The race skirts past Milan, tempting the riders who face another week of racing before they get to finish the Giro for good. The race passes through another region of Italy where cycling remains very popular and where the roads on Sunday morning whizz with immaculate bikes and impeccably elegant middle-aged men. This is the area of the Giro di Lombardia and the Valcava climb is on the route of the late-season race as well as today’s stage.
The Valcava is 8.6% for 11.6km. The next recognised climb, the Forcella di Bura is 10.9km at 4.3% but note the uncategorised climb to Berbenno which is still a decent rise by itself. The climb to San Pietro is 9.8km at 5.2%. All these climbs have some steep ramps, the average gradient doesn’t tell the full story.
The Piani de Resinelli climb is going to hurt. If yesterday’s stage featured an Alpine highway capable of bussing hundreds of thousands of tourists in coaches up to giant ski resorts, today’s final climb finishes on a small road with steep ramps where it’s hard work driving a car and I wonder if a team bus will even fit. The climb is under 8km long but the final 4km features an average 11.6% gradient for 3km under the pine trees until the slope “eases” to 6.3% for the final kilometre all the way to the line.
Yesterday’s finish suited Ryder Hesjedal who could power away on the steady gradient and then deploy his time trial skills for the last kilometre to the finish line. It was a great ride, I’d been lamenting that riders weren’t duelling for the overall lead but the Canadian’s aggression was good to see and it paid off too. He went for the jersey and he won it.
However today might be something else given the steeper pitch, his larger size makes changes in pace just that bit harder. The climb at the end has many hairpins and steep ramps. It looks more like a day for Pozzovivo, Rodriguez or Rujano and maybe even Cunego. It’s certainly a day when the pure climbers will want to pinch a few seconds over the likes of Basso and Hesjedal, knowing they could lose a minute in the final time trial in one week’s time. But there’s a good chance of a breakaway and there are many local riders (including Marco Pinotti) who might fancy their chance on the local roads, indeed today’s stage is not far from the Lampre team’s HQ.
Weather: the organisers describe this as a “high mountain” stage but there won’t be a glacier or ski resort in sight. Consequently if it’s going to be damp but without snow and ice. With an increasing chance of rain in the afternoon, temperatures should be around 8-18 degrees (46F-64F).
Food: risotto is a common dish in the region. You might think of Italy as the land of pasta and pizza but the flat terrain around Milan is where they grow rice on an industrial scale too. Sausage, the salami, is common here too and the region is also known for its polenta, made from cornmeal, again an escape from pasta and pizza.