By Gregor Brown
The Giro d'Italia organiser confirmed this afternoon that its 2014 edition will climb Monte Zoncolan's steep pitches and finish, on June 1, at the seaside in Trieste. Organiser RCS Sport, including race director Michele Acquarone, visited Trieste to make the announcement.
"Cycling takes place on the streets of cities, towns and countryside - not indoors - and this gives us wide open spaces to promote the area," Acquarone said in a press statement. "It is unique opportunity: history, tourism, culture. Opportunities for everybody to highlight all the excellence that this area has to offer."
The finish in Trieste celebrates the 60th anniversary of the city's return into Italy's hands. The race started the port city - famous for its wind, Miramar castle and Illy coffee - in 1981, and finished there in 1966, 1973 and 1983. It continues a recent trend and marks the 23rd time the race detours from Milan, RCS Sport and La Gazzetta dello Sport's headquarters, for its finish. Last year, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) won the race in Brescia.
Anti-Italian activists greeted the race when it visited in 1946, just after annexation. They stopped the 12th stage early by blocking the road with cement blocks and throwing nails and stones. In 2014, the race should make its way in calmer conditions to Europe's biggest seafront square, Piazza Unità d'Italia. The day before, however, the general classification riders will be at each other's throats.
On May 31, the Giro d'Italia returns to Monte Zoncolan for the fifth time in its history. The climb with its steep pitches, 11.9% average, draws comparisons to the L'Angliru that the Vuelta a España covers this Saturday. Spaniard Igor Antón (Euskaltel) won the last time the Giro visited in 2011.
At 11.9 per cent over 10.1 kilometres, the Zoncolan averages more than many of Italy's other famed climbs: Mortirolo (10.5% over 12.4km), the Colle dell Finestre (9.1%, 18.6km) and Passo Gavia (7.9%, 17.3km). L'Angliru in Spain climbs 12.2 kilometres and averages 10.2 per cent. Ivan Basso in 2010 said, "There are five to six kilometres where you can't breathe."
That is the tail end of the race. Earlier this year, organiser confirmed Belfast would see off the race on May 10. It makes its way to Dublin in the first three days. Between Dublin and Trieste, details remain sketchy. The race may travel to Bari for a team time trial, make its way through Umbria and Tuscany.
According to locals, it will feature a time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo, the famous wine zones in Piedmont, on May 22. RCS Sport essentially confirmed the news this morning when it sent out an invitation for September 18 that read, "Taste the new Giro stage" and pictured a glass of red wine, seemingly a Barolo DOCG.
Besides the Monte Zoncolan mountain stage, local media reports that a first ever visit to the Panarotta refuge in Trentino is planned on May 29. Other mountains and stage details may leak out or, as with today, come officially via RCS Sport. For full details, fans must wait until the Giro d'Italia presentation on October 7 in Milan.
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