It couldn’t have been anything but the “Kaiser”, the Zoncolan, one of the most legendary names in cycling – a myth, just like Moby Dick or Timbuktu. It was tackled along the ‘less painful’ side this year, coming from Sutrio, as it was for the first time in 2003 when Simoni took stage victory.
Over the last 18 years, however, the Zoncolan had become so famous and fascinating that it was apparent to anyone that it would unquestionably mark the real turning point of this Giro.
And so it did.
The first 10 kilometres look like a somewhat ‘ordinary’ climb, just as tough as many others. The true nature of the Kaiser is only revealed in the last 3,500 metres, where the road rises at an average 13% gradient, with peaks topping out at 25%.
That’s where Simon Yates launched his first attack at the 2021 Giro, jumping ahead of the other GC contenders, with just Bernal going with him – and clipping away after sitting on his wheel for a while, showing he was the man to beat, and that it would be very hard to strip him of the Maglia Rosa.
That’s where Lorenzo Fortunato kicked up the pace, dropping his fellow breakaway partner Jan Tratnik and taking an unforgettable maiden Pro victory.
The mountains have always been the setting of the most memorable racing feats, and the place where cycling stars are born. That’s why we love the mountains so much.
The best, most thrilling and unforgettable summit finish this year could be none other than the toughest one, with its legendary name – the “Kaiser”, the Zoncolan.