The Giro resumes after a rest day and we begin the backloaded final week with the first of three summit finishes.
The Route: 203km and 5,200m of vertical gain. Out of Sabbio and past Salo then along the shores of Lake Garda to Riva del Garda, almost flat although there are some undulations when the road darts away from the lake.
The first climb of the day scales Monte Velo to the Passo Santa Barbara. It’s a deceptive climb at first, a big wide road that heads out of town with the feel of something sluggish, where large trucks and buses cross over to the next valley. Only there’s a 15% gradient warning sign and the road suddenly funnels into something hardly wide enough for two Fiats. Then the slope bites and the hairpins start and the 14% section is real, not the inside line on a hairpin but a ramp. There’s a steep descent and then the road drags up to the Passo Bordala. The descent takes the race into the Adige valley but only just for the first intermediate sprint in Rovereto.
Then comes a second category climb that doesn’t look like much but it’s got 6km at 8% at the start before the slope turns into a drag up the side of the valley before crossing over and descending back down the other side of the valley almost Revereto.
The climb to Serrada depends on your perspective, the gentlest climb of the day but also a dizzying balcony road. There are no surprises but it’s a 17km climb, a team – think Ineos – can put their mountain train to work here and it’s softening things up for the final. There’s a long descent, gentle at first and then 8% for 12km but on a main road before reaching the valley floor and 10km to eat some gels for the final climb.
The Finish: Monte Bondone’s a legendary climb of the Giro, more on this below. Today’s ascent is not the “Gaul” route of 1956 but instead climbs out of Aldeno. From here it’s a 20km climb and the shorthand version is: first 2km hard, next 10km are OK and then the next 10km are hard before it eases to the line.
The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance here. Climbers who can go up the road without forcing Ineos or Jumbo-Visma to chase are Jeferson Cepeda (EF Education-Easypost) and team mate Ben Healy. Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) could get an Italian win. UAE seem happy to let riders go for the breakaway so Jay Vine or Brandon McNulty could try. Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain) is the local rider today and a decent climber but a grand tour stage would be a breakthrough.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is caught in a bind. 11th overall at 4m23s, none of the GC hopefuls will want to let him take time by and become a podium outsider by sliding into the breakaway so even trying to get points for the mountains competition where he’s currently second isn’t easy. Ditto Einer Rubio (Movistar) too, 14th at 5m29s who is almost tied with Pinot for points on the mountains competition.
Will the GC contenders move? There’s no head wind for a change but because the opportunities so far have brought a stalemate it still feels like they might still be observing each other and looking for weakness rather than striking out on their own although of course everyone will be willing an attack-fest, if only on Monte Bondone. It’s hard to pick among Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas and João Almeida. Roglič’s weapon is his uphill sprint but we don’t quite know how his form is and today’s stage flattens out right at the end; Thomas might like the flatter finish today and Almeida briefly showed some punch on the ride through Bergamo Alta on Sunday and is still hunting his first grand tour stage.
Cepeda, Roglič, Thomas
Almeida, Healy, McNulty, Fortunato, Vine
Weather: sunny and warm in the valley, 25°C
TV: KM0 is at 11.05 and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.
Bondone and Gaul: Monte Bondone sits above the nearby city of Trento, a constant presence for locals as well as a ski resort. In cycling Bondone rhymes with the exploits of Charly Gaul. He won when the race first visited in 1956, taking the maglia rosa here on Stage 21 and winning the race overall two days later. Only it was the manner of his win that impressed, he started the day 24th overall and 17 minutes down on GC. A snowstorm hit the race and in sub-zero temperatures he road to the stage win and race lead, tappa e maglia. Many were forced to quit the race and of those who rode make it to the top of the mountain, many took their time and some probably got a lift to the point where the organisers were just desperate for riders to reach the finish by any means so that the event could continue. Even doing the stage on a vehicle wasn’t easy, as John Foot tells in the excellent Pedalare! Pedalare! “only one of the 12 motorbikes on the Giro was able to accompany him up the mountain”.