The queen stage of the 2012 Giro d'Italia will climb the Mortirolo on its way to a mountain-top finish at the Stelvio. The mountain showdown will come on the race's penultimate day on Saturday, May 26.
"Never before has a major world event attempted this type of initiative," race organisers said. The stage will be 218km long with a total of approximately 5,900 metres of climbing. Starting in Caldes, the riders pass through the Val di Sole before tackling the Passo del Tonale. Next up is the Aprica Pass, and after a rapid descent, the race will take on the tough climb of Teglio da Bianzone, which boasts gradients of up to 14%. A brief respite follows in the valley between Poggiridenti and Tirano, before the stage's set-piece climbs, the Mortirolo and the Stelvio.
The approach to the Mortirolo is a new one, from Tovo di Sant'Agata rather than from Valcamonica or Mazzo, but the climb is no easier for it – 11.4km at an average gradient of 10.4%, with slopes that pitch up to 21%. A fast, technical descent to Grosio follows before the riders face into the long haul to the finish at the summit of the Stelvio.
The difficulty of this final climb lies not just in its gradient (6.9% with a maximum of 12%) or its distance (22.4km), but also its altitude – at 2,758m, the Stelvio is the highest summit finish in the history of the Giro.
The stage route was chosen as the result of a fan poll, which asked them to pick the "climb-that-can-not-be-missed" for the 2012 Giro. Fans picked the Stelvio and the Mortirolo out of a selection of 32 ascents that have made the history of cycling.
"With a huge organisational effort, the Giro d’Italia managed to include both legendary climbs in the route of what will be the 'Giro 2012 Fan Stage', and - most probably - the stage where the next edition of the corsa rosa will find its winner," organisers said.
The Stelvio has seen three previous Giro stage finishes. In 1965, snow hindered things, as the riders had to get off their bikes and jump over the snow in the finale to reach the finish line, which had been cleared by hundreds of volunteers. The win went to Graziano Battistini. José Manuel Fuente triumphed at the summit in 1972, while his fellow Spaniard Francisco Galdos was the victor in 1975.
Perhaps the most storied ascent of the Stelvio came in 1953, the first year it was included in the race. On that occasion, Fausto Coppi crossed the summit alone en route to Bormio, as he dropped Hugo Koblet to win his fifth and final Giro d'Italia title.