Flash forward a few months, to May the 22nd – the rest day before the final week of the 2023 Giro d’Italia. With 15 stages done and dusted, the GC is already shaping up, but it’s still too early to say who will be crowned the winner. In such a star-studded race, some rookies will surely be trying to shine among the big aces. Anything can happen in the next five stages before the grand finale in Rome.
Week two was rough, but is now behind us. The race will resume from Sabbio Chiese, heading for Monte Bondone, taking a hectic 198-km rollercoaster ride across Passo di Santa Barbara, Passo Bordala, Matassone and Serrada, all the way to the legendary final climb up to Monte Bondone. The ascent is 21.4 kms in length, and rises at an average 6.7% gradient. Here, Charly Gaul braved the blizzard and scored his most memorable feat. The following stage will take the riders from Pergine Valsugana to Caorle on a 192-km route that should pose no particular problems. The ride should be quite fast, as the roads descend almost all the way.
Coming up next is a rather challenging 160-km stage across Veneto, from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo (Palafavera), with three major climbs crammed in the closing 35 kms: first the ascent to Forcella Cibiana (10.6 kms, rising at 7.8%), then the climb up to Coi (5.8 kms, 9.7%) and, after a short downhill, the closing ramp that leads up to Palafavera (2.7 kms, 6.7%). The queen stage across the Dolomites is scheduled for Friday, May the 26th. Starting from Longarone, the peloton will take consecutive climbs up to Passo Campolongo (4 kms, 7.2%), Passo Valparola (13.7 kms, 6%, 2,196 m above sea level), Passo Giau (9.9 kms, 9.3%, 2,233 m) and Passo Tre Croci (7.9 kms rising at 7.2%), before the final ramp leading 2,304 metres above sea level, atop the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. At 7.2 kms in length, the climb rises at an average 7.6% incline, with gradients bouncing to double digit over the last 3 kms. The winner of this gruelling 182-km ride will pass straight into the legend of the Giro d’Italia.
But there’s no sitting back and resting on one’s laurels, because the result of this colossal stage may be overturned the following day. The tough uphill time trial to Monte Lussari has a route of 18.6 kms, beginning flat and quick for 11.3 kms, and then rising for the following 7.3 kms at an average 12.1% gradient, with ramps topping out at 22%. An unfortunate day on such a demanding uphill stage would shatter all hopes and dreams of glory. Who will be wearing the Maglia Rosa? Who will be picking up the much-coveted Trofeo Senza Fine in the eternal city of Rome the following day? Only then will we know, at last.