The penultimate stage of the Giro and they’ve saved the best roads for last. The Colle delle Finestre is a beautiful climb and the top half is unpaved making it even more spectacular.
Stage 19 Wrap: Another fast start and it took several goes for a move to go clear. Astana kept the breakaway on a tight leash and if the stage win wasn’t going to be possible Giovanni Visconti managed to get himself in the mountains jersey head on points of team mate Beñat Inxausti and Steven Kruijswijk but there’s all to play for on today’s Colle delle Finestre as it has double points.
Fabio Aru won the stage thanks to a late attack that saw him surge past Ryder Hesjedal. Alberto Contador seemed to give the move his blessing and sat tight while Mikel Landa had to sit still too to let his team mate win the day but let Aru leapfrog him on the overall classification. It was a huge stage but the televisual entertainment was saved for late, these 200km plus mountain stages have the riders in exhaustion while leaving TV audiences dozing in siesta.
The Route: it’s all about the giant climb. The race leaves the Aosta valley and crosses the Canavese area that sits below the Alps, skirts Torino and heads up the Susa valley to the town of Susa, so far so safe and all on big roads.
The Colle delle Finestre is a special climb, 18km long at 9.2% and very steady all the way up except for the short passage early Meana by a tunnel near where the 14% section is found. After this it’s very regular. This is no goat track or smuggler’s path that eventually became a public road. It is the product of war was ordered by decree and built by the army to military specification with a regular slope so horses could drag cannons up. It uses 45 hairpins to get to the top. After 10km there’s a small picnic area… and the tarmac stops, the remaining 8km are gravel, high altitude strada biancha, rough but rideable. The first to the top wins the Cima Coppi prize.
It’s easy to get to the top and think the Giro is over but there’s a very difficult and technical descent, it is paved but akward with the fatigue of the previous climb.
The Finish: after an easy early approach the road begins dragging up with awkward gradients, enough to reward riders who share the work but enough to expose any weaknesses too. It flattens out for the final kilometre, a short ramp sits with 500m to go and then it’s almost level to the line.
The Contenders: will Alberto Contador get the stage win while wearing the maglia rosa. There’s no doubting his grip on the race but tradition dictates that a stage win, especially while wearing the leader’s jersey, is the way to do it. Certainly a win today is within reach.
Steven Kruijswijk is a pedalling advert for team sponsor Jumbo who seems to deliver fresh produce every day. He can win the stage with his sprint but he might prefer to treat the Colle Finestre as his finish line in order to get the mountains jersey. We can expect Movistar to crowd the early break to try and mop up points but Astana are likely to chase again. This time Mikel Landa is the better bet for a stage win as the Finestre’s gradient suits him more but he just shades it over Fabio Aru. Ryder Hesjedal keeps on improving or rather the others are getting worse at a faster rate than him. Some were surprised with Aru’s recovery yesterday but Rigoberto Uran was the real surprise package with third place, the Finestre is much steeper but he’s back in action and could feature.
|Steven Kruijswijk, Mikel Landa, Fabio Aru, Ryder Hesjedal|
|Uran, Bongiorno, Trofimov, Zardini, Chaves|
Weather: sunshine and clouds with a top temperature of 23°C on the plains and in the valleys. The more the race goes into the mountains, the greater the chance of a rain shower.
TV: surely you’ve worked it out by now? As ever the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Cyclingfans and steephill.tv both have links to pirate feeds with the latter also listing where you can view the race properly too.
The Giro is: coming to an end. The race might award the Trofeo Senza Fine, the “Endless Trophy” but the race itself is done after today with just a procession remaining across the rice growing plains between Milan and Turin. It’s been a brilliant edition, if they still made highlight DVDs to watch over the winter the 2015 Giro d’Italia DVD would be a box set.