The 96th edition of Italy’s greatest race, the Giro d’Italia, promises an exhilarating parcours with a mix of brutal climbs, technical descents, and pan flat runways on which to launch full-gas sprints.
Riders and teams with their eyes on the biggest prizes of the 2013 corsa rosa will have considered the course in detail, deciding where to launch their own decisive efforts.
We considered the most significant stages of the early part of the race in part one of our key stages preview, singling out the team time trial on stage two, the first medium mountain stage a day later, and the first individual time trial on stage eight, as those likely to have the greatest effect on the general classification. Click here for a detailed look at each.
Now we’ll consider the key stages from the second ‘half’ of the race, from the first high mountain stage to the finale in Brescia.
Stage ten: Cordenons to Plateau Montasio (167km) – Tuesday May 14, High Mountains
The first of the high mountain stages is significant for its own challenges, but equally for its proximity to the opening individual time trial, just two stages earlier. Any climber who lost time to the TT specialists on the near flat 54.8km test from Gabicce Mare to Saltara, and there will be plenty, will seek retribution as soon as the road rises significantly. It does here.
After a little more than 117km of racing, the road heads skywards, sending the riders to the summit of the Passo Cason di Lanza, some 1,555 metres of above sea level. This, however, is only the beginning of a day of torment for the altitude averse. Fifty kilometres down the road lies the first summit finish of the race: the first category Altopiano del Montasio. The climb to the finish unfolds over a soul-destroying final four kilometres, conducted in places at leg-breaking gradients of 20 per cent.
Stage 15: Cesana Torinese to Col du Galibier (149km) – Sunday May 19 – High Mountains
Those who insist the Giro is harder than the Tour de France will find much to support their claims here. Not only are two of today’s three climbs synonymous with La Grande Boucle, but their position in the corsa rosa as a mere hors d’ouevre to a punishing final week that will dispense the Gavia, the Stelvio, the Giau and the Tre Cime is an argument set heavily in the Giro’s favour.
The riders cross the French-Italian border after 50km and approximately 1,720 metres of climbing into the 2,094 ascent of the Col du Mont Cenis. An extended period of descending will take the riders as ‘low’ as 718 metres above sea level before the climbing begins again, this time on the ramps of the Col du Telegraphe, before a vertiginous ascent to the summit of the Col du Galibier at a dizzying 2,642 metres.
Stage 18: Mori to Polsa (20.6km) – Thursday May 23 – Individual Time Trial
This third and final race against the clock, one conducted on an unbroken upward trajectory, will be a rude awakening for riders still savouring the respite of the previous day’s almost entirely flat run from Caravaggio to Vicenza.
One man is expected to win today, but if Bradley Wiggins is to seize his expected triumph by firing a potentially race-changing salvo, he must exhibit the form that carried him to victory on the similarly unrelenting slopes of the Col d’Eze in the race-closing time trial of last year’s Paris-Nice. Eighteen days of racing will have made a mockery of concepts like ‘certainty’ and ‘favourite’ and the profile is sufficiently unrelenting to give the climbers a chance.
Stage 19: Ponte di Legno to Val Martello (139km) – Friday May 24 – High Mountains
And so it continues. For those broken by the effort of the yesterday’s time trial, today’s 139km ordeal will represent little more than malice on the part of the organisers. For fans of professional cycling, however, a stage that features the Gavia and the Stelvio is one to cherish. The potential for drama today is limitless.
Given the presence of the two most iconic climbs in the beguiling history of the Giro, the addition of a third might seem unwarranted. Having already climbed to 2,618 metres (the Gavia) and to 2,488 metres (the Stelvio), the riders will experience a third visit to altitudes in excess of 2,000 metres, on the summit finish at Martello.
Stage 20: Silandro/Schlanders to Tre Cime di Lavredo (203km) – Saturday May 25 – High Mountains
Savage, relentless, demoralising: the final week of the Giro has the power to exhaust adjectives. The constituent parts of stage 20 on their own would be the signature of lesser races. The presence of four of the most vicious climbs of the Dolomites in close succession on the last of three consecutive days in the high mountains will be withering to some, inspiring to others.
Where to begin? The 1,745m Passo Costalunga is ridden in its entirety, affording a descent of just 16km before the slopes of the 1,918m San Pellegrino rise from the mists. Both, however, are mere entrees to the Passo Giau, linked inextricably in the minds of most cycling fans with Andy Hampsten’s astonishing ride through blizzard conditions to seize the maglia rosa in the 1988 edition. Some 25 years later, and the Giau, a mere staging post to the summit finish at the equally awe-inspiring Tre Cime, will again have the power to turn the race on its head.
Do you still have a favourite for the Giro, or has this look at the key stages changed your mind? Fear not! There’s still time to pick a winning team for the RoadCyclingUK Fantasy Giro d’Italia. Just click the banner below.