Giro's heavy-hitters contemplate the Santuario

Today the riders of the 90th Giro d'Italia will face the second of four mountain-top finishes in the...

Simoni, Cunego and Di Luca considers tough day ahead

Today the riders of the 90th Giro d'Italia will face the second of four mountain-top finishes in the form of Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia.

The 8.8-kilometre Santuario climb comes at the end of a taxing 250-kilometre northern run from Camaiore and, with its maximum gradient of 14% (and average of 8%), it should suit the explosive climbers, like Cunego, Di Luca and Riccò. However, the wise rider will have taken note of the 16.33-kilometre long Passo del Biscia, topping out 97.4 kilometres before Bolzaneto, the base of the final test, and the smaller Campi, 18.4 kilometres to Bolzaneto.

"It will certainly be more demanding than the arrival of Montevergine, and more adapted to my style," said the two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "There are more kilometres; the climb is longer and harder. Then, the more you climb the more the gradient increases.

"It won't be a decisive stage. I think that Sunday we let go an escape that will live on." He predicted what could happen in stage 10, "Probably an escape will go but before half-way up the climb it will be 'gruppo compatto.' Then there will be an attack from Sella or [Pérez] Cuapio and at this point who has the legs will play their cards. I suspect that some who departed from Sardegna as a captain will be reduced to a 'gregario.'"

2004 winner and Simoni's old teammate, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), has marked this climb in his race book "in red." He noted that this coming week could be worse than the third week.

"We are starting a week that is may be harder than the last," he said. "You will need to stay covered until the last minute and understand if you should limit yourself or take the race in hand.

"I have the condition to win it but I also see Savoldelli going well."

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is a similar type of 'explosive climber' as Cunego and he could seek to double on his Montevergine success. "Gibo," said the ex-Maglia Rosa when asked to name a favourite. "He is rising in these day and could vie for victory. I want to be there with him in what I consider the first of the important finishes in this Giro."

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