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93rd Giro d'Italia - Big Mountains
By John Summerson
Date: 5/15/2010
93rd Giro d'Italia - Big Mountains

93rd Giro d'Italia - Big Mountains
The major climbs are concentrated in the final two weeks: The climbs in the 2010 Giro d’Italia and comparable U.S.A. Ascents 

Along with a Netherlands start and multiple time trials, the 2010 Giro may become known for its return to big mountain climbing. After last year’s mix of plentiful hills but few monsters, the 2010 route contains some of the most difficult climbing challenges in some time and over legendary ascents. This year the Giro is for climbers and the mountain stages should be a major factor in the quest for the pink jersey.

Big mountains make their first appearance in stage 8 with a summit finish, one of many in 2010. Flat and/or bumpy stages follow until stage 14 which includes the giant Monte Grappa near its end. The last week of the race will be difficult as stages 15, 16, 17, 19 and 20 are all mountainous and include the legendary ascents of the Zoncolan (15), Mortirolo (19) and Gavia (20). Stage 16 is a rare mountain time trial and stage 20 is likely the most difficult of the race.

2007: Leonardo Piepoli leads Andy Schleck and Gilberto Simoni up the final slopes of Zoncolan. Simoni would win for the second time on the summit that day.

While many of the major European tour climbs are as famous as the races they are included within, the U.S. has only a handful that are well known to the cycling community. However, many are comparable to those used in the major tours. In case you want to test yourself on hills similar to what the pros will be suffering on over the next few weeks let’s take a look at the big climbs in the 2010 Giro and some of their American counterparts. States with climbs represented include Vermont, Virginia, California, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.

Stage 8: Chianciano Terme - Terminillo 184 km
After an up and down ride over most of stage eight the first major climb of this year’s Giro appears and it is the stage finish. Monte Terminillo is a long and difficult climb in the Apennine Mountains not far from Rome. At 10 miles in length and just over 7% average grade, this ascent is hard enough that someone can make a big statement regarding the overall race lead.

If you would like to ride a similar US hill try Glacier Lodge Road in California’s Owens Valley.

Views from Glacier Lodge Road in California

Stage 14: Ferrara - Asolo 220 km
After almost 120 kilometers of flat the riders in stage 14 will have to face down a monster near stage end. Monte Grappa is a big mountain and a classic climb.

At just over 11 miles long and with an average grade of 8% this hill should separate the peloton. Its descent leads to the stage finish and the first riders over the top should battle for the win on this day. The east side of Shirley Meadows northeast of Bakersfield, CA is statistically very similar to this route up Monte Grappa.

Stage 15: Mestre - Monte Zoncolan 218 km
As in the previous stage the peloton has a flat start on this day but mountains come back in force midway through and there is a killer on the route for the stage finish. There are four categorized climbs beginning with the Sella Chianzutan which begins a roller coaster ride. The short but nearly 10% avg. grade

Stage 15: Mestre - Monte Zoncolan 218 km   Graphic © Giro d'Italia 2010

Passo Duron follows (try the east side of Vermont’s Appalachian Gap for a similar ride) and at its base the Sella Valcalda will be ascended. All of these hills are mere warm up for the day’s final climb of the Zoncolan. The Zoncolan has only been used twice in the Giro and has but one winner on its slopes (Gilberto Simoni). At just over six miles and almost 12% average grade, it is one of the most difficult climbs in cycling and should scramble things at the top of the leader board. If you would like to ride a similar US hill try Vermont’s Mount Equinox.

The finishing stretch of steep Mount Equinox in Vermont

Stage 16: San Vigilio di Marebbe/St. Vigil -
                                Plan de Corones/Kronoplatz ITT 12.9 km

As in the 2008 Giro, stage 16 is a mountain time trial. In 2010 it is again up the Plan de Corones in the Dolomites with its unpaved section and 24% maximum grade. In 2008 this climb drew huge crowds and rider criticism and will likely do both again this year. It is a spectacular setting however and should make for great racing.

The steepest sections are at the beginning and end of the 5 km long unpaved finishing stretch and the edge should go to the riders who can handle the gravel surface (and super steep grades). An American climb with similar stats (but without the unpaved top) is Virginia’s Wintergreen.

Scenic and steep Wintergreen in Virginia

Stage 17: Brunico/Bruneck - Peio Terme 173 km
The climbing continues on stage 17 with one major climb along its route and a summit finish. The Passo Delle Pallade (11.6 miles at 6.6%) is a long ascent located about midway through the stage.

Stage 17: Brunico/Bruneck - Peio Terme 173 km   Graphic © Giro d'Italia 2010

A similar American climb is California’s scenic Refugio Road near Santa Barbara. After the descent of Passo Delle Pallade the riders will climb up to Peio Terme at an altitude of almost 1,400 meters to finish.

Stage 19: Brescia - Aprica 195 km
After a flat stage near the Swiss border climbing continues on stage 19 and it is concentrated over its 2nd half. While there are 4 categorized climbs on the day, 3 separate hills will be used (the long and gentle Aprica is the first and last). After Aprica the steeper Valico di Santa Cristina (6.8 miles at 7.6%) must be negotiated.

Stage 17: Brunico/Bruneck - Peio Terme 173 km  Graphic © Giro d'Italia 2010

It is similar in length and just a bit steeper than California’s Mount Tamalpais but only plays a set-up role on this day. The key climb of the stage follows and is the famous Mortirolo (7.9 miles at 10.3%) and will likely splinter the peloton. Narrow and steep, it is a legendary ascent and its descent down the other side is difficult.

A similar American climb is Utah’s Powder Mountain. At the end of the descent of the Mortirolo the riders will climb back up the Aprica for the stage finish.

Mortirolo profile

Stage 20: Bormio - Ponte di Legno - Tonale 178
Often the best is saved for last and stage 20 is likely the most difficult of the 2010 Giro. Anyone in contention overall who wins on this day will have earned it as it is also the sixth of the previous seven stages with serious climbing. There are five ascents on the agenda and of those 2 are big hills.

Graphic © Giro d'Italia 2010 - Gazzetta dello Sport

 One of those is the first of the day, the Forcala di Livigno. Long and steep (11 miles at 7%) it will inflict pain early in the stage. Although a bit longer, ride Hawaii’s Koloko Drive for a similar experience.

Two smaller hills follow and the fourth climb of the day is the famous Gavia (15.4 miles at 5.6%), with its narrow stretches, stupendous views and poor pavement. The highest point reached in the race in 2010 (Cima Coppi) and the scene of an epic ascent that catapulted American Andy Hampsten to victory in 1988, the Gavia will certainly influence the stage and possibly the overall race winner. An American climb with similar statistics is Oregon’s Mount Hood.

A tight swtichback on the Gavia

After its descent the stage and hill climbs in the 2010 Giro will end at over 1800 meters at the Passo del Tonale (6.8 miles at 5.7%). After a brutal final week this last hill could decide the race. Nevada’s Geiger Summit West near Reno is a statistically similar hill.

Giles Belbin's Parcours Preview Week 1
Giles Belbin's Parcours Preview Week 2
93rd Giro d'Italia - Favorites Preview
2010 Giro d'Italia Team & Rider Start List
2010 Giro d'Italia - At a Glance
93rd Giro d'Italia - Start List
Stage 5 Report
Stage 6 Report
Stage 7 Report
After Stage Interviews  

John Summerson Climbing Articles
92nd Giro d'Italia - Climbing in the 2009 Giro d’Italia
2008 Tour de France
95th Tour de France - The Major Mountains & Climbs 1
95th Tour de France - The Major Mountains & Climbs 2
2008 Tour of Italy
91st Giro d'Italia - Giro Climbs & Comparable USA Climbs - 1
91st Giro d'Italia - Giro Climbs & Comparable USA Climbs - 2

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