Race Design Thread

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Stage 17: Genova - La Spezia, 128 km:

An interlude between two much more difficult stages. Short and fairly easy stage between the two biggest cities in the Liguria region, along the very scenic coastline of Liguria. The stage has some small and easy "lumps" which are not categorized climbs, but only one main difficulty, Passo del Bracco about halfway on the stage. From there they descend towards the stage finish in La Spezia but do an extra loop around the city to add some more kms to the stage. The easy last part of the stage should probably make this a mass sprint.

Climbs:
65 km: Passo del Bracco (cat 2): 13,2 km, 4,5 %

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Map:

 
Stage 18: La Spezia - Abetone, 186 km

Based on the direction the race were going, one could probably guess that this was coming. A monster stage in the Tucany Apennines including what could described as Mortirolo's little brother. The stage starts at the Ligurian coast, in La Spezia, and then heads northeast into the Apennines. The first climb to Passo del Lagastrello starts after about 35 km, and from there it's more or less hilly and mountainous terrain the whole stage. Lagastrello is a first category climb and i s just a first test on the stage, followed by a couple of second and another first category climbs the next 100k.

But so far, although a moderately tough medium mountain stage, it has been just a warm-up for the finale. After 145 km they pass through the small village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, then turn north and start the monster climb to San Pellegrino in Alpe. Probably one of the two toughest climbs in the Apennines, along with Blockhaus, it has been used in the Giro only one time (?) in 2000 when Francesco Casagrande won.

The first part is tough enough, mostly 8-9 % gradient. About 5 km from the top is a slight descent before the real brutal part kicks in, about 3 km with a 12 % gradient. This should be a good place to attack before the 15 km long descent and the last climb to Abetone. It's almost strange that a so good combination of a real brutal penultimate climb and a easier last climb hasn't been used more often in the Giro. This is a perfect stage for long range attacks, 30-35 kms from the stage finish, and the possibility to earn signifcant time gaps. A



Climbs:
47 km: Passo del Lagastrello (cat 1): 11, 5 km, 6,7 %
79 km: Passo di Pratizzano (cat 2): 6,7 km, 6,5 %
106 km: Passo di Pradarena (cat 1): 16 km, 5,3 %
128 km: Passo dell'Orecchiella (cat 2): 5,7 km, 7,8 %
160 km: San Pellegrino in Alpen (cat HC): 13,7 km, 9 %
186 km: Abetone (cat 2): 10,4 km, 5,5 %

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Stage 19: Pistoia - Montalcino, 213 km

So, time for the last decisive stage, a sterrato stage probably tougher than anything we've seen before. This is based on an idea which I think was promoted by @Gigs_98, and I just had to follow up on that, although somebody (@Forever The Best I think) beat me by doing a similar concept first. But since I already had version of the Giro without the Dolomites, I wanted to modify that to include this finish with a San Pellegrino Alpe-Abetone combo and a sterrato stage.

This stage is pretty much a combo of some of the sections used in Strade Bianche, just ridden in the opposite direction, and about the same finish as the 2010 Giro stage to Montalcino. The first half of the stage is quite easy, and the gravel sectors starts with exactly 100k to go. The first sector to Colle Pinzuto is quite easy, mostly downhill, and is much more important when ridden in the opposite direction with less than 20k to left of Strade Bianche.

But there is much more to come. The real difficult part of the stage starts with about 80 km left, with the gravel sector of Monte Sante Marie and continues in a similar way the next 50 km or so, typically ~10km of gravel followed by a similar section of asphalt, then additional two gravel sectors. The two first Monte Sante Marie and San Martino in Grania is a bit more downhill than uphill and a bit easier than when ridden the other way in Strade Bianche. But the fourth sector to Radi is both the longest sector and more irregular with three shorter climbs during the 12 km long sector, the last one a 700m, 10 % ramp just before the end of the sector.

By then the peloton should be significantly reduced, but the worst is yet to come, the 5 km, 7 % long gravel climb to Castiglon del Bosco, where the cross the top with only 11 km to go. The archtypical climber with less endurance could really lose minutes here, especially in bad weather with rain and muddy roads. If the GC changed the day before on the extremely steep slopes of San Pellegrino in Alpe, it could change again here. Cadel Evans won here in 2010, and a stage like this would probably favour those GC contenders who also have the engine to contend in the long classics. More of a Fuglsang stage than Simon Yates.....

Climbs:
14 km: San Baronto (cat 3): 5,6 km, 4,9 %
202 km: Castiglon del Bosco (cat 2): 5 km, 7,1 %

Sterrato sectors:
115,7 km: Colle Pinzuto: 2,2 km
144,7 km: Monte Sante Marie: 11,3 km
163,2 km: San Martino in Grania: 9,2 km
184,1 km: Radi: 12,7 km
208.9 km: Castiglon del Bosco: 9,9 km

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Map:

 
Stage 20: Viterbo - Roma, 136 km

Last stage, and this time it's to Roma, not Milano. A typical easy last stage of a GT, doing four and a half loops in the central part of Roma before ending, probably with a mass sprint, just next to Forum Romanum.

Climbs
9 km: Montefogliano (cat 3): 2,7 km, 8,3 %

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Map:

 
Summary of my fourth version of Giro d'Italia:

Prologue: Agrigento - Agrigento, 12,0 km
Stage 1: Argigento - Syracuse, 214 km
Stage 2: Catania - Catania, 169 km
Stage 3: Rossano - Cosenza, 165 km
Stage 4: Castrovillari - Matera, 222 km
Stage 5: Matera - Avellino, 210 km
Stage 6: Avellino - Napoli, 182 km
Stage 7: Napoli - Pescocostanzo, 244 km
Stage 8: Campobasso - Termoli, 172 km
Stage 9: Pescara - Prati di Tivo, 171 km
Stage 10: San Benedotto di Tronto - Terni, 206 km
Stage 11: Terni - Perugia, 163 km
Stage 12: Perugia - Assisi, 51 km ITT
Stage 13: Foligno - Monte Nerone, 224 km
Stage 14: Gubbio - Ravenna, 206 km
Stage 15: Bologna - Salsomaggiore Terme, 205 km
Stage 16: Piacenza - Madonna della Guardia, 228 km
Stage 17: Genova - La Spezia, 128 km
Stage 18: La Spezia - Abetone, 186 km
Stage 19: Pistoia - Montalcino, 213 km
Stage 20: Viterbo - Roma, 136 km

Total: 3707 km
Cima Coppi: Campitello Matese, 1631 m

3 High MTF (Prati di Tivo, Monte Nerone, Abetone)
2 Medium MTF (Pescocostanzo, Madonna della Guardia)
1 descent finish (Catania from Etna)
1 sterrato stage
63 km of ITT incl prologue
5 hilly stages
7 flat/mostly flat stages

Final notes:
Although this is not a very realistic Giro in the sense that they would never omit the six northernmost regions in Italy, I'm very satisfied with the design and balance of this Giro. It's a pretty tough version, and that is without using neither the Alps or the Dolomites. And not climbs like Blockhaus/Passo Lanciano, Terminillo, Vesuvio, etc. either. But when using only the Apennines it was pretty clear that the combo of Catria-Petrano and Nerone in Marche had to be used. And above all San Pellegrino in Alpe-Abetone.

The decisive stages are also pretty spread out throughout the tour. Probably stage 2, 7, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18 and 19 will have significance for the GC. The queen stages are stage 13 and 18, meaning that one of the queen stages comes in the second week. In addition we have a pretty freakin brutal medium mountain stage to Madonna delle Guardia and a potentially epic sterrato stage to Montalcino. All in all these four stages are combos that should be used more in the Giro, and especially the alternative finish of the race with San Pellegrino in Alpe as the third last stage and a sterrato stage as the second last. RCS should really pick up on that idea.

In retrospect, the only thing I'm missing is a hilly stage with a short but extremely steep climb something like 20-30 km from the stage finish prompting attacks from the GC contenders and action for the last part of the stage. There is room between stage 2 and 7 for a stage like that. But that will be a feature for my next Giro. I've already have several ideas for that, including an unusual last stage, and a brutal medium mountain stage in the Friulian hills.
 
Reactions: Zams
Stage 19: Pistoia - Montalcino, 213 km

So, time for the last decisive stage, a sterrato stage probably tougher than anything we've seen before. This is based on an idea which I think was promoted by @Gigs_98, and I just had to follow up on that, although somebody (@Forever The Best I think) beat me by doing a similar concept first. But since I already had version of the Giro without the Dolomites, I wanted to modify that to include this finish with a San Pellegrino Alpe-Abetone combo and a sterrato stage.

This stage is pretty much a combo of some of the sections used in Strade Bianche, just ridden in the opposite direction, and about the same finish as the 2010 Giro stage to Montalcino. The first half of the stage is quite easy, and the gravel sectors starts with exactly 100k to go. The first sector to Colle Pinzuto is quite easy, mostly downhill, and is much more important when ridden in the opposite direction with less than 20k to left of Strade Bianche.

But there is much more to come. The real difficult part of the stage starts with about 80 km left, with the gravel sector of Monte Sante Marie and continues in a similar way the next 50 km or so, typically ~10km of gravel followed by a similar section of asphalt, then additional two gravel sectors. The two first Monte Sante Marie and San Martino in Grania is a bit more downhill than uphill and a bit easier than when ridden the other way in Strade Bianche. But the fourth sector to Radi is both the longest sector and more irregular with three shorter climbs during the 12 km long sector, the last one a 700m, 10 % ramp just before the end of the sector.

By then the peloton should be significantly reduced, but the worst is yet to come, the 5 km, 7 % long gravel climb to Castiglon del Bosco, where the cross the top with only 11 km to go. The archtypical climber with less endurance could really lose minutes here, especially in bad weather with rain and muddy roads. If the GC changed the day before on the extremely steep slopes of San Pellegrino in Alpe, it could change again here. Cadel Evans won here in 2010, and a stage like this would probably favour those GC contenders who also have the engine to contend in the long classics. More of a Fuglsang stage than Simon Yates.....

Climbs:
14 km: San Baronto (cat 3): 5,6 km, 4,9 %
202 km: Castiglon del Bosco (cat 2): 5 km, 7,1 %

Sterrato sectors:
115,7 km: Colle Pinzuto: 2,2 km
144,7 km: Monte Sante Marie: 11,3 km
163,2 km: San Martino in Grania: 9,2 km
184,1 km: Radi: 12,7 km
208.9 km: Castiglon del Bosco: 9,9 km

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Map:

Yeah, I think I had a similar stage in my Race Design Challenge giro, back in 2015 or 2016, or whenever that was. Good times.

This is a really nice stage. Iirc the sectors you are using before the final climb are a bit different than the ones I used back then, making this one even more brutal. I'd love a stage like this to happen in a real gt.
 
Sep 22, 2020
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Couple of ideas I had based somewhat off a stage from the 2003 Giro which finished in Chianale

~5300m elevation gain for both which I think is comparable to this year's Giro stage 20 which was changed so as to not go into France
 
I've been sitting on the final two stages of my Tour de Suisse forever, time to do something about that. As I'm following the standard format, start and finish will be the same for both stages.

Stage 8: Glarus - Glarus, 21.0 km (ITT)





Tricky time-trial up and down the valley. The main challenge for this stage was avoiding level railway crossings, as a result we're starting in an industrial area.
The town of choice for the final part of the race is Glarus, the country's smallest canton capital. It stands out due to its grid-based centre, a legacy of the devastating 19th-century fire that saw the majority of the town destroyed. It's also the birthplace of cyclist Colin Stüssi, whose main claim to fame is being the highest-placing rider never to win the Tour de France at the 2017 Sibiu Tour.


Glarus.

The first half of the stage heads up the valley and features some easy climbing as a result, including the first 700 meters of the stage which average 4% - this is not an easy TT to find a rhythm. The first third of the stage features a few more of these benign ramps, the second third is largely flat. It heads through the turning poing onto the main road at Hätzingen, with a few sections that run slightly downhill before the intermediate is reached when the riders enter Schwanden for the second time. As the main road between Glarus and Schwanden was already used on the way in, we turn left... and this just so happens to involve a tricky climb.



This climb shouldn't be hard enough to force bike changes, but it will definitely make winning harder for the specialists. From here, a comparatively shallow descent leads into the finish in the centre of Glarus.

Stage 9 (Glarus - Glarus, 131.2 km)





It's a short mountain stage on the final day, partly to stay close to the usual format, but mostly because there isn't really a good way to extend the route.
The first 14 or so kilometers head up to the end of the valley at Linthal, which also hosts the first intermediate sprint. We then head up the first climb of the day, the famous Klausenpass... and while this may be the easier side, it's still hors catégorie.



It's a two-stepped climb, starting with 8.5k at 7.3%, then almost six kilometers of flats and false flats, and finally 7.8k at 7.2%. I'm not sure when this side was last used - the other side was seen in 2004 (finish in Linthal), 2008 (as an MTT), 2016 and 2018 (mid-stage). The breakaway will establish itself here, although it is of course unlikely to succeed on this kind of stage.
A fast descent brings us to the shores of Lake Lucerne, which we traverse along its eastern side through a number of tunnels before turning back east. This instantly involves climbing the irregular Schwyzerhöhe, which is the first 3.2k of this profile. The descent is steep, somewhat narrow and followed by a valley section on the way to the final HC climb of the race, the savage Pragelpass.



This is of course a well-established climb among traceurs, the only disagreement being on where to put the GPM. In this stage, it will be at the hairpin bend at 3.7k on the profile above, The descent is not as steep, but still narrow and technical. Five flat kilometers along the Klontalersee lead to the final intermediate sprint at Rhodannenberg, offering some bonus seconds to whoever has attacked on the climb. Then again, if bonification seconds are the riders' main motivation on this stage, we might as well fast forward to the Tour de France. In any case, we still have the final 2.9k of the profile below to climb. This side of Schwammhöhe is well-known as a budget Gotthardpass due to having a few cobbled hairpins.



The descent is less narrow, but steeper than that of the Pragelpass, and gives way to a flat final kilometer through the streets of Glarus.
 
Nordic Series 27: Nizhny Tagil



The long-overdue return of this occasional series - 2020’s lockdowns have seen me put together a range of races in countries and regions I’ve barely investigated and so there’s a lengthy backlog of races to post, but the Nordic Series has often been a useful palate cleanser, with a range of different options to take to continue its run and a variety of different styles of racing that can be catered to depending on the venue. We’ve had some venues that suit high mountain extravaganzas, some at mountaintops, some in valleys, some in smaller mountain ranges, some in small hills, and some in flatlands. And now, we have one that introduces a whole new type of racing to the series, as it takes its first incursion into one of the strongholds of Nordic skiing: Russia.

There are a lot of venues in Russia for the Nordic disciplines. I’ve even visited one in this thread before, putting a mountaintop finish at the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Complex in Krasnaya Polyana when I did a Tour of Russia based on Pat McQuaid’s propaganda a few years ago. This would be the obvious one to do, of course, being in the most mountainous part of the country - and one which hosts a number of bike races - but at the same time that’s also too easy a choice at this point. Most of the other hosts are in flatlands or are more intriguing as options from a circuit racing or championships racing point of view. Russia has a number of internationally homologated courses for both cross-country skiing and biathlon… but strangely, somewhat, I’ve decided to go to left field and choose a venue from a sport in which Russian interest is rather peripheral - ski jumping.

The city of Nizhny Tagil is not the most auspicious of locations for a winter wonderland (although its history does help in the course I have created); it was built around an iron ore quarry in the time of Peter the Great, and sits along that spine of cities on the eastern edge of the Urals that signify the transition from Europe to Asia. It was a prominent city in the rapid industrialisation of Russia, and became one of the country’s chief manufacturers of steel, becoming the ‘Steel City of the East’ for 19th Century Russia. These factories were later put to use in production of the T-34 Soviet tanks, almost 50% of which were manufactured in the city. Metallurgy and engineering dominate to this day, with steel mills and manufacturing plants spewing smoke into the sky.



As a result, it’s a somewhat odd choice of destination for the central hub of Russia’s ski jumping heritage. Yet somehow it was chosen; the “Tramplin Stork” selection of hills were built in the late 1960s and opened to competition in 1970, from whence they became the primary training facility for Soviet ski jumping. However, as most of you who follow ski jumping will be aware, Russia - and the Soviet Union in general - do not have an illustrious history in the sport, and funding for ski jumping in the USSR lagged a long way behind the sports of the common man, cross-country skiing and, later, biathlon. In fact, when in Nizhny Tagil a set of Loipe were constructed to aid the Soviet Nordic Combined team, it got more use as an ersatz cross-country venue when conditions at the nearby Ekaterinburg facilities were inclement.

That all changed in the late 2000s, of course. As with many sporting development stories, the Olympics were the reason; Russia had won the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics down in Sochi, and wanted to do everything in its power (and some things beyond it) to make sure the host nation were prominent in its home Olympics, just like every host naturally wants. So, they needed to train some ski jumpers who could be competitive. The Sochi hills hadn’t even begun construction yet and they only had a few years, so in order to train athletes for the Games, the Nizhny Tagil facilities were given a thorough facelift and an increase in size. Along with Chaykovsky, in Perm’ Oblast on the other side of the Urals, it became a development base for Russian ski jumping and Nordic Combined with the aim of being competitive in time for Sochi.

Of course, that goal failed. But not for want of trying. The venue managed to secure rounds of the World Cup, even, although the comparative isolation of the venue from the sport’s Central European heartlands or its rabid Japanese fanbase meant a somewhat muted atmosphere. The team went into Sochi with its hopes still resting on veteran Dmitry Vassiliev, notorious for jumping well but being completely incapable of landing with an adequate telemark. In the Nordic Combined they had a young talent who was good at the jumping but bad at the skiing. In the time since Sochi, that young prospect gave up NoCo and moved into ski jumping alone. Although consistency still eludes him and he is often frustrating to follow, a great jump in difficult conditions before a cancelled second round meant that in the first events of the 2018-19 season, at Wisła, Evgeni Klimov became the first Russian to win a Ski Jumping World Cup event, and even got a brief, anomalous run in the World Cup leaders’ yellow bib.



Although he still has the highest performance ceiling, it’s debatable as to whether Klimov is even still Russia’s best ski jumper, as Mikhail Nazarov seems to be usurping him at the moment. Women’s ski jumping remains in its infancy, but young prodigy Lidiia Iakovleva has a good chance of usurping both, winning on just her fourth World Cup entry and being just 19 years of age today. Ask people in Nizhny Tagil about the sports stars local to their city, however, and you’re much more likely to hear about hockey stars Sergei Shepelev (an Olympic gold medalist with the Red Army back in 1984) and Aleksandr Radulov (currently trying to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Dallas Stars).

I think we can inspire some people to think about a different sport with an unwritten and contentious “code”, however, which involves fighting on two wheels rather than with fists (and occasionally fighting with wheels, if Carlos Barredo is involved).

Proposal: GP Nizhny Tagil, 200km



My proposal is a straight up Hell of the East, a one-day race of horrible weather, horrible conditions, horrible roads. Russia is renowned for creating tough, durable men, so their paucity of results in the Northern Classics since the fall of Communism (Andreï Tchmil’s constant changes of his flag notwithstanding) is a bit of a surprise. I’m suggesting we look to rectify that by introducing this 200km slugfest of a minor race to fulfil the “your favourite small race” kind of criteria like we often see attributed to races like Tro Bro Léon. I know the Russian races are kind of racing in the dark for most of the sport’s heartlands, but there are some interesting races out there.

I decided to put the start of the race in Ekaterinburg, partly because it’s a major city, partly because it’s a good, convenient distance from Nizhny Tagil… and partly because it, for many years, was an important hub for cross-country skiing in the Soviet Union. Although it has faded from prominence compared to Tyumen’ and Khanty-Mansiysk, the Ekaterinburg region (Sverdlovsk Oblast, it hasn’t updated its name following the breakup of the Soviet Union, much as St. Petersburg is surrounded by Leningrad Oblast) is still a significant region in the national cross-country and biathlon development scene, largely assisted by the charismatic and successful Anton Shipulin representing the region; in a career spanning a decade he won 11 races, and finished in the top 3 of the overall World Cup on 4 occasions; he won the small crystal globe in the Mass Start in 2014-15 and two silvers and two bronzes in individual races at the World Championships. As part of the Russian relay he was a fearsome anchor and often one of the biggest rivals to the all-powerful Martin Fourcade, winning a gold and a silver in the World Championships and a gold and a bronze in the Olympic Games, though the latter have since been rescinded due to doping infractions within the team - which Anton himself is, as of the time of writing, not implicated in as, although he was mentioned in the McLaren Report, it appears his samples were clean - but some were missing, so given what we know about Sochi to this date, he was withheld from competition in Pyeongchang, a decision which brought about his retirement as with no home Worlds on the horizon and with the emerging Johannes Thingnes Bø further diminishing his chances of high profile success, and with his sister Anastasiya (who represented Slovakia under her married name of Kuzmina) retiring simultaneously, he decided he didn’t fancy slogging on for another four years to potentially still be barred from the Olympics in 2022. And in recent years, Sverdlovsk has become the up-and-coming development region in women’s biathlon, with half of the current Russian women’s team coming from the region (Svetlana Mironova, Irina Kazakevich and Tamara Voronina) as well as double Junior World Champion Anastasiya Shevchenko.

But that’s not really the important part. The important part is the last 75 kilometres, because the great thing about Nizhny Tagil’s industrial heritage is that it has meant a lot of cobbled roads and sterrato streets, especially to the west of the city closer to the Urals where the mining and quarrying took place. And, conveniently for us, that’s where the ski jumps are and the cross-country stadium is, enabling us to take a circuitous loop around the city and its surrounding roads to maximise the benefit for hard men of the classics in a way few races can. There are 6 sectors of cobbles or sterrato in this route, three of which are undertaken twice, for a total distance of 32km on non-tarmacked surfaces of varying qualities. A couple of sections of these might need clearing up a bit for a pro race to run over them, the cobbles are often dusty with compacted gravel dragged over them by trucks running over the sterrato sections, for example.



Sector 1 is a 5,8km stretch that runs parallel to the main highway from Ekaterinburg to Nizhny Tagil from the scenic town of Monzino, nicknamed “the Venice of Tagil” (no, really) through Sadovody to Staratel’. Some parts of this are in poor condition; the start is a short cobbled stretch past a monument to the T-34 Tank manufactured nearby, then there’s a gravel road that runs past the train station of Sadovody which is perfectly reasonable from a surface point of view, but very uneven and gathers water, so it would probably need to be evened up a bit to be suitable. This section is, in fairness, entirely skippable, but it enables me to reference the newly-established pro-am ski race on the marathon circuit from Staratel’ to Nizhny Tagil which was introduced last year to commemorate 75 years since the Great Patriotic War, known to you and I as World War II.



Upon arriving in Nizhny Tagil itself, we head through the city centre at about 60km remaining, and loop to the west around the river. We then travel south through the planned parts of the city and academic quarters, before turning right, into the more decisive parts of the course. 26km of sterrato or cobbles are crammed into the last 55km, so this gets nasty quick.

Sector 2 is a wide open sterrato route, used by a lot of truck traffic, so in very good condition for an off-road stretch especially in this part of the world. It sweeps around the perimeter of a quarry that cuts off the Lukovka rayon from the rest of the city. This sector is 3km in length and runs from 53 to 50km to go. It will then be seen again at 16 to 13km from the line, so plenty of opportunity to make this one count.



Almost no sooner have we got back onto tarmac than we head onto Shturmovaya Ulitsa, a small road which runs parallel to the main route back towards the city centre from here. After a couple of hundred metres of tarmac, the last 1400m of this road are cobbled, so these are around 49-48 and 12-11km from the line. The cobbles are not in a bad state, but they are also far less well-aligned than might be expected from city centre cobbles, or some relatively recent and well-maintained sectors you’d be familiar with in Belgium, such as Haaghoek or Paddestraat.



2,7 kilometres of tarmac ensue, to bring this first salvo of action to a close, before our longest stretch without asphalt, sector 4, which circumnavigates the south and west sides of the largest quarry pit in Nizhny Tagil. The first couple of kilometres are on sterrato similar to that in sector 2, but after that the old cobbled road starts to poke its head through the gravel on Trudovaya Ulitsa. When we leave Trudovaya Ulitsa the road returns to sterrato even including a short, tough little ramp of around 200m at 8%, before crossing the trainlines. We have to cross the trainlines along the gravel road before a left onto the other end of Trudovaya Ulitsa where the cobbles return, for the most part a bit more well-aligned but there are a few grotty bits where the gravel has been dragged over them or the undergrowth has started to eat into the side of the road where the new routes have made this part of the road less commonly used than the earlier parts. The final kilometre, however, is ramrod-straight and on a wider road similar to Shturmovaya Ulitsa so that will hopefully be fine.



The first time we undertake that horrible 6 kilometres of unpaved road, we emerge at 40km to go. The second time, we’ll literally be about 2,5km from the finish, but those will be almost entirely straight to make it harder to risk running it until the last. You see, once Trudovaya Ulitsa west merges with Ulitsa Nosova and becomes fully tarmacked, it is the road which leads out of town to the P352 freeway which bypasses the city of Nizhny Tagil. Off of this are two right hand turns, the second of which takes you around 50º right and then along about a 600m straight which finishes at the ski jumps - so this is what we will do the second time we emerge from the cobbles of Trudovaya. The first time, however, we will take the first right, just before the road to the ski jumps, and head along the parallel road which is an absolutely horrible road, narrow and rutted, with misaligned, decaying cobbles, gaps in the cobbles where dirt takes precedence, and crucially, a real, genuine climb of around 600m serious uphill in the middle of this cobbled road. It is really ugly, and google street view suggests that the organisers might want to do something about securing the road for the race because it looks like it’s popular with Russian fly-tippers, with a lot of detritus lining the road in places. But, cresting with 37km remaining in the stage, it sure could be a decisive part of the day.



After this climb, the riders find themselves back on tarmac and get a bit of a respite as they even head out and around the P352 highway trunk road curling to the north of the city for a few kilometres, coming off however at the first opportunity and heading directly back in the direction of the industrial sector, via a sterrato stretch after exiting Serebryansky Trakt. When arriving in a housing area, the sterrato once more gives way to about 600m of cobbles on Klenovaya Ulitsa. A short stretch of tarmac (badly superimposed over an old cobbled road as broken tarmac exposes sections of cobbles) takes us over a railway bridge and then onto a wide cobbled transit route for trucks, which becomes paved once we reach the Stal’promtekhnika steel plant; the total length of this sector is 3,9km between the sterrato, the narrow cobbles, the semi-cobbles and then the wide open, well-aligned cobbled sections, and the sector culminates with just over 23km left of the race.


Part of Klenovaya Ulitsa, central part of this sector

There is a ‘bonus’ cobbled section on Ulitsa Maksima Gorky, but this is an ordinary ‘urban’ cobbled sector which is used by constant traffic so is more like the ceremonial sector 1 in Paris-Roubaix than the other, nastier sectors. Not really worthy of note like the others. About 8km flat through the city lead us through the city centre and back out to the southeast, before we undertake sectors 2, 3 and 4 once more.

So there you have it: a Nordic Series entry that is not just steering clear of the high mountains, but is a pure hard man’s terrain. One of the very points was that Nordic skiing venues didn’t have to be located around the mountains so they offered a wider variety of options regarding what you could use them for in a cycling scenario than Alpine skiing. I’d like to know what world class Alpine skiing venue could host a Roubaix-alike like this. This is about grit, determination and the beauty of all that is ugly about road cycling.

A bit like watching Dmitry Vassiliev try to come down with a telemark landing.

 
Nordic Series 28: Planica



I’ve covered a lot of venues throughout the Alps in my Nordic Series (I nearly said Alpine venues, but of course that’s then a double meaning, and that in and of itself automatically creates a certain ambiguity in that, well, an Alpine venue is the precise opposite of what these entries are about, from a skiing context!), through France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. I’ve yet to go the German side of the Alps, but then there’s only a small number of venues that fit in the Alps in Germany, and in the case of Garmisch-Partenkirchen I’ve already used it in both a Giro and a Deutschlandtour route anyway.

But though I’ve done two Tours de Slovénie, and my first attempt at a Giro d’Italia visited the country, I haven’t gone into Slovenia for my Nordic Series yet. Which is pretty strange really, as I love the country, it is beautiful, it is scenic, it has some interestingly-located Nordic and biathlon venues, and it is very viable for use in pro racing. While places like Mora and Nizhny Tagil are way off the beaten track, and Otepää and Pyeongchang-Alpensia only have one viable race to go near them, and that seldom does, the fact that Slovenia is such a small country and is located off of Austria and Italy means that there are a few races that could feasibly cross the border to visit a Slovenian stage host. It has appeared in the Giro in the past, of course. Slovenia also has a deepening cycling interest; it has always been a cycling country, and was by far the largest cradle of the sport during the Yugoslavia days. But since independence, for the most part the riders created by Slovene cycling have been sprinters or ATVs. Although a few riders with good climbing skills have shown up on the scene, like Tadej Valjavec or Janež Brajkovič, Slovenia has never come to the forefront of the World Tour - or its predecessors - until now, with Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič taking 3 of the last 4 Grand Tours and 5 of the podium spots across them too. At the same time as this, it came to my attention (how could it not?) that the 2019 Giro d’Italia stage to Antholz-Anterselva was conjured up as an idea in order to promote the 2020 Biathlon World Championships.

These factors all convene to make Planica a really convenient potential place to host cycling. The famous venue has recently been reconfigured to improve its cross-country facilities, which has enabled it to win the right to host the 2023 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, which take in Ski Jumping, Cross-Country and Nordic Combined. As a result the venue and its amenities have been improved significantly, making it easily have the space and resources to host a major bike race. Hosting the Nordic Worlds in the near future at the same time as Slovenia has two of the best riders on the planet makes it a perfect cross-marketing opportunity, and that’s before we get to the fact that Primož Roglič was a ski jumper, which you’d be forgiven for not knowing, since it seldom gets mentioned. Although, if the organisers are hoping to get Rogla to show up, this mightn’t be the best venue to choose, since this was where his famous career-ending crash took place. However, with Planica being in a valley just off of the small village of Rateče, it is convenient for a number of races, given that it is literally the first village you will pass through in Slovenia after crossing the Italian-Slovene border near Tarvisio, and from Austria it is one village over from the first one you will meet after entering the country via Wurzenpass/Korensko Sedlo. If Planica were to be interested in hosting a bike race, it would be of good value to the Giro d’Italia, the Österreich Rundfahrt, the Tour de Slovénie, the Adriatica-Ionica Race, plus potentially the Girobio and even the Giro Rosa, which started with two stages in Slovenia in 2015.


Back where it all began

Although there have long been cross-country trails in Planica, the presence of the nearby Pokljuka plateau with its network of trails and its world-class biathlon facility has meant that actual FIS competition-homologated trails in Planica are a relatively recent development. However, this is the cradle of ski jumping in Slovenia, a country which goes crazy for the sport like no other save for Poland. And Slovenia also has a great history of ski flying, with a lot of their bigger names being people like Robert Kranjec who garnered reputations as flying specialists, who would be ever better the bigger a hill got. And that’s largely because they cut their teeth at Planica. Ski jumping has been contested in the valley since the early 1930s, and in 1934 the original flying hill, Bloudkova Velikanka, was completed. At the time, a K-80 was the largest that the FIS would allow, so the concept of ski flying was introduced for the K-106 slope that was proposed and constructed. That hill lasted until the early 2000s, before being rebuilt in 2012, and is now a fairly standard Large Hill competition jump of HS138. In the 1930s, however, that was monolithic. It was here that Josef Bradl broke the 100m barrier for the first time in the sport’s history, in 1936. In 1980, it was the host of the first ever round of the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup, and hosted a round every year until 1998.

However, overlooking Bloudkova Velikanka, at the end of the 1960s, it was decided that a new, larger hill was required. The size of the traditional hill was no longer so spectacular and distances were growing ever longer. The Yugoslavians had their point of legend, that they had hosted the first 100m jump, and they wanted to see if they could win the race to 200m too. Letalnica bratov Gorišek (named for its architects and engineers, the Gorišek brothers) and they were bidding for the Ski Flying World Championships, which they won in 1972. A K-153 hill - enormous at the time - was inaugurated, but by the time of the championships it had already been enlarged to K-165. It was the main focus of the Werner Herzog documentary on the Swiss jumper Walter Steiner, die große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner as the amateur ski jumper, a woodcarver by trade, went on a quest to hold the world record at the monster of Planica.


By 1985, the hill was a monstrous K-185, and it hosted the World Ski Flying Championships with over 150.000 spectators cramming into the valley to watch three World Records fall, as first Mike Holland of the USA, and then Matti Nykänen - twice - flew further than a man had ever done before. By the end of the championships the record was 191m, and FIS threw a spanner in the works of Planica’s operators by announcing the they would not recognise jumps above this distance and reworking the scoring system, for safety reasons given the risks jumpers were taking in pursuit of records (although Piotr Fijas recorded a 194m jump in Planica when the World Cup competed on the flying hill for the first time in 1987, which counted as a record distance but did not garner any points above 191m due to the regulations). In 1994, however, advances in technique and adaptation to the scoring system meant this rule could be relaxed, and when the Ski Flying World Championships were held in Planica that year, Andreas Goldberger duly obliged the eager organisers with a 202m jump, only to have to put his hands down to stabilise on landing, invalidating the jump. Only a few minutes later, however, Toni Nieminen successfully landed after flying for 203m, meaning the Slovenes were the home of true distance ski jumping, with both the hundred metre and two hundred metre barriers being broken on their soil. From the late 90s, spurred by the success of Primož Peterka, ski jumping went from being a popular sport in Slovenia to a national passion, and the World Cup was moved from the now rather passé large hill to the flying hill on a permanent basis (save for one year when the flying hill was being reprofiled to make it even larger - successive enlargements have seen it increased to HS225 and now to HS240, making it the second largest hill in the world). In 2015, the entirety of the modern Planica Nordic Centre was opened for the first time, making this the only centre in the world with no fewer than eight ski jumps. Beginning with Birger Ruud’s 92m record in 1934, Planica has seen the World Record distance increased on its slopes 38 times between the two largest jumps, plus a further 19 record distances invalidated for touches or falls. The most recent of these was in March 2018, when Gregor Schlierenzauer tied the world record but crashed on impact. Since the reprofiling, there is now a zipline you can take over the flying hill in summer to experience the, well, experience that is ski jumping. For those less daredevil, you can always check the video below, as Jurij Tepeš shows us how it’s done:


So… that’s how it is for ski jumping. How is it for cycling? Well, it’s… not very difficult. Turning south from Rateče on the road through the Gorenje (Carniola) valley from Kranjska Góra to Tarvisio (which continues on within Slovenia to Jesenice and Kranj after passing to the north of Lake Bled), you go downhill for a couple of hundred metres to cross the river Sava, there are about 500m at about 2,5%, and then there’s about 1400m at 5%. And that’s it. Nothing more. It’s potentially good for puncheurs if there’s tough climbs beforehand, but it’s an uphill sprint of 60 or more people if it’s the only obstacle. Gradients are largely unthreatening, though the last 100m gets up to 8-9%. But that’s OK - because it means riders will have to look elsewhere to make a difference.



Proposal #1: Kranj - Planica, 228km



A three-country special for the Tour de Slovénie here, which would work as a final stage for any action to take place after a mountaintop finish, though it would need to be somewhere logical for a following stage to begin in Kranj I guess, which would suggest Krvavec, a ski resort which hosted the race three years running from 2008 to 2010 (won by Jure Golčer, Simon Špilak and Vincenzo Nibal) but hasn’t been seen in a decade. Nevertheless, a stage there to set up my Kranj - Planica stage would make for a great final weekend for the race. I’ve gone with all cat.2 climbs on this one because I used the Giro profiles, not because the climbs necessarily class as that easy - they would likely be mostly cat.1 climbs in the Tour de Slovénie. This is a long and winding stage that takes in four major climbs - I could have skipped the first two and instead gone over Passo Vršič north, but that would yield a stage some 60km shorter, but with Vršič being 80km from the finish, not all that much more likely to generate racing from distance, as well as the route I’ve gone for enabling less repetition in routes, making the early part of the stage tougher plus adding more distance to create legs that are more tired for the latter part of the stage.

The first part of the stage involves travelling along the Carniola Valley to the tourist magnet city of Bled, on the impossibly scenic lake of the same name. From here we trace some roads I know well, as we take the easy side of the climb up to Rudno Polje, on the Pokljuka plateau. This is the road that the shuttle buses take to take fans from Bled to the plateau if you go to watch the Biathlon World Cup at Pokljuka. The bus drivers are so used to these roads that even in the dead of winter they can happily sling the buses, jam packed with drunken Germans, round the lacets while answering their phones. Why not, ey? Either way, the climb is not the most dangerous you’ll ever see; we climb this ascent as far as the junction for Bohinjska Bistrica - the rest of the climb is the false flat from the plateau to the biathlon stadium. The main body of the climb is the 9km @ 6,5% from Zatrnik to the pass. We then take a two-stepped descent to the shores of Lake Bohinj, less heralded than Bled but in actuality hardly any less scenic. Lakes and mountains - I’m a sucker for them.



This leads into the more challenging northern face of Bohinjsko Sedlo. 13km at 5,9% is very much cat.1 territory, but given the Giro likes to give cat.2 to climbs like Passo Tonale when they’re a long way out I was stingy here. But with that last 4,5km averaging almost 9%, this one does have a case for being reclassified as a cat.1. This takes us into a long loop around the Soča Valley (the Valle d’Isonzo to Italians) via Kobarid (Caporetto to Italians, known for a 1917 battle immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms before we head towards Slovenia’s hardest single climb, the brutal Mangart.

Mangart is a dead end, though, so we skip away from that and cross the border into Italy via Predelsko Sedlo, or the Passo del Predil as it is better known, via its tougher Slovenian side which crests 47km from home. The last 6,5km average nearly 8% before a gradual easing downhill into Tarvisio, which hosted the Winter Universiade in 2003 and so is a viable future location for investigation in the Nordic Series - the biathlon was held at Forni Avoltri, which I’ve already looked at, but the cross-country and ski jumping (and by proxy the Nordic Combined) were in Tarvisio itself. You could turn eastward in Tarvisio to head for the border, cross over into Rateče and straight to Planica, which would leave the summit of Predil around 25km from the finish, but I thought that that would not result in much prior action because there would by proxy need to be a long amount of flat before Predil due to the features of that valley, so for the stage I was designing that was not the target. Instead we continue to head downhill through Coccau Valico into Austria, where we head towards Villach until Riegersdorf (sadly Dreiländereck is not paved on both sides), where we turn north over Wurzenpass/Korensko Sedlo, a genuine cat.2, a lopsided climb with some serious, serious ramps on this northern side including the steepest kilometre averaging a La Camperona-tastic 16%, and cresting just 10km from the line.



After this, there’s just a 6km descent, a couple of kilometres heading along the valley westwards to Rateče and then the gradual uphill to Planica.

Proposal #2: Kranj - Planica, 181km



More border hopping, but we’re reversing the order here, and also including no fewer than four border crossings, beginning and ending in Slovenia, with a visit to Austria, returning to Slovenia, then visiting Italy and returning once more. There’s a bit of scaling up of the major climbs, but also moving the most selective ones further from home. Could this work as a last mountain stage the same as proposal #1? Not sure, but there is definitely the opportunity to do so.

This proposal moves over into Austria via a cat.2 border-hopping climb of Loiblpass, known to Slovenes as Ljubelj, via its easier southern side. This side ends with a 2km tunnel at the summit before a two stepped descent back down into Austria. We then spend a long stretch along the valley of the Drau river (Drava in Slovene), one of the longest tributaries of the Donau, before turning south to cross Wurzenpass as we did at the end of proposal #1. Instead of turning right in Podkoren to go directly toward Planica, however, we instead turn left at the end of the descent into the Alpine ski resort of Kranjska Gora. This enables us to take on that most famous of Slovene climbs, the legendary Prelaz Vršič, Passo della Moistrocca, Werschetzpass, call it what you will (it has passed into cycling parlance by the mixed title of “Passo Vršič” in the main, and has been a major mountain in the Tour de Slovénie on more occasions than any other. Pretty much every tracer knows this one.



From the south, it backs on to Planica near perfectly, but here we’re headed in the opposite direction. The north side of Prelaz Vršič has a final 10km at 7,7% and the final 6km are at 9,3% with the final 1500m at 11%. 71km remain at the summit, but with Korensko Sedlo and this backing directly onto one another, it is definitely possible that in a short stage race, on the last day of the race (or at least the last decisive day of the race, remembering Fuglsang on the Großglockner a few years ago), there could be some action seen. After this, we descend down into the Soča valley and rejoin the previous stage to continue through Log pod Mangartom and over the Passo del Predil to Tarvisio. This time, however, we do hang a right in Tarvisio to cross back over to Slovenia, which we enter with just 3,5km remaining - bearing in mind there’s 2,2km of the climb up to Planica, that’s how close Rateče is to the border. There’s also an uncategorised kilometre at 7% which ends 6km from the line, so that could be another spanner in the works, as the road from Tarvisio to Rateče is frustratingly uneven for those who have been going all out. Passo del Predil crests 25km from home and after that, save for the first couple of kilometres after the summit, there’s not really much to relax at all - it’s either up or down, seldom flat at all.

Proposal #3: Lienz - Planica, 197km



Very, very early in the Nordic Series project, when I’d only just started posting these, railxmig posted a few suggestions and ideas for the project, which were enumerated in this post. Planica was one of four venues tackled or with suggestions provided for in that post, and railxmig came to the conclusion that the easy solution was to put the punchy climb up to Planica after a descent of the southern side of Prelaz Vršič. Which, to be honest, it is. I’ve done a few different routes to arrive at that finale, but felt no need to be too repetitious with things like Pokljuka and Bohinjsko Sedlo like in proposal #1, or alternatively do something resembling this Tour de Slovénie stage I posted in 2015, but run in reverse.

In the end, I’ve come from Austria, so as to take over a few major climbs that we haven’t seen much of in major races; Lienz makes this a feasible Giro stage as it has hosted the race on a few occasions lately as well, most notably to return to Italy after the Großglockner MTF in 2011, arriving at the summit of the mighty Monte Zoncolan, a role it had also had in 2007. Even before the conversion into the Tour of the Alps it regularly hosted the Giro del Trentino, and it also frequently hosts the Österreich Rundfahrt, so we aren’t breaking too much with realism here.

This stage takes in a few little-heralded beasts. The first is the Passo di Pramollo, better known worldwide by its Austrian name, Naßfeldpass. The Italian side of the climb is 13km at 7,5% with 7km at almost 9% in the middle of it, but the Austrian side is 11,2km at 8,2%, the last 10km are at 8,6% and there’s a 5km at 10% section in the middle. This backs directly onto the 7,3km at 6,8% Sella di Cereschiatis, because I could have gone direct to the Passo del Predil and done a whole section of the last stage in reverse, but you already saw that. Instead, let’s go for the monstrous Sella Carnizza.

You can see video of the Sella Carnizza here - it’s 7km at 10,2%, but that only tells part of the story because this is one out of Javier Guillén’s dreams - or it would be if there was room for a finish at the summit, at least. We know Guillén doesn’t like descending or having to think about his designs. The last 4km of this average 13% - successive kilometres are at 12,2%, 15,1%, 10,5% and 14,4%. Very, very unpleasant. This crests 77km from the line, though, before a long rumble through the Soča valley; as a result these are more here for showcase purposes, because the main event is the Slovenian beast that comes at less than 20km from the line.



Yup, a long, long valley drag, but then the last 10km average 9%, a very serious challenge which could serve as a genuine high mountain challenge in even the Giro d’Italia (which it has surprisingly never been seen in, although should RCS wish to tempt Pogačar or Roglič to give up their ambitions in France for a shot at the Corsa Rosa now that their legacies are established - remember Rogla had yet to win a Grand Tour when he capitulated in the Giro - then this could well be a finale they look at as an attraction for the Slovene audience, especially once crowds are allowed back on the roadside and we don’t have this careful locking off of mountaintops for security / health reasons like we saw at the Vuelta in 2020. I included this side of the climb in a stage into Kranjska Gora in my Trka Kroz Bivšu Jugoslaviju route, one of my favourite projects I’ve ever undertaken in this thread, and described it thus:
Under the watchful eye of Slovenia's national emblem, the three-peaked Triglav mountain, this 1611m pass is a strip of winding tarmac with occasional sections on smooth, well-aligned cobbles, along a ribbon known as Ruska cesta ("Russian Road") in honour of the forced labourers captured from Russian forces at the Battle of Isonzo, who constructed the road over an old, destroyed trade route at the behest of the Austro-Hungarian forces. It's a beast, and is the hardest climb of the race not considered to be HC. That is mainly because it is only 11km or so in length as a 'real' climb; another couple of kilometres at 8% and we'd really be in business, Alpe d'Huez style. By using the Coeficiente APM, we arrive at a difficulty rating of 242 for the final 11km; the PRC guys often use 240 or 250 as the cut-off for HC, so you know we're talking toughness here.

I would say that the closest comparison to Vršič from the Trenta valley that cycling fans may be more familiar with would be the Col de Menté by its harder, western face. In fact, in its characteristics from each side the Slovene monster resembles the Pyrenean challenge. The gradient is relatively consistent but it is consistently steep, being mostly around the 9% mark; coming off an almost complete cold open, in order to make this count, riders will want to have their teams hammer the tempo right from the bottom, and shed as many people as possible to prevent riders from catching back on on the descent into Kranjska Gora. Vršič was a common climb in the Tour of Yugoslavia, signalling the entry into the Gorenjska region when the race was spending time in the north of the country, and although its thunder has been stolen somewhat by the Rogla climb over near Maribor in recent years, that tradition was carried on by the Tour de Slovénie where instead of as a pass it was used as a mountaintop finish, such as for example in this 2013 stage which was won by Croat veteran Radoslav Rogina, the most recent summit finish there. Back through the 90s and early 2000s it was an annual queen stage extravaganza, with winners including Jure Golčer and pre-fame Przemysław Niemiec, and, most notably, in 2007 a young Italian upstart by the name of Vincenzo Nibali.

In recent years, being usurped by Rogla and with Gorenjska focusing more of its regional sports funding towards its multitude of wintersport needs, the climb has fallen off the menu; it has also somehow never been climbed in the few times the Giro d'Italia has been in the vicinity, which is a strange oversight. Nevertheless, the fact that it has fallen from favour makes it all the more interesting to include here, especially as it's in that sort of role of sorting the contenders from the pretenders without completely annihilating the field (which is why it's effectively a one-climb stage). The descent is also technical - very technical in fact, including scores of hairpin bends, lacets, twists and turns, so while it's very possible that the favourites may lay down their arms on the way down the climb, for those who are dropped to make it back to the others will take some effort that they probably would rather not expend. The first part of the descent is quite steep but it becomes more gradual, though while the road is sufficiently wide to take safely the cornering doesn't let up and continues all the way to the outskirts of the finishing town.
We extend the distance to the finish but not enough to really stop the climb from being important to the outcome - there’s about 6km of flat, just under, from Kranjska Gora to Rateče and then the 2km climb to Planica - so really, plenty of opportunity for it to still count. I can’t really see the extra few kilometres killing the action when the climb is this severe.

Proposal #4: Ljubljana - Planica, 140km



This one would be more of a mid-race kind of stage for the Tour de Slovénie, a slightly odd stage design with the difficult climbing placed mid-stage and only easy ones later on. It’s a Javier Guillén type of stage, in some respects, but it’s also something akin to something you might see in a smaller Spanish 2.1 kind of stage race, with tough climbs early on to try to put domestiques out the back door, before smaller obstacles later, designed so that gaps are not that big, but the leaders have to work on their own on the closing climb(s).

Bohinjsko Sedlo via Zali Log is a more interesting southern side of the climb than the more conventional Podbrdo side. This consists of a final 9,5km at 7,3%, with a steep first stretch of 2,7km at 8,3% into Spodnja Sorica, before a steadier final 5-6km. Then we descend into Bohinjska Bistrica via the route climbed in proposal #1, and then we climb up to Pokljuka. Instead of using the multi-stepped main road ascent on the 905 through Gorjuše, we can take one of two steeper routes through smaller roads connecting villages on the way to the plateau (we categorise as far as the village at Goreljek, as the last couple of kilometres of the route to the biathlon stadium is both a: very gradual, and b: a dead end). The more conservative option is this route profiled by Quäl dich - which amounts to 11,7km @ 6,5% including a 2,2km at 9,6% stretch near the top - or, my personal preference, the side which goes through the village of Podljelje through a monstrous stretch of 3,3km at 11,3%, before joining partway through that super steep stretch mentioned above for 1900m at 8,8% later on in the climb. It’s 11,0km @ 6,9%, and it crests 58km from home before a few kilometres’ downhill false flat and a descent of the side of the climb from the first proposal.



This descent takes us into Krnica, but instead of continuing directly down the Radovna valley that we are shortly to head down, we take a little detour to Spodnje Gorje, which allows us to descend to the Radovna river at the entrance to one of the area’s finest tourist attractions, the Vintgar gorge. This lush walkway through a scenic gorge is open through the summer with beautifully mineral-rich water running through the valley and, if you’re ini decent shape, it’s easily walkable there and back from Bled or Radovljica. There’s an auberge or two at the southwestern entrance if you need a beer or two and a Blejski Kremšnita to fuel the return trip, anyway. It is closed in winter, but in mild winters, some parts of it are passable if you’re daring (or indeed foolhardy) enough to ignore the warnings.



This then enables us to take a narrow, punchy ascent of 2,8km at 5,6% to Zgornje Laze, but that’s only part of the story, as ramps get up to 11-12% and the middle part is a kilometre at nearly 9%. We then head along the Radovna valley on slightly uphill false flat for around 15km before a short steep jump up to Kosmačko Sedlo, marked with the village of Zgornja Radovna, a 1,2km at 7% puncheur climb 24km from the line, before descending into the Gorenje valley from Mojstrana towards the Italian border. This is a bit longer than the run from proposal #3 as we have 12-13 kilometres before we reach Kranjska Gora. As a result this is a route more likely to result in an uphill sprint at Planica, but the steep gradients from the earlier climbs should hopefully minimise the effectiveness of trains here. And hopefully give us something more exciting than your usual mass start men’s distance race in modern XC, at least when the Norwegians are slowing the pace at the front in the hope Johannes Høsflot Klæbo can sit in, then run in his painfully unattractive style up the final climb or outsprint a tactically inept Aleksandr Bolshunov at the last…

 
to the shores of Lake Bohinj, less heralded than Bled but in actuality hardly any less scenic. Lakes and mountains - I’m a sucker for them
Agreed! Or here in Norway it's often fjords and mountains. But I usually travel to the Alps at least one time each summer to hike there.

You can see video of the Sella Carnizza here - it’s 7km at 10,2%, but that only tells part of the story because this is one out of Javier Guillén’s dreams - or it would be if there was room for a finish at the summit, at least. We know Guillén doesn’t like descending or having to think about his designs. The last 4km of this average 13% - successive kilometres are at 12,2%, 15,1%, 10,5% and 14,4%. Very, very unpleasant.
I have this on my plan for my next version of the Giro. Has it ever been used in bigger race?
 
Agreed! Or here in Norway it's often fjords and mountains. But I usually travel to the Alps at least one time each summer to hike there.



I have this on my plan for my next version of the Giro. Has it ever been used in bigger race?
As far as I know not, I have a short stage from Pontebba to Gemona del Friuli (the day after a really long stage with a Montasio MTF) up my sleeves:
https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/tracks/viewTour/597755
It's more of a stage for an u23 race like the Giro del Friuli, a proper Giro stage could start in Hermagor or Paluzza, so you'd have some bigger climbs at the start of the stage.
 

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