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The peloton climb through the snow on stage 15
Stage 20 altered due to conditions but final climb will remain
Giro d'Italia technical director Mauro Vegni has vowed that stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia will reach the summit of Tre Cime di Lavaredo regardless of the weather conditions on Saturday.
Friday's stage from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello was cancelled due to heavy snowfall – the first time a Giro stage had been cancelled for such a reason since 1989 – and the route of stage 20 has already been altered due to the conditions. The climbs of the Passo Costalunga, Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Giau have been removed from Saturday's course, although the final climbs of the Tre Croci and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo remain.
Snow is currently general in the Dolomites at altitudes above 1,000 metres but even though the summit of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo stands at 2304 metres, Vegni is confident that the show will go on.
"Ci arriviamo – we'll get there," Vegni told a press conference in Val Martello's biathlon centre on Friday afternoon, where he and Michele Acquarone also gave their reactions to Danilo Di Luca's positive test for EPO.
"The feedback we've got from the riders after cancelling today's stage is important. We've looked to take any dangerous descents out of the route and they have told us that they are ready to make sacrifices to bring the stage home even if the weather isn't optimal."
The altered stage – now 211km in length – will see the peloton cover largely valley roads from the start in Silandro until reaching the foot of the Tre Croci, although the final 60 kilometres of the stage, from Monguelfo onwards, will all take place at an altitude in excess of 1,000 metres.
"We can finish on top of Tre Cime di Lavaredo for the simple reason that it's not a descent, and we can clear the road if it snows overnight," Vegni said. "Snow is cold but it's primarily risky for safety on the descents: if the temperature drops and the snow freezes, it makes the roads very slippery. But the stage is mainly made up of valley roads and climbing. We've designed a route with almost no descents."
Vegni pointed out that the organising team includes Stefano Allocchio, who rode in the famous snowbound stage over the Gavia in 1988, and said that RCS would be monitoring conditions along the route of stage 20 overnight.
"A slight improvement with a break in the clouds has been predicted for tomorrow but we're not relying just on the weather forecast, we're monitoring the situation ourselves," he said. "We've got people at all of the vital locations on the course to keep us informed on the snow and the temperatures, so that we can decide quickly if we need to change the stage or not."
Giro d'Italia managing director Michele Acquarone quipped that RCS had been forced to reach for Plan C in order in salvage Saturday's stage, and lauded Vegni as a "magician" for his work to date. Vegni agreed that the extreme conditions had posed significant problems for the organisers, with the climb of Sestriere removed from stage 14, while the final four kilometres were cut from last Sunday's summit finish on the Galibier.
"It's been a difficult week, starting from Saturday when we had to remove the climb of Sestriere. We managed to save the Galibier stage by the skin of our teeth, even if we had to cut it by 4km," said Vegni.
It was also confirmed that the Tre Cime di Lavaredo will now carry the Cima Coppi prime for the highest point of the Giro following the cancellation of stage 19 and the consequent removal of the Stelvio from the route.