Stage 13: Tolmezzo - Canazei, 175km
Passo del Pura (cat.1) 11,8km @ 7,4%
Sella di Razzo (cat.2) 12,8km @ 6,1%
Passo Tre Croci (cat.2) 11,0km @ 6,3%
Passo Giau (Cima Coppi) 16,4km @ 6,5%
Passo Fedaia (cat.1) 14,1km @ 7,5%
Easily the most "traditional" of the mountain stages in my Giro comes on the penultimate Saturday, with this beast of a five-climb stage to punish the riders upon their return to Italy after the slaughter of Il Mangàrt. This takes in some traditional Dolomites, after a brief interlude in the Carnic Alps, and uses some of the race's traditional heartlands, with precious little flat terrain at all to interrupt the climbers' fun, although we do have a descent finish to offer the riders a bit of respite, and also to torment and horrify Javier Guillén.
Starting in the town of Tolmezzo, one of the larger mountain settlements in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, there is barely 10km of uphill false flat before we hit our first major climb of the day, the cat.1 Passo del Pura
. As you can see, 5km at 10% in the middle of that is the main difficulty on its difficult run
up to the summit
, where a technical descent brings us immediately onto the last 13km of Sella Razzo
(everywhere from 12km onwards). This is categorised as cat.2 since climbs like Passo Tonale are in the real Giro, and it's only really at the very end that this gets especially tough, however reclassification as a cat.1 would not be unexpected. It gives us dramatic scenery
, especially by Lago di Sauris
. The real Giro in 2014 will do this same Pura-Razzo combination, then descend via Forcella di Lavardet to enable them to go straight to Ovaro for Monte Zoncolan, however I'm still heading westward, so this will have to wait; much more climbing in store today.
The riders will get the chance for a bit of respite, however; a technical descent takes us into Auronzo di Cadore
, before we have 20km of slightly uphill false flat, which will feel like bliss to the riders compared to what is to come. Of the last 78km of the stage, no fewer than 41 of them are spent climbing some pretty serious Dolomites. First up is the southeastern face of Passo Tre Croci
, which is best known from its more direct Cortina d'Ampezzo side as the lead-in climb to the legendary Tre Cime di Lavaredo
. This side is somewhat more manageable, though there are a few moments over 10% to balance out that flat kilometre (which come to think of it, I shouldn't have included in the 41 climbing kilometres, although it's still part of the ascent to the Passo). The riders then descend the more familiar side of the climb into that popular Giro base, Cortina d'Ampezzo
. 63km remain.
This is where things start to get interesting. You see, I thought about how to make things interesting from afar on this stage as yesterday was a tough MTF and there's another one to come tomorrow. And then it hit me - this is the Giro! And an excellent way to ensure at least some action in a stage like this even sandwiched between two MTFs is to throw that one prize that means far more to the Giro than its comparable equivalents in the Tour and Vuelta into the stage - the Cima Coppi. And much like the 2011 stage to Rifugio Gardeccia that showed us how great cycling can be at times, the Cima Coppi this year is the swirling routes
of the Passo Giau
at 2236m. So no, no Gavia, no Stelvio, no Fauniera, no Lombarda, no Tre Cime, no Sampeyre: none of these to be seen in this Giro, I'm afraid. It's ok though - the Giau is a well-known summit
steeped in Giro history, and is plenty tough enough, as though the overall stats don't show it to be too brutal (16km at 6,5% is still pretty tough, mind), the final 10km are at over 9%, which will make the battle for the Cima Coppi pretty interesting even if it's from the break, and also make any long-range gambles pretty interesting. And then we descend a long and tough road into Caprile. And then...
Yes! It is time for Passo Fedaia, the queen of the Dolomites! Long term forumites (and possibly even short term forumites) will be aware of my long love affair with the Passo Fedaia. If you do not love Passo Fedaia, then let it be known that not only do you have no love for this sport and all that is right in the world besides but you are also a terrible person and never darken this forum again! If I ever have a daughter, I would consider naming her Fedaia then reject it out of hand as the poor thing could never be as beautiful as her namesake. This is the greatest climb, not only in the history of the Giro, but in the history of bike racing. Allow me to pay tribute to Fedaia in haiku form:
Brutal slopes follow
Serrai di Sottoguda
Best climb in the world
Feast upon its magnificence
, with the beautiful first half lulling the riders into a false sense of security before wreaking great havoc on them with the second half averaging comfortably over 10%! Behold the majesty
of the final 5km of torment for the riders who have already spent 60km climbing in the day! Rejoice in the fact that just 13km remain at the end of Fedaia, with only the fast descent into Canazei to close the day off! Celebrate the fact that even if the racing is boring, we are all winners because they can always change focus on the cameras to just look at the scenery and make us forgive bad racing!