Stage 19: Ponte di Legno to Val Martello/Martelltal, 160km, high mountains
UPDATE 0840 BST: Today’s stage has been cancelled due to snow and extreme cold.
The Giro continues to be plagued by poor weather, as a result of which today’s stage has had to be rerouted at the expense of two of the race’s most iconic climbs, the Passo di Gavia and Passo dello Stelvio. Instead we have a longer route and two new climbs, the Passo del Tonale and Passo Castrin which, while not as high as those they replace, will still be extremely challenging in the anticipated cold conditions. The Tonale is ‘only’ classified as a cat 2 but is 8.3km long with an average gradient of 7.5%, rising to a maximum of 10%. The Castrin is deemed a cat 1 climb: similar in length to the Tonale at 8.4km but noticeably steeper with a 9.5% average including a section at 13%.
The final 55km is basically all uphill, culminating in the final 22km climb to the summit of Val Martello, which is making its Giro debut. It averages 6.4% but the steepest sections of 14% come towards the summit, either side of a lake-side plateau.
After his dominant victory in yesterday’s individual time trial, Vincenzo Nibali has earned the privilege of being able to ride conservatively and defend his four-minute advantage. But second-placed Cadel Evans has no such luxury after his TT nightmare. The black-clad Sky boys will apply pressure to try to find Rigoberto Uran the ten seconds he needs to leapfrog the Aussie, with Michele Scarponi barely a minute back ready to pounce. Behind them, Rafal Majka leads the young rider classification by just two seconds over Carlos Betancur in a contest which has swung first one way and then the other over the past week.
The maglia rosa battle may be all but settled, but with so many close battles inside the top ten, expect fireworks on the final climb. Time bonuses for the top three finishers could make all the difference here, which may well spell doom for the hopes of anyone in the day’s breakaway. Expect that break to form the moment the flag drops and to include mountains classification leader Stefano Pirazzi, who will be hoping to seal the maglia azzurra ahead of tomorrow’s final climbing stage.
Link: Official website