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Here comes week three: showdown time

22/05/2023

In terms of the much hoped GC action, the second week of the Giro d’Italia 2023 did not provide us with much excitement. Fortunately, the breakaways took care of that, with attacks and counter-attacks in the pouring rain, last kilometre catches and heart-stopping sprints. In the third and final week, however, none of the big favourites will have the chance to hide any longer.

The first chance to shake things up will come as early as tomorrow, with the 203-kilometre Sabbio Chiese-Monte Bondone. Five KOMs on the menu: the Passo di Santa Barbara (1st cat.), the Passo Bordala (3rd cat.), the Matassone (2nd cat.) and Serrada (2nd cat.) will pave the way to the epic Trentino climb of Bondone, a mountain traditionally capable of turning mere riders into cycling legends. The final climb, tackled from Aldeno side, is quite uneven (21.4 km at 6.7%), with the toughest sections being the first 3 km (at 9%) as well as the stretch from km 12 to 19 (8.2%). A day to mark in red for Maglia Azzurra chasers as well.

Leaving aside the final catwalk in Rome, the only relatively uneventful day this week – at least in terms of general classification – should be the Pergine Valsugana-Caorle, 197 km as flat as a pancake, taking the peloton to the Adriatic coast, for what should be the sprinters’ penultimate chance. The pitfalls will be back on Thursday, with the 161-kilometre Oderzo-Val di Zoldo, the shortest road stage of this Giro, once again excluding the final stage in the capital. After the opening Passo della Crosetta (1st cat.), the riders will be faced with an explosive finale, first with the ascent of Forcella Cibiana (1st cat., 9.6 km at 7.8%), to be overcome with 26 km to go, and then, after the descent, with the climbs towards Coi (2nd cat., 5.8 km at 9.7%) and, immediately after reaching the Zoldo Valley, Palafavera (2nd cat., 2.7 km at 6.4%).

Friday will be Dolomite time, that one stage that can propel you straight into the history of this competition as well as the one that, in the collective imagination, is the ideal representation of the Giro: “the world’s toughest race in the world’s most beautiful country”. The enchanting scenery of the Dolomites, however, will be of little interest to the riders, who will be called upon to extreme fatigue in the 183-kilometre Longarone-Tre Cime di Lavaredo. In quick succession, the riders will tackle Passo Campolongo (2nd cat., 3.9 km at 7%), Passo Valparola (1st cat., 14.1 km at 5.6%), Passo Giau (1st cat., 9.9 km at 9.3%) and Passo Tre Croci (2nd cat, 7.9 km at 7.2%), before reaching Lake Misurina and starting the final climb towards the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (1st cat., 7.2 km at 7.6%), with the last 4 km constantly at 11-12%. After the cancellation of the Gran San Bernardo, the 2304 metres of altitude of the Tre Cime will also act as the Cima Coppi of this Giro.

However, and quite paradoxically, it should come as no surprise that the real queen stage, the one that will furrow the greatest gaps between the men in the rankings, will probably be Stage 20, the Friulian uphill time trial that will take the riders from Tarvisio to the unprecedented Mount Lussari for 18.6 km. The first 11 km are flat, but then the riders will have to tackle the last, hellish climb of the Giro, an ideal bridge between glory and disappointment, between the Maglia Rosa and a placing. It is 7.3 kilometres at 12.1% on a narrow, barely paved road, which is likely to be stormed by the fans. Should Primož Roglič still be in the fight for the overall victory, fans will also show up from Slovenia, making the atmosphere even more unique and unforgettable.

However it goes, the next day will be party time, at least for a few, as the riders will take off for Rome immediately after the time trial. The final catwalk will be 135 km long: after the start in the Eur area of Rome, the peloton will enter a circuit of 13.6 km to be repeated six times, with passages at the foot of the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla and Castel Sant’Angelo, before the arrival at the Imperial Forum. There, the emperor of the Giro will finally raise his own Trofeo Senza Fine to the sky.

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