After 13 stages and two rest days, stage 14 marks the beginning of the end for the fight for the Giro d'Italia's pink jersey. The 164km stage from Agliè to Oropa is the first of the high mountain stages with two category one climbs — Alpe Noveis and Orapo — but with the Plan di Montecampione the next day, a break may just succeed to the finish line.
There are four categorised climbs on the stage but it the cluster of the three ascent in the second-half that will test the riders and shake up the general classification. At 8km the Alpe Noveis is one of the shorter climbs of the day but it is probably one of the more difficult. The hardest part of the climb is in the second half as the road surface begins to deteriorate and the gradient begins to get harder. The average for the final few kilometres is 11% and peaks at 16% and once the riders descend the Noveis to Coggiola, they begin climbing once again.
The Bielmonte at 1482m is the highest climb of the day and has a ski station at the top. It is a long descent from the climb down to Biella where the riders must ready themselves for the last ascent of the day.
The Giro has finished at Oropa four times in its 96 previous editions but it is Marco Pantani's win here in 1999 that is most memorable. He lost 30 second at the base of the climb but coolly composed himself to take the victory by 21 seconds ahead of Laurent Jalabert (ONCE-Deutsche Bank).
After the stage Pantani said, "I was especially aiming to take time out of my adversaries, and I was not particularly thinking about winning the stage." Pantani was later thrown out of the Giro for a high hematocrit level.
The climb may not be long enough to make any significant gaps in the general classification but it should be an exciting finish.
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