When Saturday May 31
To Monte Zoncolan
Category High mountains
Any questions still being asked at this stage in the Giro will be answered on the nightmarish slopes of the Zoncolan. One of the most feared climbs in professional cycling, this will be the theatre on which the final act of this year’s race plays out.
This is the latest the Zoncolan has ever appeared in the Giro, and continues the recent Grand Tour trend of leaving the most iconic mountain until last. Such a ploy can make for a thrilling finale, as Nibali and Horner’s battle up the Angliru at last year’s Vuelta testifies, but can also fall flat if the GC is all but tied up already — see Contador and Andy Schleck’s restrained encounter on the Ventoux in 2009.
There is, of course, nothing flat about the Zoncolan’s gradient. As in 2003, 2007 and 2010, the riders will climb its most difficult side, which means an average gradient of 11.9 per cent. Even a few hundred metres at such steepness would be likely to cause gaps; whole minutes may separate the riders once they’ve completed the 10km to the summit.
In stark contrast to this painful finale, the first half of this stage is relatively flat. The climbing begins some 90km into the stage, when the peloton meet the narrow Passo del Pura and, after a brief descent, continues up the Sella Razzo.
The organisers seem intent this year on making every mountain count, by placing all the biggest ones towards the back end of stages. But, though the Del Pura and Stella Razzo are both difficult and positioned towards the finish, the unrivalled difficulty of the Zoncolan means the real racing will probably begin and end here.
Did you know?
Since its first inclusion in 2003, the Zoncolan has become a regular fixture of the Giro. Gilberto Simoni won the first two stages here in 2003 and 2007, while Ivan Basso won by over a minute ahead of Cadel Evans in 2010. The race last visited here in 2011, when Igor Anton became the first non-Italian winner.