In the last of Eros Poli’s Giro d’Italia previews for inCycle TV, everyone’s favourite breakaway star tackles the 196km from Saint Vincent to the Alpine village of Sestriere, which hosted many of the events at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
Stage 20 of the 98th Giro is the final mountain stage of the race, and while Alberto Contador looks too pretty in pink to be troubled by any attacks, it could still provide some fireworks as the rest of the pack jostle for position and try to salvage some pride from this season’s first grand tour.
The day’s biggest difficulty – and perhaps opportunity – will come on the Colle delle Finestre, this year’s Cima Coppi, the highest peak in the Giro d’Italia. It’s the third time that the Giro will ascend the 2,178m pass after it first appeared in 2005, and it’s 9.2% average gradient is in stark contrast to the stage’s flat first 150 km, which runs through the upper Po Valley.
The Colle delle Finestre climb features a steady gradient from start to finish – there is a short stretch at Meana di Susa with a max 14% slope – but what really marks this climb out as special is the fact that the second half of it is unpaved.
After that, it’s a technical descent and another 9.2km climb to Sestriere, which averages at just over 5% but peaks around 9%. The Giro has finished here on six occasions – including 1993, when Miguel Indurain won the time trial. The Spaniard went on to win the overall classification in Milan on his way to his historic Giro-Tour double [To find out more about Indurain’s summer event with inGamba, click here]. Contador will hope that he can repeat his countryman’s formidable feat.
There will still be 185 of the 3,486km total to complete on Sunday’s final stage, but this is the last real opportunity for genuine excitement. And thankfully for the peloton, the weather has improved since inGamba’s own Tour de France stage winner made the ascent.