Saturday 26 May 2012

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 - Passo dello Stelvio

Words cannot convey what today's stage entails. It is truly epic, not merely a challenge as are most things to which the word epic is these days applied, and any rider who finishes - no matter what his place in the results, or even if he does so outside the permitted time - can feel proud of his achievement. This is what the 2012 Giro all boils down to...

The Passo dello Stelvio. 2,757m, 36 hairpin bends, maximum gradient 15% - though get too close to the apex on some of those hairpins and you can be faced with a short but strength-sapping ramp far in excess of 20%. And as if all that's not enough, to get there the riders will first need to climb the 1,852m Mortirolo with its 18% maximum gradient. In theory, this edition of the Giro could be won on this stage; in reality, it's more likely to dramatically reorder the riders' times as they go to Sunday's time trial.

Did that look a bit too easy? How about on a fixie track bike?

Stelvio is...
...the second highest true mountain pass in the Alps. Only the Col d'Iseran is higher, and then by only 13m.
...making its tenth appearance in the Giro this year. The last time was in 2005. The fastest riders to the top...? 
 1953 - Fausto Coppi
1956 - Aurelio Del Rio
1961 - Charly Gaul
1965 - Graziano Battistini
1972 - José Manuel Fuente
1975 - Francisco Galdós
1980 - Jean-René Bernaudeau
1994 - Franco Vona
2005 - José Humberto Rujano Guillén
...often regarded as the hardest climb in the Giroirst climbed by the Giro in 1953, when Fausto Coppi used it to crack Hugo Koblet and take the maglia rosa.
...closed between October and May each year due to snow - as can be seen in the photo taken by Anthony McCrossan this morning. Snow can fall at any time of the year here, as was the case in 1965 when organisers and fans had to clear the roads using shovels. Nowadays, Mercedes Unimog snowploughs do the job when necessary. also sometimes featured in the Giro Donne, the last of the women's Grand Tours. The first time was in 2010, when Mara Abbott was the fastest rider to the top (she also won the overall General Classification). 
Passo dello Stelvio live webcams 1 2

From Bormio to the summit of Stelvio

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