Alberto Contador, Michele Scarponi and Carlos Sastre have all identified the trilogy of mountain finishes in the Dolomites as the decisive moments in the battle for overall victory in this year’s Giro d’Italia.
All three riders and their teammates have recently completed reconnaissance trips to the Dolomites to study the climbs of stage 13, 14 and 15 that end with mountain finishes on the Grossglockner, Monte Zoncolan and Gardeccia/Val id Fassa.
The descent of the Crostis worried Contador more than the climb to the finish on the Zoncolan. He admitted he had never seen anything like the dirt road section at the top and the near vertical drop off at the side of the narrow road. “It scares me,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport who followed him during his ride.
He was told that the race organisers will erect safety nets to catch any riders that may crash on the descent but said: “That doesn’t go close to the limit, it goes over it.”
Contador tested a gear of 34x32 for the final 2.5km dirt road section of the Crostis before checking his tyre pressure and beginning the very technical descent. He joked: “The best thing could be to change bikes at the top and use a mountain bike. We have to hope it snows that day so that we can’t get up here. It’s a great place but to have a barbeque.”
On the second day of his trip, Contador and Saxo Bank-SunGard teammates Dani Navarro and Jesus Hernandez studied much of stage 15 from Conegliano to Gardeccia/Val di Fassa.
It includes the Passo Giau –the highest climb in this year’s race (2236m) and so offering the Cima Coppi prize, the Passo Fedaia (2057m) and then the 10 per cent climb to the finish at the Rifugio Gardeccia (1948m) which ends with a kilometre on dirt roads.
“I think there must be a total of about 6500m of climbing. I’ve never done that much in my life. And there’s the distance too: 230km. And the fact we do it after the stage to the Zoncolan,” Contador said. “If anyone is still alive after the Crostis and the Zoncolan, this will seem like a walk in the park.”
Scarponi worried by the Gardeccia, Sastre
Michele Scarponi studied the Dolomite stages after winning the Giro del Trentino. He was stunned by the Gardeccia, the fifth climb of the stage after 220km of racing.
“The Gardeccia is a very hard climb. I thought it’d be different with a more constant gradient but right from the start it’s really steep before easing in the middle and then kicking up again in the last three kilometres,” he said.
“It’ll make a difference after two weeks of racing and after a hard stage. It might not decide the Giro but it’ll show who can win it.”
Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC) studied the key climbs and carefully selected equipment and gears for the climbs.
“We were able to figure out which material to use for these stages and above all, we saw how hard and epic this Giro may well turn out to be,” Sastre said. “In all the years I have been competing professionally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such long, hard and spectacular stages as the ones we’ll be riding on 20 and 21 May.”
“The Giau and Fedaia are two important climbs, that are always worthy of respect. The Giau is especially hard in the final part and the Fedaia has that central section with long straights that seem endless. I wasn’t familiar with the Gardeccia climb, it has some extremely challenging stretches and you really need to take into consideration that you get to this wall after more than 200 km in the race.”