When Saturday May 24
To Oropa (Biella)
Category High mountains
Here’s where the Giro will really explode into life. Up until now, we’ve only had a brief glimpse as to each rider’s form, but today’s three Alpine climbs will leave no room to hide.
As the cliché goes, the Giro won’t be won today, but for several hopefuls it will almost certainly be lost. The first two climbs — the Alpe Noveis and the Bielmonte — are tough but too far from the finish to do anything more than whittle down the peloton into a select group of climbers.
The real fireworks will take place on the Oropa, which is tackled almost immediately after the long descent of the Bielmonte. With an average of 6.2 per cent and measuring just under 12km, the climb is difficult enough to distance anyone suffering bad form, but not difficult enough to prompt any Giro-winning moves.
It was on the Oropa that Marco Pantani claimed one of his most famous victories, at the 1999 Giro. He’d suffered a mechanical, but against the odds managed to pass 49 riders and win the stage.
The Oropa is included today in order to celebrate the life of Il Pirata, but also serves as a sombre reminder of cycling’s dark recent past — Pantani was later disqualified from the race for registering a high haematocrit level.
Did you know?
Six years before Pantani’s epic ride, the Oropa played host to a scintillating battle between Miguel Indurain and Piotr Ugrumov. Ugrumov dropped his rival on the umpteenth time of trying, but only gained 36 of the 98 seconds he needed to win the pink jersey.