This stage is so unbelievably difficult that we decided to let it stand alone in the previews. With Rigoberto Uran keeping a grip on the maglia rosa, if riders like Nairo Quintana and Domenico Pozzovivo don’t use this stage to try to make up minutes, not seconds, and break the leader, they might just kiss their chances goodbye. Cadel Evans needs to stay with the main group and just grind out these climbs and third-placed Rafa Majka needs to be there too. A stage not to be missed!
Tuesday 27th May: Stage 16: Ponte di Legno to Val Martello, high mountains, 139km
This is the exact route of last year’s stage 19. Remember that? No? Well, that’s probably because it – the entire stage – was cancelled due to impassable roads. So to refresh your memories, here is what is on tap for the peloton. Gavia (cat 1), Stelvio (the Cima Coppi climb, the highest point in this year’s race), Martello (cat 1). All in just 139km – over half of those uphill. These climbs are long, they’re tough and they’re gonna be great!
The climbing starts almost immediately and it’s not just any climb, it’s the Passo Gavia. The climb is 16.5km long, with an average gradient of nearly 9%. About a third of the way through the climb, it kicks up to a tear-jerking 16% before settling back down to 8-9% all the way to the top. That’s climb number one. Two more to go …
It’s a long, free-wheeling 25km descent. I say free-wheeling but it’s cold and there’s snow so they need to keep their wits about them. But it’s not as steep as the descent to come on this next climb. Which is the Stelvio, this year’s highest point and one of the most iconic climbs in Italian cycling. Up, up and away for nearly 22km, this is a long climb with lower gradients than Gavia – averaging about 7% – but it does have that gruesome kick in the middle of the climb of 12%. And, as I said, it’s a long, energy-sapping climb.
Cresting the Stelvio, there’s a fast, steep 25km descent. Once they get to the bottom, there’s a brief respite with a few little lumps and bumps before the final climb of the day up the Monte Martello. If you look at the profile below, you’ll see that the 22km up this climb have gradients that go up, down, shimmy and shake in an irregular fashion, which means it’s for the more explosive climbers who are able to change speed and cadence at will rather than one for the grinders. You know who you are …
It’s in the last 6km that the gradients have the most bite – it goes from 9% to 14% to 1.3% before cranking it up again to 14% to start a super-steep final kilometre at an average of 10%. A tiny flat section at the end kicks up just enough to make it hurt for the riders who finish this epic stage.
A little trivia for you: The Gavia was the setting for Andy Hampsten‘s exploits in 1988 (in a blizzard) and the Stelvio was the setting for Thomas de Gendt to launch a surprise attack at the base and move himself into a podium position with his solo win in 2012. Yeah, it’ll be a hell of a stage.
Link: Official website
Header image: The Gavia