The race’s remaining 168 riders, including Team Sky‘s four-time Tour de France champion who lags behind in the overall classification, will face the brutal climb at the end of stage 14. The road Italy’s far northeast climbs only 10.1 kilometres, but has peaks of 22 per cent and averages 11.9 per cent.
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“It’s a very decisive stage. It’s brutal final up the Zoncolan,” Froome said on the eve of the stage. “We’ll definitely expect to see big gaps one way or another.
“Lets see what happens. It’s going to be a big GC battle, that goes without saying. But it’ll be interesting to see which teams make the pace and which are going to do what.”
Fellow Brit Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) leads the overall by 47 seconds over 2017 race winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) sits third at 1-04 minutes. Froome, after two crashes and time losses on several stages, is hovering at 3-20 in 12th.
The stage winner should complete the relatively new climb in around 40 minutes. Froome will be hoping to do something similar and rebound with the final eight days ahead.
“I’m obviously hoping for better than I have so far in the race on the climbs,” Froome said. “I’ve been feeling better and better as the race goes on. There’s less impact from the injuries I had before the race, so we’ll see.”
Froome previewed the climb ahead of racing the Tour of the Alps in April. He rode until the tunnel at one kilometre remaining, where snow blocked the road.
“It’s always a good to have in your mind what’s coming up and to know what you’re up against. The last time I raced it was over eight years ago,” he added.
“I know what I’m up against and I’ll be able to picture different parts of the climb, knowing when to push on and when not to. That’ll be really important. Also knowing the stage before he climb is important because is a tough little stage.
“It’s up there [as one of the hardest climbs]. The Angliru in the Vuelta sticks out as a similar kind of climb but this is more consistently steep, where the Angliru feels steeper but it’s in ramps. They’re different kinds of efforts I guess. But I’m up for it, I’m motivated.”