The Giro d'Italia awoke to the sound of heavy rain this morning with weather forecasts predicting six continuous days of bad weather and possible snow in the Alps for the weekend mountain stages to Bardonecchia and the summit finish on the Galibier.
Today's twelfth stage from Longarone to Treviso is just 134km and so the riders face just over three hour of racing in the rain. However Friday's stage from Busseto to Cherasco is the longest stage of this year's race at 254km in the saddle.
Italian weather forecasters have issued several warnings with three waves of bad weather expected to hit the north of Italy for the next six days.
The rain might ease on Thursday afternoon and possible Friday afternoon but a further weather front will pass across northern Italy on Saturday and is expected to bring wet and cold conditions.
Snow in Bardonecchia and on the Galibier
According to Gazetta dello Sport, snow is expected or Saturday's finish at Bardonecchia and at the summit of the Col di Galibier. Web-cam images show that it is also snowing at the summit of the Passo Stelvio, where the Giro d'Italia is due to pass next Friday.
The so-called 'quota-neve' -the altitude when snow is expected, is 1370m for Saturday, when the weather is forecast to be at is worst. The finish is at 1908m. The weather may improve for Sunday's stage from Cesana Torinese to the summit of the Galibier but snow falls in the next few days could force the race organisers to shorten the stage, with an alternative finish in Valloire (1405m) after the Col du Télégraphe, the most likely solution.
It is not only the climbs to the finish that will be difficult. Both mountain stages include high climbs mid-way and long descents that could leave the riders freezing and cause crashes.
On Saturday's stage the riders climb to the Sestriere ski resort (2035m) before a 20km descent to Oulx and the start of the final climb to Bardonecchia. Sunday's stage climbs the Col di Mont Cenis early on and a two-step descent to the foot of the Télégraphe last for close to 40km.
That could be bad news for Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) who crashed in the rain on the road to Pescara and even current race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who was badly affected by the snow and cold at Milan-San Remo.