By Gregor Brown in Milan
Andy Hampsten famously staked his claim to a Giro d'Italia win with the passage of the snow-covered Passo di Gavia in 1988. The rider from the USA was in Milan Saturday night for the presentation of the 2008 Italian Grand Tour, and pleased to see the famous 18.9-kilometre ascent included for the penultimate day.
"The Passo del Mortirolo will come after the Gavia, which is different from the year in which I raced it," noted the astute ex-cyclist to Cyclingnews. "I think they have done the Gavia as a non-finishing climb in the last few years, but doing the Mortirolo after the Gavia will be terrible. The Gavia is not the hardest, it is long, it’s steep, there is no way they can go easy over it."
The famed Mortirolo averages 10.3 percent over 12.8 kilometres of climbing and tops out 50 kilometres before the finish in Tirano.
"I think the Giro usually has more of an interesting profile than the Tour because it really focuses on the mountains in the north in the last part, and there is usually a pretty hard stage in the first week," he continued. This year the Giro will face the Pescocostanzo at the end of the first week. "In the Tour there is the long first week of survival. The Giro allows you to relax – if you not Italian – and have fun."
Unlike the 2008 Tour de France that was unveiled in October and has notably fewer time trial kilometres than recent years, there are 73.3 kilometres of the discipline that will appear in the 91st edition of the Corsa Rosa. Four time trials in total, one to start and end the race: A Palermo team time trial of 28.5km (stage 1), Pesaro to Urbino TT of 36km (10), a mountain TT to Plan de Corones of 13.8km (16) and a TT to the city renowned for fashion, Milano, on the last day of 23.5km (21). The Giro included a timed mountain test this year to the Santuario Di Oropa, but it has not seen an individual time trail on the final day in some years.
Hampsten, who has won three mountain stages in the Giro d'Italia, was pleased to see the number of time trial kilometres. "I don't know if the Giro has done the time trial on the last stage in quite some time. I know you journalists hate it because the race is held in suspense through the last moment, and you have to write a new script at the last moment – working harder. I think it is great that it is there, going into Milano they can probably have a pretty predictable course. I think it is good.
"The overall number of time trial kilometres is good; I wish they had done that more often. The team time trial is probably the worst event for the racers because it is so much stress, but an uphill time trial and a couple of short time trials is great. It will be fair and test the riders during the three weeks. It will give us an interesting variety of results.
The 45 year-old plans to stay in Italy for another week before returning to Colorado. "I am here for this and to organize one of my bike tours that will at the same time as the Giro. I am doing this, organizing my trip and then going to my little place in Tuscany. After that I will return home."