Tirreno-Adriatico’s fifth stage ended with what must have seemed like a wall to the riders as they struggled up it. “If I said that was fun, that’d be a lie,” German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) said of the Muro di Guardiagrele climb that kicks up to 30 per cent gradient.
Kittel used a 34-tooth front chainring with a 28-tooth sprocket behind to enable him to haul his big frame up the climb in Abruzzo. The climb rises from 132 metres over a distance of 610 metres for an average gradient of 22.2 per cent. At its steepest, near the bottom, it hits 30 per cent.
The 168 riders had only a short time to recover before climbing an easier (averaging 9 per cent) 250-metre long rise to the finish line. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) won and took the race lead.
David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) once protested on the Alto de L’Angliru climb, which hits 23.6 per cent. Millar said today, “My sole objective was to make it up the climb because I didn’t want a photo for prosperity from my last year of me walking up a climb with my bike.”
Cycling does not often cover such pitches. The Tirreno-Adriatico, however, has a way of finding these climbs in Le Marche and Abruzzo. Last year, the penultimate stage covered the Sant’Elpidio a Mare climb, which rose to 27 per cent.
Former Managing Director, Michele Acquarone explained at the time, “It was too much, we made a mistake.” Many riders had to stop and walk, zigzag or accept help from the fans.
The same race organiser this summer at the Giro d’Italia will direct cyclists up the Monte Zoncolan with 22 per centgradients. In Belgium every spring, the Flèche Wallonne one-day classic ends with Mur de Huy’s 26% ramps. Those climbs, however, fail to compare to the grades of Muro di Guardiagrele.
“I just tried to concentrate to not fall over,” Kittel said. “To be honest, that climb is fine for me but the descent we had today after [Passo Lanciano] was wrong. There were so many holes, like 10 centimetres deep, and gravel everywhere.”
“Everything has its place in cycling as long as its safe, well organised and not excessive,” added Millar. “If they did that twice it would’ve been excessive but once was enough. As long as it’s always reasonable and not solely done for spectacle then everything has its place.”
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