When Tuesday May 27
From Ponte di Legno
To Val Martello/Martelltal
Category High mountains
Fans disappointed at the cancellation of last year’s thrilling-looking stage 19 will be delighted to learn the organisers have replicated the exact same route for this year’s stage 16.
At just 139km long, this stage continues the trend in recent years for Grand Tours to include a short stage that packs in a series of climbs back to back. These briefer stages generally make for more attacking racing, as the absence of mountains rendered redundant by their early position on the route ensures fresher legs for riders hoping to make an impression before the final climb.
First up is the Passo Gavia, a Giro favourite that is well known for Andrew Hampsten’s famous accent of it in 1988. The American fought through a blizzard and all kinds of adverse conditions to take the pink jersey, which he would hold on to until the end of the race.
As soon as the riders are done descending the Gavia, it’s uphill again, this time towards the distant Stelvio summit, another classic Giro climb. At 2,757m high, this is 2014’s Cima Coppi, i.e. the race’s highest point, and the riders will have the thin air of high altitude to compound their worries.
Finally, the Monte Martello rounds things off. Its gradient may average closer to six per cent than the Stelvio’s seven per cent and Gavia’s eight per cent, but it is a frustrating irregular climb that, at 22kms, seems to go on forever. By the time the riders have reached its summit, they’ll have spent over 60kms today going uphill — almost half the entire stage.
Did you know?
In 2012, the Stelvio witnessed some of the most exciting racing in recent Giro history. The unfancied Thomas de Ghent reached its foot several minutes ahead of the GC riders, who had partaken in a thrilling game of brinkmanship to allow him such a lead. The Belgian won the stage but not quite the overall, finishing third instead.