FEATURE: The regal Stelvio sets the scene for the queen stage of the 100th Giro d’ItaliaMon 22 May 2017
Tomorrow’s 16th stage of the 100th Giro d’Italia marks the return of one of the most iconic and mythical mountain passes in world cycling, the Passo dello Stelvio.
The queen stage takes in the iconic Mortirolo and a double ascent of the hairpin laden Stelvio to kick off a daunting final week of racing that will undoubtedly separate the pretenders from the contenders for the overall general classification.
A 21.7kilometre ascent up a winding mountain road towards the heavens, the Stelvio Pass is one of the most memorable features of many past editions of the Giro and a deal breaker of huge proportions.
First tackled in 1953 the Stelvio provided the setting for an epic stage win and fifth Giro d’Italia victory for the legendary Italian ‘campionissimo’ Fausto Coppi and cemented its place in the annals of cycling history after the Italians duel with Swiss rival Hugo Koblet.
The title Cima Coppi is handed to the highest peak of any Giro d’Italia and not for the first time 2017 sees the Stelvio once again take that honour.
The road is the highest in Italy and the second highest pass in the Alps and depending on the variable weather that can be experienced at such altitude, home to some of the most spectacular views on offer in world cycling.
The first ascent will see the riders tackle the classic and tortuous 21.7kilometre route at an average gradient of 7.1% before heading into a hair-raising 25kilometre descent and then the turn to climb up the Umbrail side of the Stelvio for 13.kilometres at 8.4%.
It has been an eventful first two weeks of racing at the 100th Giro d’Italia and with the final week to be played out in the high mountains, tomorrow’s queen stage could either be a battle royal for the race favourites or an ideal opportunity for the breakaway.
Whatever happens on stage 16 it will certainly be a day of spectacular bike racing and maybe one that lives long in the memory.
ORICA-SCOTT head into the final week with a stage win under their belts after Caleb Ewan’s victory in a sprint on stage seven and improving prospects in the general classification thanks to the grit and determination shown by 11th placed Adam Yates and the positive work ethic of a team united in the belief of succeeding.