gone straight toward Morez via Prémanon here, but that would have left a stage just 115km in length and not even tough enough to fulfil that "short mountain stage" function ASO are so keen on at present. Instead, therefore, we descend the Côte de Lamoura, which was climbed in the 2010 Tour de France in stage 7, won by Sylvain Chavanel from the break, to take on a tougher climb in the area which was uncovered for the 2017 Tour de France, the Montée de la Combe de Laisia les Molunes (try saying that 20x fast). We therefore rather clone that race's run in to the Station des Rousses around the Lamoura side as per this profile:


On that day, Lilian Calmejane attacked to escape from the break while Froome had a storied day including running off the road but ultimately comfortably moving himself to the head of the field, before a group of 30-something came back together to contest the remaining positions. Here, with not 10 but instead 60km remaining, that kind of action is unlikely; instead we roll along the crest of the hill before descending via the Montée de Prémanon into Morez, passing the Prémanon-Les Tuffes venue that was tackled as Nordic Series #17 already. In fact, we have what is in fact effectively a reverse version of the closing circuit from proposal #1 on that particular post, descending the Côte de Prémanon and climbing the cat.2 Côte des Rousses - effectively 7km at a rigidly consistent 5,5% and finishing 20km from the line. There is however no descent, it's simply a flat run-in after that climb, reminiscent of those Vuelta a Colombia "flat stages" on the altiplano with Mangueras or Donsiquirá, one-sided climbs that move between one high plateau and another. This could therefore leave an interesting combination of difficult climbs and reduced sprint possibilities.

Proposal #3: Oyonnax - Le Brassus, 192km

This is the toughest mountain stage of the selection for Le Brassus, and is suited to perhaps not the Tour de l'Ain, but starting in France is perhaps more possible for... well, I don't know. It starts a way out of Switzerland making it perhaps unlikely for the Tour de Romandie; the penultimate climb has roads which are probably too narrow for the Tour péloton although it would probably be fine for smaller races. The stage is too long for a Tour de l'Avenir mountain stage and the finish is too far from Ain province to suit that, sadly, because otherwise it would be perfect. Dauphiné, perhaps, if we're lucky?

Anyway, we start in Oyonnax and work our way eastward, combining the tougher lead-in of the 2010 Les Rousses tour stage (i.e. going to the base of the plateau on which the Les Rousses stations sit via the more gradual side of the Col de la Croix de la Serra) with the tougher of the two Les Rousses lead-in climbs in recent years, i.e. Combe de la Laisia les Molunes, as used in the last proposal. However, we then retrace our steps from stage proposal #2 in reverse, going from la Laisia les Molunes directly to Lamoura, and then back over the Côte de Lajoux to the Col de la Faucille with its own Nordic facilities, le Vattay.


The last 80km are constant hard work for the riders, however, with very little respite and constantly moving up and down, after a brief consolidation period along the shores of Lac Léman after the descent of La Faucille. This begins with the Côte de Saint-Cergue, 6km from the summit of the Col de la Givrine (which was also used in the Prémanon-les Tuffes options), so while using most of the tougher parts of the climb, averaging a little under 5% so I've, patterned after the Tour's decisions regarding the Côte de Lamoura and Col de la Croix de la Serra in 2010, accepted this would be cat.2. A sharp and technical descent into Begnins (it's perhaps not as steep as that profile makes it look, the route software took a shortcut through a village road in Arzier rather than the more technical, but wider and far safer, main road). This then leads us into an unknown challenge but a worthy cat.1 climb, the Côte de Chenevières.


10,8km at 7,3% is a reasonable cat.1 anyhow, but the final 6km of that averaging 9% is further evidence we're likely to see action here, with 42km remaining, and a steepest ramp of 21% (a one-off, mostly it's below 15%). The summit is on the shoulder of the Crêt de la Neuve - here's a picture of the road - narrow but not impossible. The descent into Marchissy, once more, is not perfect, but I've seen roads of this nature and worse traversed.


The descent takes us to Marchissy and then Longirod, with an uphill ramp for a few kilometres, before leading into the climb to Marchairuz that we met in proposal #1. There's very little flat at all in the final 80km even if there's a good 20km from the summit of Chenevières to the start of the climb of Marchairuz. This should be a pretty decisive stage.

Proposal #4: Louhans - Le Brassus, 209km


The most straightforward stage, so to speak, this one would also struggle with the same problems as the previous one in terms of finding a race to be used in, though is more accessible for Le Tour on the basis that there's no awkward narrow descent to worry about. However this would be a pure transitional stage, with none of the individual climbs likely to cause great separation; this would be a perfect stage for the durable sprinter of the kind like Michael Matthews, Peter Sagan and the sprinters-from-a-reduced bunch like Michael Albasini, Julien Alaphilippe and of course Alejandro Valverde. The steepest climb of the day is the 2,8km, 7% Montée de Conliège, the first climb of the day and far from decisive. This is more reminiscent of the early parts of the 2017 Tour stage to Les Rousses, gradually moving upwards by smaller climbs, such as the long and gradual Prénovel (descended in 2017 from km108 to km129 here). From here we move to Morez and climb the Montée de Prémanon that we should be familiar with by now after Les Tuffes, before doubling back on ourselves to Morez (exactly as per proposal #1 on that entry, which was linked above). Now, however, instead of continuing to Switzerland as per proposal #2, we head along the French side of the border, to Chaux-Neuve, which is France's stop on the Nordic Combined World Cup calendar, so may see itself profiled here too one day.


Chaux-Neuve is one of the smaller stations on the Nordic Combined World Cup; there is this odd combination on the NoCo series between venues which are renowned venues or where they must travel between the jump and the ski arena as they are separate or in different parts of the same complex (eg Lillehammer, Otepää, Seefeld) and those such as Chaux-Neuve, where the cross country stadium is effectively set up in the out-run of the jump, and the courses tend to be out-and-back types into the hills that the jump is built into. Instead of going up this hill, however, first we loop to the north, to the opposite ridge, to go over a small, uncategorized bump that enables us to return to the Doubs valley via the Côte de la Combe-Noire, before heading over the Col de Landoz-Neuve from Mouthe, a less than super exciting climb it must be said, but potentially enough to rid us of some sprinters, finishing 20km from the line.


We essentially then take a technical descent down to the shores of Lac de Joux, before rolling in to the finish for an interesting little test. The Le Brassus facility at the moment is small but is aiming at increased size, capacity and prestige with Lausanne 2020 upcoming. The test events on the Alpencup passed without a hitch... and what better way to hype the event in the summer than call in some bike racing?
It seems there's more traffic so i thought of waiting a bit but the stage today has a short description so i hope it will be quick to zip by. Next stage will be longer though as it also has some cycling history peppered in, so i may wait a little bit with this one.

With Fedaia... apparently that gorge road got slammed by the weather conditions of October/Novemeber. Many alpine roads were broken after it and sadly the ancient Priola side of Zoncolan also ended up a victim. I had an idea of commemorating the 2011 fiasco of Monte Crostis by climbing the Priola side of Zoncolan up to Rif. Cocul and then descend to Sutrio right, where the Sutrio side widens up making the descent way more bearable. After that do Sella Valcada and Zoncolan from Ovaro. That's one of my ideas sparked by that i think it was the centenary Giro challenge held here a while ago. Of course that stage would also seen the descent of Monte Rest, where the Sappada '86 stage went classic.


A potential stage to Zoncolan with the first part of Zoncolan from Priola.

I actually looked at Le Brassus a while ago, when doing Tour de Romandie and i deemed it a better departure site than a finishing one as i had a finish on top of nearby Col du Mollendruz (i really was pushing for an MTF at the time). I think it's theoretically possible as there's quite plenty of open space on Mollendruz.

I'm stll unsure if i should go for either something easier or something more obscure. I will present two other potential options later on. I'm also counting this finish as MTF even if it's more of a Xorret del Catí/Mende situation.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 19. Mondovi – Monesi di Triora, 169km, mountain, MTF.


Colle dei Giovetti – 7km, 5,5%, cat. 3, 912m
Colle Caprauna – 20km, 5,6%, cat. 1, 1375m
Colla San Bernardo – 11,8km, 7%, cat. 2, 1315m

This description is short because i've did the majority of this stage before. The only change is the last half starting from Albenga. That half is quite tough as it includes Colle Caprauna – one of the hardest climbs of Alpi Liguri and Colla San Bernardo – not to be mistaken with two or three other San Bernardo's of the same mountain system. One of them will be during the next stage.


Profile of Colle dei Giovetti.

Colle Caprauna is a much tougher alternative for Colle di Nava. Rather than in Imperia it starts in its neighbor Albenga. The majority of the ascent is a false-flat in Pennavaira valley. I've decided to categorise only the last 20km, which are at 5,6%. The ascent is split in half with a 2km false-flat. The first half is 10km at 6% (max 10%) and the second half is 8km at 6,1% (max 9%). Besides the aforementioned false-flat it's mostly a stable 6-7% experience. The road is relatively wide and in generally decent condition.


Profile of Colle Caprauna.

The descent to Ponte di Nava (at the bottom of the north side of Colle di Nava) is tricky. It's only 8km but unlike its eastern side it's quite irregular. There are at least five 10% or more ladders every roughly 1km. The last 1,5km starting from the village of Prale are at 10-11%. The road is the same quality as on the other side. Alpi Liguri are generally covered with a lot of foliege. There are rarely any good viewpoints of this southernmost Alpine system but Prale was lucky enough to have a quite nice view of them.


Profile of the descent from Colle Caprauna.


Alpi Liguri seen from Prale.

Between the bottom of Caprauna and the bottom of the next climb are roughly 20km. They're mostly downhill (7% descent from Colle di Nava). Before the last climb of Colla San Bernardo there are roughly 5km of flase-flat. Do not confuse Colla San Bernardo with nearby Colle San Bernardo and Colle San Bernardo di Mendatica. It's a good but a bit overlooked climb. Not counting the initial false-flat he last 11,8km that are at 7% (a good TdF cat. 1 climb). Like with Caprauna there is one 1km long false-flat but this one comes very early as just after roughly 1,5km. The last 9km are at mostly stable 7,4% (max 10%). It's worth noting the actual top is 900m (at 4,8%) further from where the col is actually located.


Profile of Colla San Bernardo.

The top of Colla San Bernardo is 3,7km from the finish. The first 2,7km are flat-ish i guess (it's hard to tell). The last 1km is uphill (roughly 9%). The roads are quite wide and i guess in ok enough quality even if it seems they're not used too often. The finish is in a rather small ski station sort of in the middle of nowhere. Interestingly, it's the 3rd largest ski resort of Alpi Liguri and only sizeable one that doesn't belong to either Limone Piemonte or the Pratonevoso area. The station belongs to the village of Triora, which is on the other side of the Monte Saccarello chain and will be featured tomorrow. It's very close to the border with Piemonte but i don't think there would be any Ancares situation though. There's not too much free space but i guess enough for Vuelta to call it too spacious. I don't think the Giro will ever finish here though even if i'm not sure if it wasn't a finish of Giro 1966 stage 2.


Monte Saccarello (2201m) above Monesi di Triora.

I've chosen Monesi di Triora because i've deemed it to be the most interesting option racing-wise even if it's also the most mainstream of choices. My other options are Colle Melosa above Colle Langan and the French Casterino near Vallée des Merveilles, between Turini and Tende/Tenda. Colle Melosa is the toughest climb that i'm mentioning today but i disqualified it as i will be using the same roads tomorrow while i decided to not do Casterino, because it's too far away and i want to keep the race inside Italy as i already have Switzerland in the race.

Colle Melosa is either a refugio or a restaurant near the French border, roughly above Sanremo. It's a very tough climb, especially if you include the tougher south side of Langan. The climb is 17,5km at 7,2% (max 12%), which is a genune TdF HC cat. The climb is quite irregular but nothing near zig-zaging. The toughest are the 2,8km at roughly 9,2% to the top of Colle Langan. You can also climb it from the easier north side of Langan. Then it's 15,8km at 6,8% – a borderline 1/HC climb. The road from both sides is quite wide but in a rather shaky state, especially above Langan. There's little amount of free space at the top but should be enough for a smaller race.


Profile of the south side of Colle Melosa.


Profile of the north side of Colle Melosa.

Casterino was my other option. I was looking at it for quite a long time, when researching something new for Alpes Marittimes when doing my last Tour de France. Back then i've decided for Millefonts as it was a much tougher climb. Casterino is still a quite strong cat. 1 though with 13,5km at 6,3%. Excluding the last false-flat 2,5km it's 11km at 7,3% – only slightly easier than today's Colla San Bernardo. However, it lacks any proper warm-up climb like Colle Caprauna as the climb starts roughly halfway between the bottom of Brouis and Tenda/Tende. I decided to not count the run-in to Tenda, which is 14,5km at roughly 3,2%. I have it prepared with the aforementioned Brouis south (cat. 2) and Vescavo east (cat. 3). There's a quite decent amount of free space at the top, which should be enough for a potential Paris-Nice.


Profile of Casterino.

The next stage is the last mountain stage of the race and my first proper dive into the short stage fad that's now so popular.
Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 20. Sanremo – Imperia, 134km, mountain.


Passo Ghimbegna – 7,5km, 6,8%, cat. 2, 892m
Colle Langan – 11km, 7,6%, cat. 2, 1124m
Passo Teglia – 11,7km, 8,1%, cat. 1, 1388m
Colle San Bartolomeo – 6km, 6,3%, cat. 3, 628m

Look at this. Finally intentonally doing something with some cycling history. Not only Sanremo (or San Remo, not sure which form is accurate) but also Poggio at the very start followed by Ghimbegna, which was sort of an alternative to San Romolo. As you can see by the profile above, i was a bit off with my design. Langan and Teglia are further from the finish than i've expected and Colle San Bartolomeo (one of like five San Bartolomeos in the area) is also a bit too easy. However, i do like the approach to the finish as basically only the 10km from Pontedassio are somewhat wider and easier.

The start is right at the bottom of Poggio, but there's no descent towards Sanremo as after a short plateau the peloton will continue ascending towards Passo Ghimbegna via Ceriana. It's a decent climb but there are more than plenty of better Ligurian climbs and two of them i'll showcase today. I guess the fame comes from Fuente losing tons of time, which (if my memory is correct) forced him to go bonkers in the mountains Pantani TdF 2000 style. Let's say that edition wasn't really turbulent because of Fuente, but because of various political groups, demonstrations and bomb threats. One such in Brescia even forced the Giro to have a rest day two days earlier.

On that stage to Sanremo Ghimbegna was a replacement to Passo del Ceppo, which was deemed to be too dangerous in wet conditions. There were two laps including Ghimbegna and during the last ascent Baronchelli sparked the race (his finest hour in this race was on Tre Cime though). I thought Fuente crashed but apparently he just bonked. A very imilar stage with two laps on Ghimbegna was also done in 2004. This one descended to Sanremo via Monte Bignone. It was won by Pietro Caucchioli from a breakaway with a somewhat reduced peloton rolling not far behind him.


Profile of 2004 Giro's stage 17.

Monte Bignone (1300m) is a minor road linkng Ghimbegna with San Romolo to the south. Orginally i had Monte Bignone as my first climb, but decided to do Ghimbegna and Poggio to at least have some nod towards Giro's history. As for the climb Ghimbegna is 21,3km at very irregular 4,1% (includes several plateaus), but i decided to only count the core 7,5km at fairly regular 6,8%. Towards Ceriana the road is quite wide and in decent enough shape. The last 7,5km are narrower and the surface can be shaky at times. The ascent also has like 20 harpins so glad they're not descending this way.


Profile of Passo Ghimbegna.


Ceriana, below Passo Ghimbegna.

At the top of Ghimbegna there's a relatively large road junction to the Argentina valley, San Romolo, Colle Langan, Pigna and Isolabona in the Nervia valley. The peloton will descend to Isolabona. Near the top there's also the village of Bajardo. The village was a major Celtic place of worship. Later a celtic temple was repurposed by the Romans into a fortress. The modern village has medieval origins. It was partally destroyed during a 1887 earthquake. A roof of the oldest church in the village – XIII-XIV c. Chiesa di San Nicolò collapsed taking with it around 220 people.



The descent to Isolabona is quite tricky, but not as technically difficult as the ascent was. There are at least 8 distinct harpins and a countless amount of smaller twists and turns. The road is quite narrow, but seems to be in fine condition. The descent is 14,5km at quite regular 5,5% (max 8-9%). I've deemed this side to be the safest to descent as the descent straight to Pigna is IMO rather unusable. However this choce also introduces a roughly 10km long flat in the Nervia valley, which could be cut short by taking the direct track to Pigna. Near the bottom the peloton will pass through the village of Apricale.


The descent from Ghimbegna.

Apricale developed around founded by Ventimiglia X c. Castello della Lucertola. It was possibly founded with nearby Castello di Dolceacqua to protect the Nervia valley, which was one of the possible routes that directly linked Ventimiglia with Piemonte. Both castles were later given to Genoese Doria family. The Apricale castle now houses local statutes – medieval codes of law and daily life, considered to be the oldest in Liguria. Other sights include XII c. Chiesa della Purificazione di Maria Vergine, XIII c. Chiesa di Sant'Antonio and ruins of XI c. Chiesa di San Pietro in Ento.




Castello di Dolceacqua.

Below Apricale is Isolabona. That's where the 10km slightly uphill valley part starts, which will end above Pigna. Pigna itself is a quite large village, the 2nd largest commune of the valley after Dolceacqua (pretty watter if my very basic Italian is right). Pigna, like other villages in the valley, was erected by Ventimiglia for defensive purposes. In 1944 a local anti-Nazi resistance proclaimed a "Free Republic of Pigna" (Libera Repubblica di Pigna), which existed from 29.08 to 08.10. Main sights are VII c. rural Chiesa di San Siagrio (grandson of Charlemagne) in the village of Buggio at the very end of the valley, XIII c. Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo and Rifugio Franco Allavena (or Colle Melosa), which i've talked about yesterday.




Nervia in Pigna.

Above Pigna starts the next climb of the day – Colle Langan. This climb is very close to the French border, which is just 6km to the west. Langan is separated from France by the Monte Saccarello (2481m) mountain chain with the highest peaks Monte Pietravecchia (2038m) and Cima di Marta (2137m). On the other side is Monte Ceppo (1627m). Monte Ceppo can be climbed up to 1500m and... the profiles show a nice little mess.


Monte Ceppo and Monte Pietravecchia in the background.

Colle Langan was starring only once in the Giro and it was during the same stage Fuente lost so much time due to lack of apetite. I'm tackling it from its harder south side. The climb is 11km at 7,6% and that includes a roughly 1km of false-flat 2,7km from the top. Said last 2,7km are the toughest at roughly 9,4% (max 12%). The preceeding 7,5km are at 7,6%. The top is 77km from the finish line. The road is quite narrow, but seems to be in okay enough shape (imo a bit on the rough side though). Colle Langan is also a rare Ligurian climb that opens up (only on the higher slopes) to some nice views. Above Langan is Colle Melosa.


Colle Langan.


Road to Colle Langan.

The descent from Langan leads to a frontier of Triora called Molini di Triora. The descent is 9km at 7,2% with the last 5km at mostly stable 8% (max 10-12%). The road seems to be wider but with a rather bumpy surface. It's a quite technical descent with the last 4km having 8 harpins. I guess it may be possible in the real life if the surface didn't deteriorated too much.



Road down from Colle Langan.

Molini di Triora is a hamlet formerly belonging to the village of Triora, which is on top of a nearby hill at the very end of the Argentina valley. It's one of the larger Ligurian valleys, situated parallel to the Nervia valley. Triora is a very picturesque remote village founded around X-XI c. by Ventimiglia. In 1267 the village passed to the Republic of Genoa, who later fortified it. Thanks to its fortifications it managed to resist serious sieges by Savoie and Piemonte in 1625 even if the whole Liguria soon fell to Savoie. In 1587-1589 Triora was also in the middle of witch trials, one of the latest in entire Italy. Now they are commemorated by a local summer festival. The village was badly damaged by the Nazis during WW2.




Argentina valley seen from Triora.

Triora is located on top of a hill that's part of the lower slopes of Monte Frontè (2152m) and French-Italian Monte Saccarello (2201m). Both are the highest peaks of Alpi Liguri. This mountain chain separates Triora from the ski resort and last stage's finish Monesi di Triora, which is just 10km to the north. Both communes can be reached by 2021m high hiking trail Passo Garlenda. Also above Triora, at the very end of the valley and very close to the French border is a very splendidly located village of Realdo. The road to Realdo also goes under a small waterfall. There's some small free space in the village, potentially enough for a smaller local bike race. In Realdo also starts a tiny climb to Baisse de Sanson (1694m). Up to roughly 1600m the road is surfaced. The surfaced bit is roughly 14km at around 6%.




Monte Frontè.

From Molini di Triora there are two options on how to reach the next climb. The difference in difficulty is very minor as both options meet rather quickly. The first option is to go straight from Molini di Triora. This one is 1,3km at 7,7%. The other option is to do a 1,3km long stint in the valley and then climb 1,1km at roughly 8%. I've chosen the latter option as i deemed it slightly harder. Both roads seems to be very similar to each other. My choice is however way twistier as counting the joint harpins there are 11 switchbacks in span of just 2,5km.

The whole climb is 11,7km at 8,1%. It's relatively regular, but there are some minor gradient switches, especially in the middle 4km. The toughest are definitely the first 5km at roughly 9% (max 12-14%). The top is 55km from the finish line. Teglia is a borderline cat. 1/2. I've decided to categorise it as cat. 1, mainly because it's the last such tough climb of the entire race but otherwise i think it should be cat. 2.


Profile of Passo Teglia, the first 1km is slightly different.

The first 1,1km are on a quite narrow road that's also in an unhealthy shape. The road gets slightly wider and better, when joing the other road from Molini di Triora. Teglia is a rather rare example of a more open Ligurian climb, especially on the upper slopes as you can see on the snippets below.




Road to Passo Teglia.

The descent leads to the Aroscia valley. I've chosen the option to go towards Pieve di Teco. There's also an option to head to San Bernardo di Conio in between Colle San Bartolomeo and Colle d'Oggia – another quite good climb (13,2km at 7%) just south of Passo Teglia. The first 4,3km to the junction with the San Bernardo di Conio road are at 8,5%. However, from there it's 17km at only 4,6% (max 7-8%). The road is roughly the same as on the other side of Teglia, maybe in slightly better conditon. Even if the descent is technically quite demanding you better have at least one teammate as the long stretches of 4-6% can be tiring.



Road down from Passo Teglia.

In Pieve di Teco the race joins the Colle di Nava SS28 road and after a short tunnel the peloton will climb the last climb of this stage – Colle San Bartolomeo. It should be a nice change of pace for the guys as the last 60km were on smaller roads. Colle San Bartolomeo is the easiest climb of the day with 6km at quite regular 6,3%. The top is 28km from the finish line. The climb is one of the oldest in the Giro, being ridden already during the 1st edition on stage 7 to Torino.


Profile of Colle San Bartolomeo.

Colle San Bartolomeo was probably also the pivotal point of Giro 1966. The first stage went from Monte Carlo to Diano Marina, commemorating Monte Carlo's centenary. Halfway through San Bartolomeo (i assume it was also ascended from the north?) Anquetil had a flat tyre, possibly caused by a tifosi that accidentally dropped a glass bottle right under his wheels. Even with a quick wheel switch and a rapid chace he was still roughly 20s behind at the bottom of the descent. When the GC group realized that Anquetil was behind they upped the pace leaving the Frenchman good 3min behind on the finish line. The stage was won by Vito Taccone with later Italo Zilioli winning the overall race and Anquetil finishing 3rd, 4min behind.


Pieve di Teco.

The descent is quite complicated. I'm taking the old Colle di Nava route that goes on a mountainside above the valley via Cesio, Torria and Chiusanico. The descent is 18km at 3% but it does include a number of false-flats and even small ascents (mainly to Torria and Chiusanico). The descent ends in Pontedassio, roughly 7km from the finish line that's in Imperia. The road is of varied width and quality. It's mostly wide but on a not that amazing surface. The narrowest seems to be a roughly 3km stretch between Cesio and Torria. The descent is also quite technical, which may help the breakaway a bit.


Profile of the descent from Colle San Bernardo.


Road down from Colle San Bernardo near Torria.

During the middle ages the valley belonged to Clavesana near Fossano on the other side of Alpi Liguri. In early XIV c. the region passed to the Republic of Genoa, which decided to fortify the valley with what are now the villages of Cesio, Torria or Pieve di Teco. In 1576 the valley (but Cesio, which stayed with Genoa untill 1735) was sold by Genoa to Savoie.





The stage joins back SS28 in Pontedassio. The last 7km to Imperia are flat and technically unchallenging. The finish line is in the former commune of Oneglia as Imperia was a summer resort project founded in 1923. The city was created by a merge of pre-existing towns of Oneglia and Porto Maurizio, both originatng from XVI-XVIII c. For now i've put the finish on Via Spianata Borgo Peri near Memoriale Manuel Belgrano on the far east side of the city.



I would maybe prefer to have a more selective finish but i want to promote Langan and Teglia, both quite good but not that well known climbs in a bit underused region that's imo still a bit overshadowed by the same old song of Sampeyre/Fauniera. With this stage i guess you may expect everything but i'm worried Langan/Teglia is a bit too far to do anything and these technically difficult but rather long and shallow descents from Teglia and San Bartolomeo may tamper any agressions. If someone will prevail then he has an additional bonus secs in Pontedassio. However, it is the last chance for them climbers to do anything but at the end Dumoulin/Roglic/Bernal will sill win.

This ain't the last GC relevant stage. I almost always try to do something interesting for the last stage and for that i decided to go my own ways in Bergamo.
Disclaimer: i prefer to not check out if anyone did something like this with Via Sant'Alessandro before to not end up being dissapointed by copying someone's idea.

Last stage: link

Giro d'Italia 2 – stage 21. Bergamo - Bergamo, 18,3km, ITT, hilly.


San Vigilio (Città Alta) – 2,5km, 8% (max 15-16%), cat. 3, 461m

Via Sant'Alessandro – 850m
Via San Vigilio – 700m

You should know Bergamo by now. It's well known from Il Lombardia and its two lower and higher nuclei. However, this time trial is not about that. It's also not about copying Il Lombardia or 2016 Giro stage. I decided to do a little research and found a really nice „hellingen” if you can count it as such. Italy isn't renown for cobbles. Usually the Italian cobbles are more of a granulate-like surface with little pebbles and a gutter in the middle. A number of such can be find in Bergamo and i found one that i was particulary interested in.


Bergamo's Città Alta.

Originally it was a regular road stage with Valcava before some hilly Bergamo laps. I also had a more leftfield idea of long laps near Bergamo with Valcava in the middle. However, after i did the time trial with dirt i also wanted to follow it with another gimmicky time trial but this time with cobbles. I also felt that one time trial might not be enough for the amount of climbing but nowadays you have plenty of Indurains and Olanos (Froome, GT, Roglic, potentially Jungels, Dennis etc.), so i decided to stick with a shorter format of under 20km.

The start and the finish are on Piazza Giacomo Matteotti and Piazza Cavour Camillo Benso in Città Bassa. From there i'm going on Viale Roma and Via Vittore Tasca to end up on Via Sant'Alessandro that's 600m from the start. Via Sant'Alessandro is the most obscure and unlikely of ways to reach Città Alta.





Via Sant'Alessandro, Bergamo.

Via Sant'Alessandro enters Città Alta via Porta San Giacomo, the southernmost point of Città Alta. The last 150m of Via Sant'Alessandro are a balcony on top of Città Alta's city walls. The whole Via Sant'Alessandro is 850m at roughly 9,5% with the last 300-400m at 11-12%. Considering the narrowness in some places, mainly at the very end, where the road goes under Porta San Giacomo i'm banning cars and keep spare wheels on bikes. Because of the surface i assume said spare wheels will be very needed.



Higher parts of Via Sant'Alessandro, Bergamo.

The first cobbled stretch ends at Porta San Giacomo. The next 900m to Piazza Lorenzo Mascheroni on the other side of Città Alta are on a wide and nice Viale della Mura that encircles its inner walls. The first 700m are slightly uphill while the remaining 200m are quite sharply downhill. On Piazza Lorenzo Mascheroni the stage leaves Città Alta under very narrow Porta Sant'Alessandro.


Porta Sant'Alessandro, Bergamo.

Starting from Porta Sant'Alessandro is the last uphill cobbled stretch to a hilltop district of San Vigilio, named after Castello di San Vigilio that overlooks Città Alta. This cobbled section mainly consists of Via San Vigilio and ends just under the castle. After just a 230m long, but narrow descent there's a tiny, narrow and very sharp uphill stint to Via Felice Cavagnis where the main descent from Città Alta starts.


Castello San Vigilio, Bergamo.

Via San Vigilio is 650m at roughly 13%. The cobbles are exactly the same as on Via Sant'Alessandro. The road is also narrow and it gets exceptionally narrow and steep near the top, when there are small patches of near 20%. It's another case, where a car might be too much so i would prefer to stick with motos. The full climb to San Vigilio starting from Città Bassa is 2,5km at 8%, which makes it cat. 3. This is also the last KOM of the race. I'm not sure if i want to have an intermediate time check at the top or at the bottom of the descent that follows.





Via San Vigilio, Bergamo.

The descent to Valbona is 3,7km at 4,4%. It includes relatively wide but twisty Via Felice Cavagnis and at times quite narrow Via Castagneta. It's worth noting that's the only way to go down from San Vigilio unless i want to get lost in varous narrow paths above Valbrembo. Via Felice Cavagnis is at roughly 6% and it includes 5 harpins in span of 1km. Via Castagneta is less twisty but it's also more narrow and the surface is dodgy. Its average is not as steep (roughly 3,3%) but it's highly irregular with a number of quite steep ledges reaching max 14-15%.


Via Castagneta.

In Valbona there are 1,4km of flat before another climb starts. This time to Sorisole, a hillside village northwest of Bergamo. This climb is 2,7km at 3,7%. It's nothing outlandish with max 7-8% roughly in the middle. The road is also way easier to bear with only minor narrowings in Sorisole. The descent from the village leads back to Valbona. It actually ends just 500m away from where the descent from San Vigilio ended. This time the descent is 3,1km at 3,5%. It's fairly regular with the first 1,7km at 5,1%.


Sorisole and Canto Alto (1146m).

The last 3,9km back to Piazza Cavour Camillo Benso are flat to maybe very slightly downhill. The jurney in Città Bassa includes Via Cristoforo Baioni, Via Cesare Battisti, Viale Muraine and Via Gabriele Camozzi, where the finish is located. It's very close to the start so everything should be in one place. The roads are wide and mostly in good quality.

Giro d'Italia 2 – library.

Race stats:
Overall length: 3456km
Flat stages: 4
Hilly stages: 3
Medium mountain stages: 5
Mountain stages: 7
Time trials: 2 (overall: 65,8km)
Stages with cobbles/dirt roads: 3
MTFs: 5
HTFs: 2

Stage list and cat. 2 and 1 climbs (cat. 1 bolded):
1. Cagliari – Alghero, 219km
2. Sassari – Fonni, 231km Passo Genna Silana, Passo Orostode
3. Tempio Pausania – Olbia, 167km
4. Civitavecchia - Isola Farnese, 154km
5. Rieti – Monte Livata, 177km Passo Serra Sant'Antonio, Monte Livata
6. Avezzano – Scanno, 169km Ovindoli, Monte Mótola, Monte Urano
7. Sulmona – Caserta, 176km Altopiano delle Cinquemiglia
8. Salerno – Viggiano, 173km Viggiano
9. Policoro – Tricarico, 184km Monte Croccia, Castelmezzano
10. Gravina in Puglia – Lucera, 173km

11. Arezzo – Doganaccia 2000, 197km Prunetta, Doganaccia 2000
12. San Felice sul Panaro – Mirandola, 47,6km
13. Modena – Monselice, 157km
14. Bassano del Grappa – Passo Oclini, 180km Passo Manghen, San Valentino di Sopra, San Floriano, Passo Oclini
15. Predazzo – Valles, 187km Passo Sella, Passo delle Erbe, Alpe Rodengo, Forcella delle Cave

16. Vipiteno – Resia, 197km Passo di Monte Giovo, Tanas, Passo dello Stelvio, Alsago
17. Scuol-Tarasp – Barzio, 174km
18. Abbiategrasso – Racconigi, 178km
19. Mondovi – Monesi di Triora, 169km Colle Caprauna, Colla San Bernardo
20. Sanremo – Imperia, 134km Passo Ghimbegna, Colle Langan, Passo Teglia
21. Bergamo – Bergamo, 18,3km
Nordic Series #22: Ål - Liatoppen


I know, right? We've got all the way to Nordic Series #22 and this is the first time we've gone to Norway, the country which, more than any other on this planet, is synonymous with cross-country skiing. And when we have gone there, it's not to an iconic spot like Holmenkollen, or Lillehammer (notwithstanding that with my new rule on Olympic venues every 10, it's a frontrunner for entry #30), but instead to Ål, a relatively small and little-heralded biathlon venue in Buskerud.

Part of the reason it has taken me this long to include Norwegian venues in the series has been that when I did a Tour of Norway, a few years ago, it was a veritable travelogue of Nordic sports venues, meaning I had already done some of the options circling around these venues, with stages ending at Lillehammer's iconic ski jump (on a circuit which also incorporated the Birkebeineren cross-country stadium), Beitostølen's biathlon stadium (which has also hosted FIS cross-country events), Geilø's XC/biathlon venue and the Holmenkollen multisports venue which annually hosts a key round of the ski jump World Cup, has now taken over the role as traditional season closer for the biathlon (with Russia, which had hosted the event, coming off the menu thanks to the fallout from Sochi), and is of course the venue of the most iconic of regular season XC events, the Holmenkollen 50k/30k.

So why Ål, of all places? After all, there are plenty of other Norwegian venues to use - Gålå, Drammen (maybe not actually, that's a city-sprint, I haven't yet decided whether those count or not, I don't want to use them but may loosen the rules once I've got through a few more of these!!!), Vossevangen, Sjusjøen, Tromsø, Trondheim Granåsen, Lygna, and so on. Norway offers the perfect combination of an obsession with Nordic sports that means an abundance of venues, and the geography that allows for these to be used in moderately interesting manner for cycling, in races that both exist and get decent fields (as opposed to Sweden, Finland and Russia, all three of which have an abundance of venues for XC and biathlon, but limited scope for interesting terrain work with them, and especially now with cronoescalada's re-tooled mapping which has taken manual routing out of the equation for the time being, producing interesting routes at those venues takes a bit of creativity. Ål was also one that I was drawn to because, rather unusually for Norway, the biathlon and cross-country stadium is at a mountaintop (Vossevangen is similar), rising directly from the Strandafjorden. It's not far from Geilø, however as Geilø is higher up the valley and at a higher altitude, its cross-country venue is in town, unlike its alpine venue - Ål is very unusual in having its Nordic facilities at a higher altitude than its alpine ones (as an aside, I did try to go to the Folgefonna summer ski resort last year, which is similarly laid out, and at the top of a bona fide HC mountaintop, only to find that cross-country was not on the agenda due to a serious problem of heat meaning that the glacier was not structurally sound higher up, and as you could only cross-country ski at the summit, whereas Alpine skiing could be done on the glacial tongue, it was Alpine-only at the time, though I did at least get to meet a few Alpinistas).


Ål was also of interest to me because it's been relatively rare in this series that I've covered a unidirectional MTF type venue. The very point of the Nordic Series admittedly was to show what could be done with the fact that the location of Nordic venues wasn't as uniformly tied down to steep mountains as alpine venues, but at the same time, occasionally they are up significant climbs. I have taken on a couple of these - Alpe Rona, Plateau des Confins - but for the most part the mountain stages presented have been from areas where the climb can at least be used as a pass, or where the venue is a descent or plateau on one side and a mountaintop finish on the other - Campra, Tschierv in Val Müstair - or is atop a much smaller or different characteristic climb - Ridnaun-Val Ridanna, Valromey-Retord. And also this has been with one eye on the type of race which is possible to bring on board.

After all, the Tour of Norway is one of those races that ought to go in the category of "Those Races that Most Misuse the Available Terrain". Admittedly it's a B-player in that field when compared to superstars of the category like the Bayern Rundfahrt, Österreichrundfahrt, Tour de Wallonie and the Tour de Slovaquie, but still - the fact that, in the pursuit of not stepping on the toes of other national races such as the Arctic Tour and the Tour des Fjords (plus the execrable Hammer Series in 2018) the Tour of Norway has essentially been a Tour of the Oslofjord plus trips to Buskerud or Oppland for some hilly and medium mountain stages has been a bit of a limiting factor, born largely out of an intention to keep Norway's best cyclists involved - and as recently that's been the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Alexander Kristoff, the mix of flat and punchy stages has not really delivered on the possibilities that Norway has to offer, which are plentiful as many a traceur can show you. And the Tour of Norway has been in this area a few times - admittedly lately it has stayed closer to the Oslofjord and moving around the Oppland area, but in 2015 and 2016 the race featured identical puncheur stages from Rjukan to Geilø, which for some reason eschewed the much more direct and convenient road from Svenskebu to Geilø which went over three climbs, but did include a punchy finish to the stages, which were won in 2015 by Amets Txurruka, the cult hero of many years (thankfully this was before he betrayed us all and joined Velon's clown show), and in 2016 by Mads Pedersen. The region also featured prominently in the Ringerike GP, considered the spiritual predecessor to today's Tour of Norway.


Ål is around 20km northeast of Geilø, and a little further down the road you can turn up the road to Liatoppen, which is the biathlon stadium and the gateway to the enormous network of Løype that characterises the high plateau here, where hundreds of Norwegians get their thirst for nature on, training, exercising or ski touring with the ever-reliable help of the trail maps on the inside of their packs of Kvikk-Lunsj (a Norwegian institution, functionally identical to Nestlé's more internationally renowned KitKat, this chocolate wafer has been packaged with trail maps in its wrapper for many years and is traditionally served as a snack in ski huts and waypoints on ski tours, making it a successful bribe to persuade children to participate in ski trips with parents). The road to get to Liatoppen, however, is aside from the occasional landslide which affects all roads in mountains of this type, plenty wide enough and usable for a pro race. And it's also an ideal type of mountaintop finish for a race like the Tour of Norway - medium length and steep; the steepness guarantees that there will be some gaps, but that the climb is only 6km long means that the gaps won't be so impenetrable that the race becomes one of those 'win the summit, with the race' type of minor stage races, unless the rest of the course design is absolutely abysmal, which sadly can't be ruled out as a possibility. 6km at 9,3% puts it into a similar kind of ballpark as the Puerto de Urkiola, Peña Cabarga, slightly harder than Planche des Belles Filles but slightly easier than Monte Jafferau.


As you can see, the Peña Cabarga comparison is fairly apt, with the easier section in the middle and then the steeper ramps. The section of 1600m at over 10% in the first half of the climb giving way to an easier section at a mere 5,8%, then a brief flattening out before the steepest section, 600m at 16%, and then a further kilometre at just under 10% to the line. This will be a selective climb if only from the gradients.

Ål's biathlon centre and cross-country trails are still in regular use - in fact they hosted the Norwegian national championships at the end of March 2019, so very current at time of writing - but their last use in top level professional international competition was a round of the European Cup (precursor to the IBU Cup, the second tier biathlon competition behind the World Cup) back in 2002-3 - meaning that the field included the long-retired likes of Halvard Hanevold, Anna-Carin Olofsson-Zidek, Egil Gjelland, Vyacheslav Derkach and Frode Andresen, alongside some then young-guns who have been around until more recently, like Andriy Deryzemlya, Alexander Os and Teja Gregorin. The junior competitions back then included some whose careers have been and gone, like Ann-Kristin Flatland, Helena Jonsson (now Ekholm), Edgars Piksons and Magnus Jonsson, so we're talking ancient history. Nevertheless, as is often the case in Norway, the venue remains internationally licenced, it's simply that the high number of world class venues for cross-country skiing and biathlon in Norway mean that it's not needed - they already have Holmenkollen, Lillehammer, Sjusjøen, Beitostølen, Geilø, Trondheim, Voss, Lygna... you get the picture. Some of these may be dealt with in future Nordic Series posts, but Ål gets to pre-empt them all.


Proposal #1: Hønefoss - Ål-Liatoppen, 195km


This is, I would think, a comparatively realistic manner in which to introduce the Ål biathlon centre climb to the Tour of Norway; it departs from a city which has hosted the race every year since the race moved up to the pro status of 2.1 in 2012 - hosting stage finishes five years consecutively (Russell Downing, Alexander Kristoff (x2), Andreas Vangstad and Edvald Boasson Hagen winning in the city), before in the last two editions being a stage start of two identical stages to Asker, both won by Boasson Hagen also. Therefore it makes for a realistic host as we head across to Buskerud for the mountaintop finish here, including traversing Stavnselva on Reinsjøfjell (I've put the KOM points at the end of the serious climbing). Turning north, we follow National Route 7 as far as the town of Gol, the hometown of skier Pål Golberg, a former junior world champion and four-time World Cup race winner, predominantly specialising in the sprint and team sprint disciplines. From here, we could go directly to Ål - they are neighbouring municipalities, and Gol IL, who Golberg represents, often use Liatoppen as their training base anyway; however we will turn uphill on Valdresvegen, a climb I also used in my Tour of Norway in the stage from Geilø to Beitostølen, a tough little ascent which is a genuine cat.2.


We therefore have to turn north to descend slowly on the county roads toward Ulsåk, mainly as using Valdresvegen means turning directly in the opposite direction to Ål; the quickest way back to Gol and Liatoppen would be to simply turn back on ourselves, which for obvious reasons is never going to happen in any self-respecting bike race. Therefore we turn northward on the county road until it intersects with national road 52 back into Gol, meaning that we have a long, multi-stepped and gradual descent, moving the summit of Valdresvegen to 40km from the finishing line. There's then around 12-15km of uphill false flat in the Strandafjorden valley road before turning uphill to the final summit finish.

Proposal #2: Notodden - Ål-Liatoppen, 218km


The second stage proposal I have is similar to the Vikersund - Geilø stage from my Tour of Norway. However, whereas that stage would have resulted in the smaller climbs being important to the final outcome, here they are more mid-stage leg-softeners, as the fact there is a downhill valley road through the Strandafjorden for 25-30km between Geilø and Ål means that the stage is realistically going to come down to the final climb. Not that that is a particularly bad thing when we're talking about a race like the Tour of Norway where there tend to be only small to middling time gaps - after all, while Wilco Kelderman won the first edition as a 2.2 race, since becoming a pro race, none of the winners of the Tour of Norway have exactly been superstar escaladores, even if Paterski and Weening are decent enough uphill. So while a race with a Liatoppen MTF would be more directed toward climbers than historic editions of the Tour of Norway, it's not like we've gone straight from flat-to-rolling to a Juvasshytta MTF. However, to step up the difficulty of the stage prior to the MTF, because those smaller climbs are going to be less decisive than intended from my Geilø stage, I have included the shorter side of Flistjønnskaret, aka Gaustatoppen, one of Norway's more scenic and difficult passes.


This is a pretty brutal ascent - the side we descent is 14km at 7%, with the first 9km at 9%, so that tells you how tough the first part of this ascent is going to be when you look at that profile. We then have a sequence of medium mountain climbs, with Svenskebu followed by Vasstulan, Høgåsen and then finally Kikut. I've put the intermediate in Geilø to ensure that we then have some competition for these, but I would expect the break will duke this out before being brought back in the valley roads, ending in the Liatoppen ascent.

Proposal #3: Beitostølen - Ål-Liatoppen, 163km


Having gone from Geilø to Beitostølen in my Tour of Norway, now that we're back finishing in the Strandafjorden, it's only fair to explore the possibilities going the opposite direction. This is the shortest of the options I've presented, and the finale is a slight variation on proposal #1. I've thrown a couple of the smaller climbs from the area around Beitostølen and Fagernes, but I don't want to overdo it on showing what there is in the vicinity, based on the fact that Beitostølen is a cross-country and biathlon stadium in its own right, and has hosted the IBU Cup (almost annually), and the Cross-Country World Cup a few years ago. In the first third of the stage we have a couple of the climbs around it but I've steered clear of the likes of Eggeåsvegen as a) they are one-sided climbs where we'd be climbing the easy one, and b) they are going to be investigated in more depth if I have a look at Beitostølen at a later date, but once we climb up into the lengthy plateau with the climb to Tisleidalen, it's a long period of consolidation. We could once more descend into Gol via Valdresvegen, but because I wanted to use that as a lead-in climb we clone the same approach from proposal #1 of the gradual descent - however once we enter Gol, I have then done a loop-de-loop to incorporate the Valdresvegen climb rather than simply descend back down from the plateau which would have a) made the stage very short, and b) put all climbs prior to Liatoppen 70-80km from home.

I have, however, added a little sting in the tail of the pre-MTF climbing because in order to do the loop around Gol and include Valdresvegen, I have to leave the main road to Gol slightly earlier, which means that instead of continuing along the main road à la proposal #1, I can turn back uphill through town roads to the Skagahøgdi alpine ski centre, a small valleyside facility which is overshadowed somewhat by its neighbours.


Incorporating this ascent does bring the summit of Valdresvegen up to 44km from home as opposed to 40km in proposal #1, however, it adds a second punchy pre-Liatoppen ascent at 25km from home. It's definitely not one that will be decisive but it might disrupt a chase should anybody dare to go on Valdresvegen, with a race like the 2009 Volta a Portugal in mind (when a large break got away on Alvão, meaning Nuno Ribeiro and João Cabreira had a large advantage over the other bigs before the start of Senhora da Graça) or even for secondary contenders the 2010 edition (where a similar group attacked from the main bunch on Campanhó, with a few of them including Hernâni Brôco and Rui Sousa hanging on to finish with the stars on the subsequent MTF to inject themselves into the GC mix). And, of course, the final climb being only 6km long at 9%, if this is to be the final decisive stage of the Tour of Norway (e.g. if there's only a flat stage to come), we could always point at the way the old Subida a Urkiola used to be raced, as that would have the same kind of distance between the penultimate climb (the first time up Urkiola) and the final one (the summit finish) too - and was one of the pre-eminent climber's one day races for years.

Liatoppen is scenic enough, in summer as in winter. We just need some good Norwegian climbers so that the Tour of Norway starts to deliver on the possibilities it offers. I mean other than Katrine Aalerud, because the Ladies' Tour of Norway is married to Halden and the eastern side of the Oslofjord for the time being; at the moment Odd Christian Eiking is our best hope among the pro ranks, but Tobias Svendsen Foss shows promise. Until then, we'll continue to get that stale, unrepresentative flat-to-rolling race in the hope of Boasson Hagen continuing to win, I guess, just as Norway has been prepared to sit back and let the XC calendar be decimated by the proliferation of sprints and lack of real distance or genuinely "cross-country" loops, as long as they can have a skiing péloton in mass start races that Northug or, latterly, Klæbo can win (not that it really matters, as when there have been harder races in recent years, Sundby and Johaug have decimated the fields themselves anyway).

I have a number of designs up my sleeve; several more Nordic Series posts could be made but I don't want to spam those, especially now that Nordic season is over so it's less at the forefront of people's minds. At the same time, though, I'm not leaving the Nordics behind fully with this, my next project. I do have a full and experimental/innovative Volta a Portugal ready (it's been a long time since I've tackled that) along with a full Giro and at least one full Vuelta (I have two which are outright complete, and two more which are mostly complete but where I'm tinkering with parts of them - the final week in one case and the end of week one in the other), but given that it's not that long since I did a Vuelta I felt I needed to get something else in. Instead, I'm going to the other end of the spectrum and delivering a stage race which is entirely lacking in mountains (say it ain't so!). That's because, for the first time in this thread, I'm tackling a cycling-mad country which has produced countless stars including winners of one Grand Tour and two Monuments, and always has a prominence in the péloton especially in the espoir scene, but whose home country, despite consistently sitting in the top 15 of the CQ country ranking, almost never sees any clamour for more racing within its borders. That country, of course, is Denmark.

However, that statement is not quite true; there has been some genuine clamour for a real, top level Tour of Denmark. It's just that it has come on the women's side of the sport, where riders themselves, not just fans, are pushing for a chance to capitalise on popular and successful Danish home talents. It's not like the terrain isn't there either - if anything the Danish terrain is perfect for women's cycling, which has a veritable glut of flat-to-rolling races with a few short hellingen on its calendar, and so you would probably expect a fairly strong startlist for a race of this nature. I first started planning a Women's Tour of Denmark route early last year, which I was almost ready to post last April, delayed and then by the time June rolled around, I started posting a Vuelta, and it was waylaid. Until now.

The reason for capitalising now and establishing a women's Tour of Denmark is that for a few years it's been a peripheral nation in women's cycling; ever since Linda Villumsen chose to switch her allegiances to compete under the New Zealand flag, the country had struggled to be competitive; in 2012 they ranked a lowly 38th in the world, which has slowly crept up (34th in 2013, 28th in 2014, 29th in 2015, then the big jump to 13th in 2016, and they've remained just outside the top 10 until this season where they currently rank 9th) to a position of relative prominence, and that has largely been thanks to a youth movement that has emerged as one of the best young national crops we've seen from any country whose name doesn't begin with "Neth-" and end with "-erlands" in years.

While the young generation of Danish riders arguably started with Julie Leth, her position at the forefront has rather been usurped; a combination of injuries and the financial gutting of her Hitec Products team, formerly one of the most prominent in the game, meant that by the time she moved on to Wiggle-High 5, her role was primarily as a domestique, and at the national team level, that meant working for one of the two youth phenoms. Which she did with aplomb to the point of creating one of the bigger outsider wins in the recent history of the World Championships.


Amalie Dideriksen rocked up to the Qatar Worlds in some decent form, and she'd won a couple of moderately selective sprints in the Boels Rentals Tour, but generally speaking her role at Boels-Dolmans had been as a worker ant; she was a young prospect who many thought could become a star, but she was at the time serving her apprenticeship; she'd only won the national RR and a couple of stages of .2 races before that Boels Rentals Tour, although she had done a very impressive job domestiquing for Armitstead at the Tour of Britain. Nevertheless, while she had a decent turn of pace on her, she wasn't entertained seriously as a threat in a field with Kirsten Wild, Marianne Vos, Jolien d'Hoore, Marta Bastianelli, Lotta Lepistö, Chloe Hosking, a super-form Coryn Rivera and so on. The surprise victory was greeted with delight back at home; I distinctly recall going into a Copenhagen bike shop on a city break around a month after the race to find them broadcasting replays of Amalie's victory on a large screen. However, her win in Doha presented Boels with a new problem: their last remaining Indian just became a Chief, as, in the rainbow jersey, Amalie rightfully had the gravitas to demand to be allowed to race for her own goals on many occasions, and after winning the Ronde van Drenthe early in 2017, it seemed like all hell could break loose. Her season did fade away a fair bit after that but she recovered to podium the Worlds once more, a highly creditable defence of her title, but in 2018 her only WWT win was a stage of the Tour of Britain, as a combination of struggling to get the same freedom as before and Boels' immense strength in depth hamstrung her; in fact she has been rather usurped as Denmark's future talent du jour (to be honest I thought she was already being overshadowed in the second half of 2016 but her winning the Worlds gave the lie to that) by the always-entertaining Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.


What could I say about Cille that hasn't been said before? Well, some things have never been said before - such as that she's boring, or that she has no personality. Those things don't get said because they're patently untrue. As well as being popular for her combative and engaging racing style, she's swiftly developed a (pretty well-deserved) reputation for the most entertaining and vibrant interviews in the sport. She both vocally campaigns for a home race and against race organizers' and the UCI's poor or unequal treatment of the women, and her never-say-die attitude gives the lie to the easy parcours trap by being a combative climber whose results have been at their best in the most difficult races, as well as being one of the key exhibits in the war against those who still cling to the "women's cycling is boring" safety blanket.

While Denmark's terrain is such that even the hillier races here would not be out of the range of riders like Dideriksen or, especially if a TT is included, former U23 RR and TT European Champion Pernille Mathiesen, I would be lying if I said that the possibilities available to produce a race that Cille would be capable of winning didn't affect the route design; at the same time, seeking out the hillier areas is the main way to create something interesting out of Denmark, so here we are. To an extent the fact that that is the only way that a Danmark Rundt For Kvinder would enable my favourite Danish cyclist to win is just a happy bonus, but in part it was a conscious choice.

The future of Denmark's women's cycling isn't just about Uttrup Ludwig and Dideriksen though - as well as Mathiesen I mentioned above, you've also got Louise Norman Hansen, younger sister of Lasse (who is also dating the aforementioned Julie Leth), Christina Siggaard, who won Omloop het Nieuwsblad in 2018, Marie Vilmann (albeit currently without a team) and perhaps most excitingly Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen, 19-year-old youth phenom who is into her second season with Bigla (ex-Cervélo) alongside compatriots Ludwig and Leth, who won the national Road Race jersey at 16 and was 2nd in the Chrono des Nations - only beaten by two-time Olympic medallist Olga Zabelinskaya, and ahead of some pretty strong TT names such as Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Cille and Ann-Sophie Duyck. And let us not forget Annika Langvad, the MTB specialist who is a six time World Champion (once in cross-country, twice in marathon) and who won a few road titles back in the early 2010s when Danish cycling was struggling; due to a lack of experienced climbing nous in the team at Innsbruck, but having a potential medal contender in Ludwig, the Danish federation drafted in Annika as a ringer, and following on from her performance there Boels-Dolmans gave her her first pro road contract at the age of 34; she then finished on the podium of her first WWT race, although it being Strade Bianche and with her experience of marathon MTB that is perhaps less of a baptism of fire than many other races would have been. While women's cycling is not short of late starters in the pro road ranks - Mavi García, Evelyn Stevens, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Lucy Kennedy are all examples of late converts - it is likely Annika only has a few years left at the top, so all the more reason why she should look to attack a women's Tour of Denmark now!


Even beyond the riders, there's the fact that the previously Swiss-based Bigla team has relocated operations to Denmark as it crystallises around Cille with the loss of previous star turns Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Lotta Lepistö to a budget increase at DSB/Nederland Bloeit/Rabobank/WM3/Waowdeals/CCC and a brand new high budget team respectively, and also that Bjarne Riis' Virtu Pro Cycling project is based in the country; Riis bought out the existing development structure of BMS-Birn which had produced talents like Ludwig, Vilmann and Mathiesen as well as housing veterans like Trine Schmidt, Camilla Møllebro and cyclocross specialist Margriet Kloppenburg, and with the help of some elder stateswomen to shore up results - 40+ American Amber Neben was brought on board, as well as Linda Villumsen who of course represented Denmark in her younger years - established itself as a WWT level unit. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, admittedly losing Mathiesen along the way, but bringing in Kasia Pawlowska, scoring a surprise top 10 on the Zoncolan with Norwegian grimpeuse Katrine Aalerud, and then signing a small but strong Italian contingent, consisting of sprinter Barbara Guarischi, all-rounder and WWT U23 winner Sofia Bertizzolo, and most notably former World Champion-turned-all-rounder-turned-villain-turned-sprinter-turned-all-rounder-again Marta Bastianelli, with whom they currently hold the overall lead in the Women's World Tour.

So there's two teams you could guarantee would show up - and with strong home interest. Boels (with Langvad and Dideriksen) and Sunweb (with Mathiesen) would be almost certain too, as well as Hitec Products, based across the strait in Norway. Those teams on their own would suggest a decent level startlist to crystallise a roster around, but there would also be the likes of German-based Canyon-SRAM with their strong rouleuse unit, Danish development team Team Rytger, WNT with their roster of riders strongly suited to this kind of terrain such as Brennauer, Wild and Lea Lin Teutenberg. Throw in timing it to meet one of TIBCO and Rally/UHC's European jaunts, and a few Dutch and Belgian mid-sized teams like Lotto and Parkhotel Valkenburg, and you've got a more than handy startlist.

So, on with the fun of the Danmark Rundt for Kvinder!

Stage 1: Aarhus - Rebild, 113km



Rebild x3 (1150m @ 6,1%)

We are going to start in what is approximately the geographical centre of Denmark, the city of Aarhus. We want to start somewhere big to try to get a buzz going, so what better location than the second biggest city in the country? The number of celebrities to come from the city are too many to name, bearing in mind we are talking one of the biggest cities in Scandinavia, but it is the hometown of Julie Leth who I mentioned above. It is also forum user RedHeadDane's home (though she tries to hide it by using the old Viking name of the city in her profile). We're waiting on proof of her following through her bet to ride the entirety of Ringgade following a Danish podium at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (later clarified presumably in fear to the men's race only, seeing as Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig would have condemned her earlier that day anyway). The city also hosted for several years the GP Aarhus, which ran under a range of names, and counts Bjarne Riis and Romans Vainsteins among its winners, but realistically became a sprinters' race later on as, well, it is in Denmark. However, at first, it was peak EPO time, and so even an entire péloton couldn't keep up with Riis, as highlights of the 1997 edition show.


Really, though, this is more about starting in a metropole than anything else, as the important part of the course is the last part. On the way, though, we pass through the city of Randers, home to the largest artificial rainforest in northern Europe (as part of its tropical zoo) and a not infrequent host of the men's Post Danmark Rundt in recent years - hosting sprints won by Michael van Staeyen in 2010 and André Greipel in 2012, as well as an ITT in 2017 which was key to the final GC as Mads Pedersen managed to stave off Michael Valgren to hold his slender GC lead from the Vejle stage; Matthias Brändle won the stage but was an afterthought to the coverage. We also head into slightly hillier - but not categorization-worthy - terrain for a stretch, passing by the mouth of the Mariager Fjord at Hobro. Hobro has hosted a few stage starts in the Danmark Rundt recently but no finishes; it has, however, hosted the national championships in 2010 owing to the slightly hilly roads out of town giving small but not inherently decisive climbs to produce an interesting race. Nicki Sørensen beat Lars Ytting Bak from a break of two, nearly two minutes up on the field, in the men's race while this was the road race that Annika Langvad won among the women, with a 17-year-old Christina Siggaard trailing in for second place. Its greatest cycling legacy is probably Olympic Team Time Trial bronze medallist Gert Frank, usually a track specialist but who was part of the 1976 road TTT quartet in Montreal at the age of 20 alongside Verner Blaudzun (father of Michael), Jørgen Hansen and Jørn Lund. He was mainly a specialist in Six Day racing, with 20 wins in the format, many of which in a pair with René Pijnen, and some paired with all-time superstar of the format Patrick Sercu - who greatly respected the Dane, with Australian pioneer Don Allan saying that Sercu once told him that Frank was the most talented of all of the six day specialists of his time. Sadly, he died earlier this year at the age of just 62.


Hobro is also home to one of Denmark's greatest sportsmen, or at least within certain cult arenae it is, anyway. The small city is the hometown of Tom Kristensen, affectionately dubbed "Mr. Le Mans" for his peerless and remarkable record in the Race Around The Clock. A relatively late starter in motorsport, Tom moved over to Japan to race in their Touring Car and Sportscar series at a time when that was seen as something of a career graveyard owing to the series' inaccessibility and lack of visibility to European-based team owners. He raced touring cars for many years and even had a year as an F1 test driver, but it was for his sportscar prowess that he was predominantly known after returning to Europe in the mid 90s. He won Le Mans alongside Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson in 1997 in a privateer Porsche WSC-95, before a couple of years at the helm of BMW's ill-fated LMP1 program. After this he rejoined his old colleagues at Joest Racing, which had now become a factory Audi team, and established a dominant team alongside Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, with the trio winning back to back 24hrs in 2000, 2001 and 2002 as the all-conquering Audi R8 became what Le Mans was all about. In 2003, he was plucked from Joest to race Team Bentley's sleek and beautiful Speed 8, the last throes of the LM-GTP class before closed cockpits returned to LMP1, having been outlawed in the early 90s at the tail end of Group C. Joest were busy developing the R10, the first diesel car to win Le Mans, so the old factory drivers were bouncing around various factory R8s for a few years, with Kristensen adding two more wins - which drew him level with Jacky Ickx for most ever - first alongside Seiji Ara and Rinaldo "Dindo" Cappello and then alongside JJ Lehto and Marco Werner, before setting up the all-conquering Audi "Dream Team" of Cappello, Kristensen and Allan McNish, who would be an inseparable trio for seven years at Le Mans until Cappello's retirement. They recorded two DNFs but in every finish they were on the podium including a record-breaking win for TK in 2008; in 2013 with Loïc Duval replacing Cappello Kristensen was able to add his ninth win at Le Mans leaving him completely peerless, but by this stage the aging Dream Team were being usurped as Audi's lead drivers by another collection of overlooked GT/sportscar specialists that the team had plucked from seeming obscurity in Japan - Marcel Fässler, one-time DTM stalwart, Benoît Tréluyer, best known for a horrific night time crash in the Pescarolo privateer Peugeot in the Diesel Wars era but since then racing in Japan, and André Lotterer, who has now become one of the most feared drivers in sportscars and most dynamic in Formula E also. With their job done and the returns being had becoming less, and not wanting to tarnish his legacy by hanging on too long after becoming uncompetitive, McNish retired as a Le Mans winner in 2013; Kristensen bowed out gracefully from Le Mans in 2014 just before his 47th birthday, after one more edition racing as the backup car to the Lotterer/Fässler/Tréluyer car, teaming with Marc Gené and Lucas di Grassi and finishing 2nd behind them after Toyota's lead car was forced to retire with mechanical problems in the night. With six wins, Kristensen is also the record holder for most wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring which, with for many years the Rolex Grand-Am series running different cars (the ugly-as-sin Daytona Prototypes with their snub noses and mis-shapen bubble domes were a horrific alternative to the sweeping, elegant Le Mans Prototypes) meaning the 24h Daytona was off-limits to FIA and ACO-homologated sportscar programs, was the most prestigious endurance race in the US too. Now a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog and a member of Denmark's sporting Hall of Fame, he can be relied upon to be at the race that made him famous annually and remains an icon to sportscar fans.


At around 30km remaining, the riders get their first glimpse of the finish, but they have to climb to get there. Rebild is a slightly unusual area within Denmark; the municipality has a population of around 28.000 but is best known for its natural park, Rebild Bakker, or Rebild hills.


The land constituting the national park has a strange backstory - it was apparently purchased by a consortium of Americans of Danish heritage, who bought 200 acres of Rold Skov with the intention of preventing it from being developed, keeping it as wild, natural heath and forest land, open to the public all year round - but on one proviso: that they celebrate American Independence Day there. Therefore, on July 4th, the Rebild Festival sees a strange kind of Danish-American hybrid celebration, with festivities aping or providing analogues to the American celebrations. It also serves as a sort of pilgrimage/homecoming for Danish Americans, and is the largest celebration of July 4th outside of the USA, serving as a sort of European analogue to the Oktoberfests in Blumenau, Brazil and Villa General Belgrano, Argentina.

Obviously, being "Bakker", this means they are hills, which you can see a bit more of from this drone footage, and I have ensured that the cyclists have to climb some of these. The most serious climb in the region that is on Rebildvej/Hulvejen, which according to climbs.dk is 1150m at 6,1%.


This obviously isn't a super dangerous climb, but it's enough that riders may want to fight for placement seeing as it is the most dangerous obstacle in this stage. The climb has served as a hilltop finish in the Post Danmark Rundt once, in 2009, when Matti Breschel beat Simon Gerrans to the line, which tells you the kind of riders this will favour. With two circuits and the climb serving as a hilltop finish of sorts, it comes at 30 and 15km from the line. It is fairly consistent, which is a shame, but still, it means that this one will be a duel between the durable sprinty types and the faster-finishing puncheuses. Although the finish is at the crest of the climb, it isn't the only platform to attack on the stage - although it will take some serious effort and perhaps being underestimated by the chasing pack to make Buderupholmvej a decisive ascent, being as it is 1280m averaging just under 4% and with 300m at 6,4% being its hardest obstacle. Not only that, but I have placed intermediate sprints at Støvring, the town at the top of the climb. The bonus seconds could be key in a flat to punchy race - so we have an interesting dynamic here: do you fight this climb hard to take bonus seconds or does the fact that this climb comes just 6,9km from the bottom of the Rebild ascent dissuade attacks? Do riders fancy leaving it until a punchy finale, or do they want to go on an earlier lap? Riders who can climb but not sprint, such as Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma or Ludwig will presumably want to try to burn off as many of their opponents as possible, but also is the fact the finish is at the top of the climb enough to move people like Eugenia Bujak out of contention? Coryn Rivera and Amy Pieters can make the end selection at Plouay, and this climb isn't too dissimilar from Newnham Hill, used in the decisive stage 2 of the Women's Tour in 2018, which Rivera won, albeit the climb wasn't the finish line on that occasion. At the same time though, the 2016 European Championships were held in Plumelec on the Côte de Cadoudal which isn't that much harder than Rebild Bakken, albeit a bit longer - and the race was won by van der Breggen ahead of Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini and Amialiusik, all great climbers without a major sprint weapon, with Leleivyte - who is punchy and can sprint - tailed off. But then, that was more laps of the climb. You'd also say this finish would seem perfect for Lizzie Deignan or Marianne Vos, as the stats aren't too far off the Cauberg but with fewer steeper ramps, and both of those are dynamite over a short punchy climb and with a strong sprint finish when healthy - but we don't yet have knowledge of what shape post-childbirth Deignan is in, and Vos has had a pretty mixed injury history lately. And, given the shape she's been in this season and that she's riding for a Danish team, what of Marta Bastianelli? Others to look out for would be Lucinda Brand, Christine Majerus (she loves a technical finish and a short uphill), Leah Kirchmann if she's in 2015-16 kind of shape, Liane Lippert if her winning in Geraardsbergen in the Tour of Belgium and her showing in Brabantse Pijl is worth going on, Chantal Blaak, Alexis Ryan and others of that style - of which there are many in the péloton.

And don't write Amalie Dideriksen out either.

Your Valles stage is awesome, I really like those climbs around Brixen/Bressanone (I've climbed nearly all of them) and I've actually worked in the former bishops palace as a stagiaire. The side of the Rodenecker Alm that you're using as a descent is totally fine, I climbed it last summer when they had 38° C down in Brixen and they also used in the Tour of the Alpes.

About the Resia / Reschen am See stage, on paper it looks like a great stage, but the whole area i known for the strong northwind that is often blowing, the Vinschgerwind, so the risk of having a strong headwind on the final climb is really high.

Other than that really like your Giro route, great work
Stage 2: Viborg - Brande, 122km



No GPMs in this stage, but still plenty of challenge. Yes, it's pan flat, but while we've got a stage that looks like it should be a sprinters' stage, there's still plenty of chance that it won't be. Partly because there is always the possibility of the wind blowing across this part of the world, and partly because... this.


That's right: a lot of dirt, because we're in GP Herning territory here. Introduced in 1992, this is one of the several races around Europe that have attempted to piggy-back the whole Paris-Roubaix thing since the tarmacking of most of western Europe, by using dirt, gravel, mud and whatever they can lay their hands on to provide a spectacle. Of course, Tro Bro Léon is the most famous of these, and many of the others are restricted to the local national scenes, such as the Rutland-Melton Classic in the UK and the Slag om Norg in the Netherlands. Occasionally an existing pro race will try and reinvent itself in that fashion, such as Schaal Sels' infamous cornfield sectors, so by comparison GP Herning is a reasonable level race which has been fairly consistent in its running since the early 1990s. Winners include Bjarne Riis (three times), Frédéric Moncassin, Claus Michael Møller, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Frank Høj, while in recent years the race has fallen in status to become more of a domestic concern and currently runs without UCI categorization, last being a UCI race in 2013. Still - with up to 16 dirt road sectors, it has the potential to be very selective.

So let's put the smaller sized teams and more aggressive racing style of the women's péloton on it.


Obviously, of course, we're not just doing GP Herning but with the women's péloton. In it's pro days it was around 200km long and even as a .NE event it is up above the 180km mark, which would be abnormally long in the women's péloton - that's the kind of length that, at the current time, would be reserved for a sort of women's San Remo equivalent. So we're not just doing that. It's also a pretty long transfer from Rebild. Instead, therefore, we're starting in Viborg, around 60km northeast of Herning, and the centre of Denmark's second largest municipality (amongst Denmark proper, so not counting Greenland). With 40.000 urban inhabitants (the municipality includes many outlying towns and villages so is more than double this) it's one of Denmark's oldest cities (the name comes from Old Norse, meaning "holy fort/castle") but has in recent years been restyling itself as a Danish centre for sporting excellence.

Although to the outside world Viborg is mainly known for its world class handball team, it did hold its own bike race briefly, at the 1.2 level, from 2015 to 2017, and has also hosted the Post Danmark Rundt a few times, most recently in 2018 when it was the departure point for the queen stage to Vejle. It last hosted a stage finish in 2006, with Aitor Galdos winning from a four-up sprint ahead of René Haselbacher, Stuey Mate O'Grady and Manuel Quinziato. As there's not a great deal of geographical interest in its immediate vicinity so far as cycling terrain goes, however, it tends to more commonly see action as a stage start than a stage finish, and so we stick to tradition today. On the way to Herning, we pass through a couple of small towns, most notably Kjellerup, home to Danish actor Søren Malling, best known as one of the stars of Danish cult hit Forbrydelsen (aka "The Killing"), which was one of the shows that really kickstarted the popularity of Scandinavian crime thrillers and noirs in recent years (Malling's character is second only to Sofie Gråbøl's central Hauptfigur).


The dirt roads pepper the second half of the stage and in fact start before even reaching Herning, with three sectors coming before the famous cycling city but after the neighbouring town of Ikast. It would have been easy to make the finish in Herning - after all, the city is more or less Denmark's home of cycling culture, with its eponymous Grand Prix and it being the home town of Bjarne Riis and all - but there's also more to that. When the Giro d'Italia started in Denmark in 2012, Herning was where they chose to put it; an ITT and then two consecutive sprint stages with nary a climb in sight, but the kind of roads that might be safe for a 120-strong domestic péloton in the Danish national tour but are not safe with a 66% uplift in rider numbers, with the organizers already somewhat sensitive following the tragic events of the previous year's race, the disastrous start to a disastrous race, with three stages where the only life breathed into them was crashes, put a dampener on the whole experience, and to this day the 2012 Giro in Denmark is the gold standard of bad overseas départs - though one could say that at least unlike Belfast a couple of years later or Israel in 2018, at least they weren't deliberately avoiding obstacles, they just didn't have many to work with. Still: that GT départ was more or less seen as Zomegnan's parting gift, with the popular maverick madman ensuring that his successor's tenure got off to a poorly-received start.

Herning also saw the European Championships in 2017, meaning several of the women will have already raced on these roads - highlights beginning here - having participated back then. The star of the show back then was local girl Pernille Mathiesen, winning both the U23 TT and RR, but at the same time the show was also somewhat stolen by her compatriot Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who won silver in the TT, who was already somewhat more established in the pro bunch (she of course won the U23 jersey in the WWT that year) - but if my memory serves me correctly this was where the "Cille + Microphone = Gold" truism first really came to pass, as she dropped several f-bombs in her unique style while recapping the race - though all I can now find is her trying her best to make Pernille corpse in the interview. And being pretty successful at that. A number of others from those races have gone on to the pro ranks now - Juliette Labous is now a teammate of Pernille's and Floortje Mackaij's at Sunweb, Nikola Nosková is now a teammate of Cille's at Bigla, Clara Koppenburg is now at WNT, Lisa Klein has some strong World Tour results with Canyon, Karlijn Swinkels is at Alé-Cipollini. Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen took a bronze medal in the Junior TT behind the Italian star duo of Pirrone and Paternoster, and a silver in the RR behind Lorena Wiebes. In the U23 race Mathiesen was able to survive a few seconds ahead of the bunch, with Susanne Andersen outsprinting Alice Barnes for the silver.

The elite races were pretty star-studded as you might expect, though. Having put their best riders in the U23 event, the Danes were fairly quiet in the TT and RR, with the former being a Dutch plaything, placing three riders in the top 4 - Ellen van Dijk winning overall, Anna van der Breggen taking bronze and Lucinda Brand 4th; only Ann-Sophie Duyck was able to interrupt their procession, taking silver - and that was almost a minute behind Ellen. Marianne Vos won the Road Race in a three-up sprint, beating two-time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini and relegating Olga Zabelinskaya to the same role she fulfilled at the 2012 Olympic Road Race, a few seconds ahead of the chasing pack.


The Herning European Championships courses didn't really use the dirt and gravel, however, relying on the weather to make the differences. I am not so generous, even though hard flat racing can often produce significant time gaps in women's cycling (just look at the recent Healthy Ageing Tour for an example). Instead, seeing as this is a country which is predominantly flat, I can't just make this puncheuse stage after puncheuse stage even if I might want to see Cille win this hypothetical race. So, this one's for the rouleuses.


This is the map of the 2015 GP Herning. We are arriving from the right of screen, taking on both of the long red gravel sections to the top right before heading into Herning, not clearly marked but obvious enough from that map. We then have an intermediate sprint in Herning itself - 57km from the line - before heading southwards to take on more gravel in the form of following the next three dirt sections southbound (these are therefore in the reverse direction from the GP Herning). At this point we deviate from their route, to take in a further southern section, before one more section in order before the finish in the small town of Brande, a railway town of 7.000 inhabitants, which is undergoing rapid development of a business and industrial complex intended to include some humongous skyscrapers, for reasons which are beyond me.


This means that we have the following gravel sectors in our race:
- Frølundvej (1480m) - 72km
- followed immediately by (same video) En Markvej (1960m)
- "En Grussti" Lund (620m) - 61km
- Høgilgårdvej (3760m) - 46km
- Gottenborgvej (2470m) - 38km
- Sandfeldvej (2900m) - 30km
- Lavlundvej-Julsgårdvej (2010m) - 18km

Should be some utter carnage, with 15,2km of dirt roads for the péloton to handle. Let's see if we can't give the climbers something to work back.
What, that's literally my training roads around Støvring and Rebild, 30 km south of Aalborg or so. When going on long ride, I pretty much always end up there and is always taking on this loop where theres like 3 climbs in 5 km after descending Rebild Bakken and then climbing it after the loop. There one climb that particularly hard which is called Kridtbakken which is very similar to a flemish climb, climb.dk has it at 750 metres at 6,7%, but it has some nice 10% stretches towards the top since the start of the climb is pretty easy. Its on smaller roads so I dont really know if its easy to use in a pro peloton. I personally like this climb a lot more than Rebild Bakken which is on a lot wider roads.

The area is very well known to most cyclists around here and it does also host a lot of bike racing. Road-racing wise, I have taken part in Rundt om Rold which is 110 km long, climbing Rebild Bakken twice and ending up top of the climb, just like your stage does. Last year I actually got the GPM (yes, they had such a contest) on the climb with one second since I sat in the big group behind the escapers which gassed themselves out on the course and won a jersey, glasses and another free race from their catalogue. I went to Djursland a couple of month later to take on Mols Bjerge Grand Prix which also is a mountainous race by Danish standards, climbing one of the longer climbs in Denmark, Agri at 3,4 km at 3,2% (Valgren as the KOM on Strava). Thats also some nice terrain for bike racing in Denmark. I wouldn't say Rebild Bakke it consistent though, the long first part of the climb is a drag at about 3-5% on straight roads, but then the road begins to change towards the top with some bends and lots of trees where the gradient picks up towards 7-10% for the last 300 metres or so. Thats the really hard part, but its still very much a punchy sort of climb obviously. I also do remember Matti winning from the stands in 2009 - me and my friends thought it was one for the climbers since we thought that climb was super tough. :D

Of other races they also hosted the Carlos Sastre-classic. Sastre won the Tour for Riis and CSC in 2008 so he is very well known in Denmark. The deal was you could get to ride with him and speak to him during and after the race, but unfortunately the year I signed up they had to cancel due lack of people signing up for the race. There's also some great MTB-tracks which are really, really hilly and hard, so there's a lot of racing going on there, probably most notably the 12-hour (or 18-hour, I dont remember) race which you race as a team of 4, taking shifts gaining laps/kms. There's also a pretty big tri environment since its very ideal to run, ride and also swim around there.

In your Aarhus writeup, I do miss one person though, the legendary Jørgen Leth, commentator of Tour de France for 30 years on Danish TV and producer of the Paris-Roubaix movie, A Sunday in Hell from 1976:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxBTVU9JDrA
I apologise for the oversight (PS is he any relation to Julie?), and hope I did a reasonable job of designing around your home roads then!

Stage 3a: Silkeborg - Silkeborg, 12,7km (ITT)



The third day is a split stage, beginning with this, a straightforward ITT of a middling kind of length for a women's race, in the east-central Jutland city of Silkeborg. With just over 40.000 inhabitants, the city is close to the geographic centre of Denmark, so we've retraced our steps somewhat from the day one stage. It grew out of a fortified small town after a paper mill was established in the town in the 19th Century, and like many such cities it grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution. This area is known as the Søhøjlandet, or the lake highlands, which is quite hilarious because "highlands" in Denmark are around 90m above sea level, although there are some hills around here - more on them later though. These enable the city to - no joke - house a ski resort, as it has natural snow, although its value as a 'real' ski resort to any experienced skier is limited owing to the restricted size of the resort thanks to the low altitude of the hills. The city has a slightly bizarre trip through history, some of which we will discuss as we go along.


Silkeborg is also connected to cycling; it has hosted the Post Danmark Rundt several times, most recently in 2013 when it was the grand départ. In 2012 it also hosted the race, as the departure point for the traditional Vejle stage. It does not tend to host stage finishes in the Danmark Rundt, but the same cannot be said of the women's side of the game, where Silkeborg hosts a round of the national cup tournament - originally part of the Pinse Cuppen stage race, this downgraded to a one-day race around Silkeborg in 2014. Julie Leth won the stage (and the eventual GC) in 2012, Christina Siggaard won the 2014 one-day race, Swedish star Sara Mustonen-Lichan won in 2015, ahead of a couple of now pro riders - a then-16-year-old Susanne Andersen and a 15-year-old Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen! Andersen won a future star-studded edition a year later ahead of Siggaard and Mathiesen, with Amalie Dideriksen - four months away from rainbows - taking 5th, while Pernille moved up to 1st in 2017. Last year's edition was a bit less exciting for the future, with most of the stars now in the pro ranks, and 42-year-old Louise Holm Houbak taking the win, five minutes ahead of the field which seemed mostly to consist of journeywomen, and the few pros there were - Siggaard, Møllebro and Norsgaard - seemed less than interested in chasing her down.

The city is also the home of Designa Køkken, a Danish Continental team which ran for ten years from 2005 to 2014 and who were the jumping-off point for a number of Danish pros to reach the professional ranks. Chris Anker Sørensen, Thomas Vedel Kvist, Rasmus Guldhammer, Alex Rasmussen, Martin Mortensen and Laurent Didier got their starts at Designa Køkken, while Sergey Firsanov, Mads Christensen and Aleksejs Saramotins passed through mid career too. Their most famous alumnus also scored their greatest success, which was when the 2008 Danmark Rundt was won by Designa Køkken rider and, to that point, mountainbike specialist, Jakob Fuglsang. Birdsong's victory was built around a 2nd place (behind Breschel) in the decisive Vejle stage and then a superior performance in the ITT in Kerteminde to take the lead; this performance earnt him a stagiare job at CSC, and the rest, as they say, is history.


My TT will also be potentially one of the decisive stages, but it comes before the most decisive hilly stages, Rebild HTF or no Rebild HTF. It starts on Vestergade and then heads east-south-eastward, toward the shores of the inland mini-lake Ørnsø. This is an interesting dual-history lake - the Arnakkekilden spring that feeds Ørnsø has been used by Carlsberg for springwater for many decades, but also at the opposite end of the lake from the road we take in the TT lies Silkeborg Bad, a former sanatorium which was re-appropriated during the Nazi occupation as the Danish headquarters of the Gestapo (no, really). Now restored, the baths are nevertheless not used for their original intended purpose, instead being converted into a museum of the remaining extant bunkers from WWII.


The next part of the TT is a long straightish section culminating in Funder Bakke, which is 1300m at a pretty much consistent 5,2%, so I wouldn't think that this is sufficient to really be a detriment to the time triallists - certainly nobody is going to be changing bike for this one. This is enough that the climbers might be able to limit their losses enough to stay interested in the hillier stages to come, but not so much that they won't still have some marked deficits to the better rouleuses. Well, obviously this doesn't mean the Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggens of this world. They're great at both climbing and TTing, but then that's why they're among the best. Denmark's hopes here will potentially be with TT specialist Pernille Mathiesen, though at the same time the three-time defending national champion in the discipline is Cille, who will also be their best hope in the climbing stages so, as long as she hasn't been caught out by the dirt roads which better suit Pernille and Amalie, she will likely be Denmark's best hope of a race leader at this stage.

After a right turn in Funder itself, there's a couple of corners on a slight downhill before a second uphill of 300m at 5,3% which is around a series of corners, the only technical challenge of the day. After this, it's a short downhill ride to the shores of Silkeborg Langsø, from which point it's a straight drag race of power on wide open roads, with only the one significant right turn at the top of the lake onto Borgergade, which then becomes Christian 8s Vej, before we turn right ahead of the town museum, to finish on the southern shores of the lake on Søvej.


Stage finish, heading left to right.

It's also only a fairly short stage because there's an afternoon semitappe too.
Stage 3b: Silkeborg - Ry, 86km



Funder Bakken (1300m @ 5,2%)
Himmelbjerget (1400m @ 6,4%)
Bomholtvej x3 (720m @ 6,3%)
Knudhulebakken x3 (650m @ 5,8%)

We set off from Silkeborg, so there's zero distance to move after the ITT before the afternoon road stage. This is also the hometown of Jesper Skibby, one of Denmark's more famous pro cyclists, who was a star of the 80s and 90s and the only Dane to have won stages of all three Grand Tours. He comes from a pro cycling family, with father Willy racing the Olympic Road Race in the amateur days in 1976 and sister Karina, a year younger, also racing in the Olympics in the late 80s and early 90s. Jesper is the only one of the three to be born in Silkeborg, however.

Despite winning stages of all three Grand Tours, often with escapes in flat or rolling stages (his GT stages are spread from 1989 to 1995, and the last of these, in the 1995 Vuelta stage from Ávila to Palazuelos de Eresma (Destilerías DYC), was the only one you'd call a mountain stage of some description, including the Puerto de Navacerrada), and despite an epic escape on the final day in the Amstel Gold hills bringing him the victory in the Ronde van Nederland in 1994 (finishing a minute and a half up on the field), he will perhaps be best remembered for this incident, where the Ronde van Vlaanderen race directors' car ran over the bike of the race leading Skibby's bike, before taking out a marshal trying to help the stricken Dane, on the Koppenberg. The incident was responsible for an almost 20 year moratorium on the climb being used in the Ronde, until it was restored to the route in 2004. He also has five stage wins in his national tour and a national chmapionship in the ITT, although the veracity of these have been cast into doubt by his post-career confession of doping. By Skibby's own timeline, he was riding clean at the time of that Koppenberg incident (although he was break fodder only at that point) and would have won his sole Giro stage (in 1989) before starting to dope. However, his results from 1991 on are with the help of steroids, from 1992 he started using testosterone and HGH, and by 1993 it was full-blown EPO. A reminder, these are Skibby's own timelines. He has also appeared on a TV show discussing the long-term impact on his health of the several years of continued doping. And, in more light hearted business, he appeared on Denmark's version of Dancing With The Stars, although he was less than impressive in his rhythm, being second man eliminated. Best stick to two wheels, Jesper!


Anyway: onto the stage. Hill-climbing time is here again as we depart for the afternoon semitappe in the Silkeborg area. This is a somewhat hilly part of Denmark, as mentioned, although the first climb of the day is a repeat of Funder Bakken from the ITT so everybody should be familiar with it - and while it is at least a platform for attacking from, it's unlikely that it's going to ensure a strong BOTD type move in the same way that sustained and difficult climbing can. The first 30-35km of the stage are a loop around to the southwest of the city before the serious body of the stage begins.


Standing at a whopping 147m above sea level (don't laugh), Himmelbjerget is one of the highest points in Denmark, or at least Denmark proper (so not counting the Faroes and Greenland which are self-governing). It's actually not as high as a neighbouring peak, despite having been thought to be Denmark's highest point for decades - this is mainly due to a visual trick because of Himmelbjerget rising sharply out of the lake, therefore giving the impression of a steeper incline and a higher end point. The tower at the top is now the icon of the hill, and was built in the 19th Century to honour King Fredrik VII. With 1400m at 6,4% and a sizable car park at the summit due to its status as a tourist attraction it is perhaps Denmark's best option for a HTF, but I have elected not to do so, instead descending into Gammel Rye, the original version of today's host town, which was rendered obsolete by being inaccessible to the railways; the new town of Ry was built around the station for convenience, meaning a significant demographic shift away from the original town.

We don't actually pass the finishing line the first time into Ry, but we do go close - so we in effect have three full laps of a 13,9km circuit around the town, including two potential platforms for attacking. The first of these is Bomholtvej, which we're not doing the full version - the 2,4km @ 3,5% on that page - of, but rather the most important part, 720m @ 6,3%, and then a right hand turn onto Oksevejen, which is sort of uphill false flat, so there is not an instant release to the riders if they do push it on this climb - it's not long, enough to give it a thought and use as a platform, but you'd need a good selection and the right composition of the group to make it work. This is passed at 35,5, 21,6 and 7,7km from the line. After descending into Tulstrup (well, "descending" seeing as it's at 1-2%) and a short trip along Knudsø, we have the second climb of the circuit, a 650m climb which crests at 30km, 16,1km and 2,2km from the line, so this will be the key option for an escape, as it is close to the line. Knudhulebakken, as the climb is called, is only 650m at 6%, so not a climb you would say is decisive - however with it being close to the line, it will be interesting to find out whether it's a bunch at this stage, or a small group. And who is in it.

Now: among the bunch - can the pace be raised enough by the climber types to get rid of the sprinters, or can they hold on? The Lepistös and Riveras will likely be able to hold on, but can they get rid of the Hoskings and Wiebes' of this world? Bastianelli in this season's form will be comfortable, sure, but is she there in the group to begin with? Dideriksen? Lots of questions. Now, if it's a smaller group, because they've got a couple of representatives from Boels, Trek, Canyon and the other big teams up there and they're happy to let them go... who's there? Who wants to take it to a sprint and who wants to use the final climb as a platform to attack?
It's rather unfortunate timing to post this during the Eshnar's Giro analysis but i want to have this out of my way.

Volta ao Província do Rio de Janeiro (or whatever the name for it should be).

A week-long race in the Rio de Janeiro province with a crucial parts inside the Sao Paulo province. I assume many of the roads and climbs are mostly known for you. The stages are quite long, mainly because the distances between the cities are large. Sorry for awful naming conventions but i know nothing about Portuguese. The KOM categorisation is cat. 2 for easier climbs, cat. 1 for harder and sort of a HC/Cima Coppi for the hardest climb of the race. Below you'll see the stage list with a short description for each one.

Arrial do Cabo prologue

The race kicks off in a seaside resort located on a very exposed peninsula east of Rio. there are some nice cobbled hills on said peninsula but they lead to nowhere and i don't want to be too ridiculous with this race. The start and finish are on Praia Grande beach and the prologue also goes in front of Praia dos Anjos beach on the other side of the town.

Cabo Frio - Campos dos Goytacazes

A flat stage near the coast finishing at the largest city of the northern parts of the province. Starting from Macaé the last 90km or so are quite exposed and if the wind is blowing east from the Atlantic Ocean then there may be a slight chance for echelons.

Campos dos Goytacazes - Nova Friburgo

Tried to include RJ-150 as it has cobbled parts but then it turns into a (i guess manageable) sterrato before changing into a rather broken tarmac. Question is... do i care about that? I guess this tour is not a realistic prospect so i guess i can fantasize a bit. There's also a small climb to Nova Suíça 7km before the finish. Almost the entire city is cobbled but it's also very hilly and i didn't wanted to have any cobbled descents. The finish line is on cobbled, slightly uphill Avenida Alberto Braune.






Nova Friburgo - Petrópolis

Libertine once mentioned in passing this cobbled Velha da Estrela road, which is sort of a Brasilian Gotthardpass. The cobbles aren't difficult at all but i guess they may be slightly rougher than those on Gotthardpass. Accompanying it are very similar (but on tarmac) climbs to Teresópolis and a climb between Teresópolis and Petrópolis that i don't know the name of. I've named it after a nearby peak Pedra do Carneiro. All of today's climbs would be decent TdF cat. 1. To descent from Petrópolis to then climb back to the city via Velha da Estrela i've decided to borrow a bit of the Rio de Janeiro - Belo Horizonte highway.




Estrada Velha da Estrela.

Iguatai - Cunha

An inconspicuous town in the middle of nowhere that's nearby a gargantuous climb on the Paraty - Guaratinguetá road. I think this road was recently surfaced as before that it was just a small dirt path. I don't know if it's entirely surfaced or not. On the São Paulo side the road is wide and in good condition. This stage finishes in the São Paulo province, which is crossed on top of the day's sole climb. The climb (of unknown to me name) is roughly 16km at 9%. You may compare it with Finestre. The surface is unknown to me but most likely it's pavement-like (as per streetview, when the road works were being done). The top is roughly 26km from the finish line.


Profile of the Cunha climb.

Guaratinguetá - Volta Redonda

A transitional stage before the finale in Rio to bring back the peloton back to the Rio province. It may end up in either a sprint of a breakaway.

Rio de Janeiro ITT

A nightmare stage to design as the routing services seems to not now what to do inside this metropolis. I decided to not care and just ticked any landmark boxes there were, which also inclues the maracana stadium. I guess the final podium may be in the stadium's vincinity if there's no football going on. It seems the altimetrias in Rio are janky so don't pay any attention to the "toothing" on the profile. Worth noting are the Estrada das Paineiras leading to the entrance to that famous Jesus statue and roughly 600m at 10% cobbled Rua Santa Cristina.


Rua Santa Cristina.
Stage 4: Vejle - Vejle, 126km



Munkebjerg x2 (1250m @ 7,1%)
Kiddevej x4 (450m @ 11,1%)
Julius Jepsens Vej x2 (610m @ 11,5%)
Kongebakken x4 (475m @ 13,7%)
Gl. Hornstrupvej x4 (760m @ 7,6%)

Well, here it is. I'm sorry to be predictable, but there's little getting around it. Every traceur and traceuse knows it, just as every race designer in reality knows it, every rider who's ever done time in the local péloton knows it, anybody who's ever watched the national race knows it: if you want a selective hilly stage in Denmark, you go to one place, and to one place only. And that place, of course, is Vejle.


Sitting at the mouth of the Vejlefjord, the city of the same name has been in existence since the 12th Century, and has a current population of around 55.000, with around double that in the entire metropolitan area once suburbs and outlying towns in the valleys around the city are taken into account. With the Vejle Fjord being the highest-sided in Denmark, the forested hills around the city make for some of the most interesting scenery that this generally flat country has to offer - and by far its best cycling terrain. It built its reputation as a city of industry in the 19th Century, when its strong focus on textile industries led to debatably favourable comparisons to Manchester in the UK, then a north European stronghold for the trade. It remained loyal to the industry long after it faded from prominence, until the final cotton mill closed its doors in the 1990s as the city looked to revive its fortunes as a service industry city - with this now coming to fruition with Vejle attracting a number of data and software companies.

It has a dual sporting prominence in Denmark - as the country's most memorable and well-supported cycling location, and also for Vejle Boldklub, a prominent and successful football team which has won the Danish title on several occasions. And although there are some famous people outside of the field to call the city home - current Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and composer Jakob Gade for example - for the most part, the city's favourite sons and daughters all come from the field of sport. For example, former Vejle, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Barcelona forward Allan Simonsen, the first and, to date, only Dane to ever win European Footballer of the Year. He's one of many - Johnny Hansen, former Bayern München fullback, Manchester United and Saint Etienne fullback John Sivebæk, for example - plus there are a few slightly odd curveballs such as Ole Mortensen, the most prominent of a rare breed of (non-Dutch) Continental Europeans to play professional cricket. More recently, former Everton and - strangely - Real Madrid hardman Thomas Gravesen, a maniac defensive midfielder who the aforementioned Sivebæk served as agent for - he once initiated a fight at a training session after using his physical attributes to take out then-teammate - and future rapist - Robinho, was sanctioned by his club for firing fireworks at Wayne Rooney, and since his career has made millions in Las Vegas gambling markets. But though he is not the most famous or most notorious sportsman to come out of Vejle, at least for this forum, at least the Danes can call him their own, which is not the case for the man this forum surely thinks of first.


Born to a Swiss father and a Danish mother in Vejle, Tony Rominger is one of cycling's most famous - if not its most famous outright - late bloomer stories, a combination of late adoption to the sport of cycling, and of early adoption to the abuse of EPO, leading to his coming to great prominence in the early 90s in the Grand Tours, despite not having displayed much promise for stage racing early on - though he had shown capability as a climber, winning the Giro dell'Emilia and Giro di Lombardia in the late 80s. Nevertheless, his results improved through 1990, and though a 1991 season with Toshiba was a bit of a blip, upon moving to Spanish team Clas-Cajastur in 1992, a new star was born. A crash meant that Rominger lost three minutes in the first long ITT in the Vuelta, but ONCE's dedication to defending champion Melcior Mauri meant he was given a bit of an easy ride the following day, before in the Luz Ardiden stage Mauri bonked completely, leading that team to recalculate. By this time, Rominger was fully recovered and he dropped everybody on the final climb, losing only to Lale Cubino who had been in the early breakaway. After Lale was dropped at Covadonga and Delgado was unable to drop Rominger, the Swiss took the lead two days from the finish in the Fuenlabrada TT (then took the following day's stage after Óscar Vargas was disqualified for having too much coffee pre-race) and his first GT win. Suddenly, the doors were open, it was like a lightbulb had been switched on in his legs.

1993 was the real change year though. Tony lost the prologue and the Navacerrada MTT to younger compatriot Alex Zülle, but won the MTFs at Cerler and Cruz de la Demanda to take the lead, before a classic solo win on Monte Naranco where he foreshadowed Heras several years later by attacking a rainy descent where Zülle was unsteady, which enabled him to cover for his losses to the younger man in the final TT, Rominger completely flipping his modus operandi from the previous year, eventually winning all three major classifications and becoming the first rider since Merckx to do said Grand Slam, and the first to do so at La Vuelta. He ran roughshod over the Spanish calendar, also winning País Vasco, the Setmana Catalana and the Subida a Urkiola, and also took his new-found climbing nous to the Tour de France where, in the middle of Indurain's domination phase, he took three stage wins - two in high mountain stages, at Serre-Chevalier and Isola 2000, and one in, remarkably, an ITT, becoming the only rider to beat Indurain in a full length flat TT in his reign of terror at Le Tour (Thierry Marie's prologue performance was rather before Indurain's full strength became known, and Ugrumovs' win was a mountain TT) in the process. He took the polka dots, before, having matched one feat not achieved since Merckx in '93, he decided to start some new ones: moving to Mapei the following year, in the 1994 Vuelta Tony won the prologue before stretching his lead by two minutes on Sierra Nevada; nobody realistically challenged him from then on, making him the first rider to win three Vueltas back to back (a feat that to date has only been matched by Roberto Heras, and we all know that that 2005 result has been passed back and forth a couple of times which means it's difficult to know whether to count it, though officially at time of writing Heras is the winner of that race), and also the last man to have won a Grand Tour after leading start to finish. He then beat the hour record - twice - for good measure. Traditionally peaking his season in May, when the Vuelta moved to September a year later, he forwent the race, riding the Giro instead, where he fell just one stage short of repeating the feat, winning two of the first four stages - a TT and a mountain stage - then winning two more TTs for good measure to take the GC by over 4 minutes. This Rominger, despite being 34 years old, was arguably the most dominant, and was selected with the 13th overall pick of the Fantasy Doping Draft - which sparked a response from hrotha, "about time!" thanks to feeling that this was a grotesque underrating of his wattage and power at the time. The mid 90s were the wild west. Though he podiumed the Vuelta in 1996, his heyday was over, and after a fall in the 1997 Tour and a broken collarbone, he decided enough was enough, which enabled his partner in crime, Dr Michele Ferrari, who had been trackside for his hour record attempts, to move on to pastures new, while Tony focused on more mundane tasks like managing Cadel Evans.

And in case you thought "hey, that's too much talk about doping in the 90s, let's talk about the stage, I thought I'd add that Virtu team owner Bjarne Riis (who of course has absolutely nothing to do with doping in the 90s) has a house in the town.


The stage consists of two circuits, each of which is taken twice. The first is a long loop (42,6km in length), with five categorized climbs, and the second a shorter one (20,5km) with three. The first climb and third climb feature on the long circuit only.

Climb 1: Munkebjerg

Hosting, as you can see, a motor racing hillclimb event, Munkebjerg comes with 119 and 76km remaining. It starts off steep - the first 100m are at 10,7% - before settling in at around 6%, until a late tramo of 150m at 13%. This climb could ensure a decent strength breakaway, but it isn't going to be decisive bearing in mind it isn't on the final circuit.

Climb 2: Kiddevej

Denmark's most famous climb, this 450m berg averages 11% and is kind of like the Scandinavian Steiler Wand, with walls of fans welcoming the Post Danmark Rundt every late July/early August. In the Men's race, the climb is usually the decisive one, with a short - less than 6km - circuit incorporating it and with the finish only a few hundred metres from the summit. Here, it retains a level of importance but with the finish moving back into the middle of the city, it is the third from last climb, so is not the be all and end all. Nevertheless as one of the steepest climbs of the day it is an excellent platform for attack - coming at 110, 67, 38 and 18km from home. In the often very aggressive women's péloton, with the attrition caused by the multitude of climbs, and the possibility of some strong moves with a number of teams represented, this could well be a strong platform for attack.

Climb 3: Julius Jepsens Vej

While Kiddevej might be the Meerane of Denmark, Julius Jepsens Vej is more like a Kemmelberg, or possibly even the Molenberg, although the latter sees its rough cobbles often being its decisive characteristic. This is the narrowest climb of the day, and has a maximum gradient of 17%. It only features on the long loop so it won't be where decisive moves are made, but it may well tell us who won't feature at the business end. It comes with 103 and 61km remaining. Also, helpfully for its decisiveness, there is no descent afterwards either, so there's no recovery at the end of Julius Jepsens Vej - you'll have to keep riding hard if you couldn't meet the tempo. Sucks to be you.

Climb 4: Kongebakken

Even tougher than Kiddevej is this combination of Gl. Kongevej with the ridable part of Chr. Winthersvej (the first part of this road is not achievable in a race), 475m averaging nearly 14%. The almighty climbs.dk records its stats:
46m @ 13%
163m @ 16%
50m @ 17,5%
30m @ 3%
70m @ 16,6%
105m @ 11%

This is likely to be the most decisive climb of the day, featuring with 97, 54, 34 and 13km remaining. It does often feature in the Danmark Rundt Vejle stages, but because of the focus on the traditional Kiddevej circuit, it is often not in a position to be decisive. This is not only a shame, but a real disappointment given that there could easily be variety in which climbs got focal status in the race. At the same time, this could therefore be used as a point of differentiation for the women's Tour of Denmark should my race come to pass.

Climb 5: Gl. Hornstrupvej

The last climb of the day is not the toughest but it is a great coda that naturally follows on from Kongebakken on the way back into town, serving as something of a Bosberg to Kongebakken's Muur, or a Luz Ardiden to Kongebakken's Tourmalet. Or a Pordoi to Kongebakken's Fedaia (Fedaia!). You get the picture. 760m at 7,6% are the overall stats, but the key part is in the middle, with 200m at 10% then 100m at 14%, before easing up to just 8% and then eventually to false flat. This is the last roll of the dice, coming with 91, 48, 28 and 8 km remaining. Eight kilometres which are predominantly flat and mostly quite straight, so it may be difficult to stay away from a faster moving group behind on your own - however with 16 categorized climbs on the day I don't think we're going to see any large groups any time soon. The descent back into the town is very late on - but with it being unlikely we see a full péloton at the decisive end of proceedings here, and with it being on the wide open Horsensvej, I don't see this being in any way a problem. For the record, though, it's 925m at 5,5%, then there's a left-hander onto the finishing straight which comes 800m from the end of the descent.


Thanks to Ulrik Møberg for that photo - we only really have one piece of evidence for what to expect of the women racing in Vejle, and that is an amateur Class A race in the town in 2012. As you can see, the podium went on to become pretty useful in the international scene; a six-woman group fought out the victory, several minutes up on the field, and the 29-year old domestic veteran Britt Lauenborg and 33-year-old Betina Cramer (along with another junior-age competitor, Louise Marie Olsen) were taught a swift lesson by a then 19-year-old Julie Leth, who narrowly took the victory ahead of a 16-year-old Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and a recently-turned-18 Christina Siggaard.

Great though that may be as a starting point, though, it's not really an adequate reference for today, due to a combination of the inexperience of the now-pro competitors and the lack of depth in the Danish national péloton at the time. Nor can we take into account the 2000 national championships that took place in Vejle, which were won by the long-retired Mette Fisher Andreasen. We need to look at some other races for an indication of what to expect from a race which is chocked full of small climbs - with their short lengths, races like Emakumeen Bira and La Flèche Wallonne are no good as a comparison, but at the same time Amstel Gold, the most obvious jumping off point, finishes shortly after the Cauberg which makes it harder to say is comparable - though the type of climbs are perhaps most similar.

Another option is the Sittard stage of the Boels Rentals Tour, which uses the smaller climbs, especially recently when using the Tom Dumoulin Bike Park.
- 2018, Chantal Blaak won solo ahead of a group of 40 or so
- 2017, Janneke Ensing dropped Lucinda Brand and Kasia Niewiadoma with the 35-40-strong bunch a minute back
- 2016, Niewiadoma won an uphill sprint from a group of 6, the remainder of a 15-strong breakaway splintered at various timegaps with the bunch several minutes down

Other potential races to use as a starting point could be the Garnich stage of the GP Elsy Jacobs, the GP Plouay, the GP Plumelec, and - once it happens - the 2019 World Championships.

Or, you know, we could just look at what the men's race has done when racing in Vejle. After all, that can show us some of the other climbs too. Yea, actually, let's just do that. Now take the fun of the latter stages there, stretch it out over more time because of the aggressive nature of women's racing in small teams, and add the bonus fun of having Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig in the race to talk to post-stage, and we have a recipe for fun.

Winners in Vejle over the years have included Kurt-Asle Arvesen (in 2002 and 2007), famous clean cyclist (singled out alongside Moncoutié for the accolade by Philippe Gaumont) Janek Tombak, ahead of Arvesen and the latter's teammate Jens Voigt in 2004, Ivan Basso (in 2005 in the midst of his bizarre domination of the race, winning flat stages in escapes, flat stages in sprints, the Vejle stage and the TT), Fabian Cancellara and three-time GC winner and home favourite Jakob Fuglsang (in 2009 and 2011). But the undisputed king of Vejle is Matti Breschel, who has won a glut of queen stages in the Danmark Rundt, winning here for the first time in 2008, outsprinting Jakob Fuglsang and Tom Stamsnijder; while Fuglsang may have relegated him to second with his solo win in 2009, Breschel once more went to the line with his compatriot and teammate a year later and was victorious; he won a five-up sprint in Vejle in 2013, was second behind the solo escape of teammate Boaro a year later, and returned to his rightful place with his fourth win in the town a year later. More recent winners include Michael Valgren and Wout van Aert, so it's clearly somewhere between a classics man and a puncheur - if we extend the climbiness for the women's péloton due to their tendency for shorter hills to be more selective than in the men's races, this moves things intriguingly between the Majerus types and the hilly specialists. It should be a really interesting one.
The problem with Marche and Abruzzo is that almost every town has some options! I always love that axis of towns east-west with Potenza Picena, Montelupone and Macerata, but part of that is because of my love of the Muro di Montelupone, and that Potenza Picena is Marina Romoli's hometown and I've had a lot to say about Onlus over the years. Macerata also hosted an excellent 2010 Tirreno-Adriatico finish. I actually preferred Tirreno better when it didn't have a 'proper' MTF and was all about those muros, it felt different then, but then at the time Paris-Nice had more 'proper' mountain stages too, then in the early 2010s they flipped with some TT-centric Paris-Nice routes or the execrable 2014 edition, whereas Tirreno became more of a climbers' race. They seem to be redressing the balance once more now, though I hate that Tirreno now always has a TTT.

Stage 5: Slagelse - Vejrhøj, 98km



Ordrupvej x4 (2050m @ 3,7%)
Vejrhøjvej (1100m @ 6,1%)

After the first four days on Jutland, we bypass Funen and find ourselves on the island of Zealand for the last part of the race (much as I’d love to include Bornholm as I’ve designed a moderately interesting circuit on it, we must try not to be too taxing on the logistics, especially with the lesser money available in the women’s péloton), starting with this stage which heads northwards across the western edges of the island.


With a population of 30.000, Slagelse, our host town for the départ, is a very historic city which dates all the way back to Viking times, through shared history with the nearby Trelleborg fortress which dates to the 11th Century. There are also nearby ruins of Scandinavia’s most important monastery of the Knights Hospitaliers, Antvorskov, which was established in the 12th Century. Its main historical importance later on lies, however, in that its final Catholic prior imprisoned Hans Tausen for heresy, one of the rallying points of the Reformation in Denmark, which led to the country adopting Lutheranism; the Order began to be persecuted, however, after failing to prevent the accession of Christian III to the Danish throne, and the complex became a royal residence after the king extorted money from the monastery to cover the immense costs incurred in his battle to take the crown. However, it fell into disrepair and eventually the estate was sold off in the 18th Century, and the ancient buildings were in too bad a shape to be salvaged, so were torn down once and for all; now only a few ruins remain of what was once one of the proudest religious sites in all of Northern Europe.


The city has a number of residents over the years who have called it home - most notably Hans Christian Andersen, the folk tale and fairytale writer and compiler who is, despite the best efforts of modern crime writers, the realist Jens Peter Jacobsen and others, Denmark’s most globally renowned literary figure, although while the city may celebrate the fact Andersen lodged in the city during his childhood, Andersen himself in his autobiography was scathing of the town and the school he was attending. Slagelse also was the birthplace of the pioneering organic chemist William Christopher Zeise, who discovered several compounds and who gives his name to a type of salt, and Søren Peter Lauritz Sørensen, a chemist whose early 20th Century work saw him create the pH scale that enables us to grade acids and alkalis. It can therefore be said that Slagelse has a much better reputation in the sciences than in the arts, since otherwise its most famous daughter is the mid-90s Europop one-hit wonder Whigfield, whose execrable Saturday Night was a huge international hit in 1994 and can still be heard at cheesy nightclub retro nights to this day.

However, more importantly for the course of this race, Slagelse earns a place on this route as it is the hometown of Ole Ritter, one of Denmark’s pioneering racers. The Danes have always had this odd role within cycling of producing great amateurs and espoirs, and indeed they won four of the first eight Peace Races (Willy Emborg, Kaj Allen Olsen, Christian Pedersen and Eluf Dalgaard being the winners) but never managed to parlay that into success at the pro level. Bjarne Riis in 1996 was their first and to date only Grand Tour success (had Michael Rasmussen made it to Paris in 2007 we could have had that debate, of course), while the elite men have never taken a gold medal at the Road World Championships - though Leif Mortensen (1970), Bo Hamburger (1997) and Matti Breschel (2010) have come 2nd. At Ritter’s time the women’s races were limited, but nevertheless, their only medals are a bronze in the TT from Linda Villumsen in 2009, before she switched allegiance to New Zealand, and Amalie Dideriksen’s gold and bronze in 2016 and 2017. The amateur road race was another question though, with Willum Nielsen winning a silver at the very first one, in 1921, and Henry Hansen winning gold in 1931 to become the first of four gold medallists among countless silvers and bronzes. One of which (a silver) went to Ole Ritter in 1962. They also had a number of successes in the 100km Team Time Trial - and Ritter was also part of the Danish quartet that took silver in the same World Championships.


Ritter remained amateur for a number of years, enabling him to enter the Olympic Road Race in Tokyo 1964, and to have his sole attempt at the Peace Race in 1965, when the 23-year-old Ritter finished in 8th place, the second best western finisher, one place behind Roger Swerts. He was renowned primarily for his strength against the clock, and broke a record for the fastest solo 100km in Italy in 1965, before his repute in Italy led to a pro contract with Germanvox-Wega. He won a stage in his very first Grand Tour, the 1967 Giro d’Italia, winning the week 3 ITT, ahead of such names as Jacques Anquetil, Monsieur Chrono himself (although Anquetil was a GC relevance, taking the lead from volatile Spaniard José Pérez-Frances that day, while Ritter was far from contention), which was one of three stage wins he took in his career at the Corsa Rosa, also winning an ITT in 1971 and a transitional stage in 1969. His career was based, for the most part, entirely in Italy, entering the Giro on 9 occasions, but only doing the Tour de France once, and never entering the Vuelta; he made the top 10 twice, finishing 9th in 1970 and 7th in 1973, which remarkably remains the best GC result by a Dane at the race to this day. Almost all of his notable results on the road are in small Italian stage races, smaller one day races and semi-classics, though he does have a top 10 in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (in 1971) and a top 10 in the Tour de Romandie (in 1973) to his name.

But that isn’t why he’s remembered, nowadays, however. In winning that 1967 Giro time trial, Ritter covered the 45km route in well under an hour, and Anquetil commented that Ritter’s pace would have put him on track to beat the Hour Record. Ritter travelled with the Italian amateur team to the Olympic Games in Mexico City the following year, ostensibly to help them with acclimatisation and as he, from his time in Italy prior to turning pro, knew many of them already. However, the day before the Olympics started, Ritter was given some track time alone in a morning session before the main track riders took to their warmups, and he took full advantage of the empty track, the high altitude and the perfect storm of conditions, setting a brand new Hour Record mark with 48,653km, beating Ferdinand Bracke’s mark from the previous year by 560m. The record stood for over four years, until Eddy Merckx went back to Mexico City to take on the mark and broke the 49km barrier for the first time. Ritter made two attempts to win back his Hour Record in 1974, which were the subject of The Impossible Hour, the second documentary film about him (after Stars and Watercarriers, about his exploits in the 1973 Giro d’Italia); while he beat his personal record twice, his best was 48,879km, leaving him shy of the World Record. However, it did remain a national record, which stood all the way until the rule reset in 2014 - it was beaten by Martin Toft Madsen in January 2017, only for his attempt to be ruled out for doping, and then finally beaten outright - at sea level no less - by Mikkel Bjerg in October that year, 43 years on.

This is the shortest road stage of the race, well, that is a full stage anyway, rather than a semitappe. It is to acknowledge yesterday’s slugfest. There is basically a 45km flat introduction to the stage before we have four laps of a 13km circuit around the village of Ordrup. This is Ordrup I Odsherred, not to be confused with the Copenhagen suburb of the same name, a small coastal area overlooked by the Vejrhøj kurgan, a former burial mound now established as a local landmark hill.


The Odsherred area has been immortalised over many years by a succession of artists, known as the Odsherred Painters; while the appellation is intended to cover all of the painters who have settled in the area, including a number of 19th century landscape painters, the term typically applies to those members of the artists’ colony on the coast here in the mid-20th Century, much as many philosophers have come through the Frankfurt University over the years, but “the Frankfurt School” relates to a specific brand of socialism posited in the mid-20th century there.

The circuit has one notable climb on it, albeit more notable for its length than its severity, which, after yesterday’s odyssey around Vejle, will surely come as some relief for the riders. The overall stats of Ordrupvej are unthreatening - 2050m at 3,7%, with a steepest section of 230m at 8% - but it does offer the possibility to create a platform to attack from if the GC situation is right. I’m not expecting long distance moves or anything, but given it’s an uphill finish today, you aren’t as likely to see sprinters’ teams helping with the control of the péloton, so it could make things interesting. After descending into Ordrup itself, we turn left and spend a period heading first west and then south along the coast, an area sometimes jokingly called the “Danish riviera”, and which is exposed to the wind. The prevailing wind direction here is typically from the west, and so this would be a headwind at first then becoming a crosswind, so riders may need to be careful. There is also an amateur race in the area which is part of the Post Cup amateur series in Denmark; it was once back in 2008 a UCI-rated race, which was won by Allan Johansen. Saramotins there in 2nd is still riding, but apart from him it’s old-school reading; three riders from former Yugoslav states who kept riding into their late 30s then got suspended for doping, retired Danes and Swedes, and Martin Mortensen, who like Saramotins is still going strong.

After the women have handled that circuit four times, it’s time for them to take on the hilltop finish here, the second and last such finish, and of similar characteristics to Rebild Bakken. 1100m on a narrow road averaging just over 6%. Nothing too dangerous, but enough to be a punchy finish. Some of the sprint types can hang on here, obviously the all-round types who have a good kick to the line - Vos, van Dijk, Brand, Deignan - will have no trouble, but it should be enough to rid the group of the likes of Alexis Ryan, Lotta Lepistö and co - but after a comparatively easy circuit, they aren’t going to fade like they did at Amstel Gold in 2018. Amalie Dideriksen even could be here, she handled Salmon Hill just fine in Bergen in 2017, but whether she has the requisite punch to do it at the top here against a strong field is harder to tell. The hill itself is perhaps not hard enough to bring the elite puncheuses like van der Breggen, Niewiadoma and Moolman-Pasio into the reckoning, but we’ve also seen rolling circuits with small ramps be enough for van Vleuten in the past, so that’s not to say that, if it’s raced hard enough, it won’t be enough for them.


Vejrhøj is at least welcoming - carving a heart into the farmland that welcomes the riders to the hilltop finish; the burial mound itself sits atop the hill; we are only riding to the villas at the summit, from which a path runs to the kurgan - you can see part of the climb in this video from a downhill skateboarder. It’s the last chance for any hills to make any difference, so best give it a go!