Obviously it’s a huge stage and a stage for champions. I’d expect to see Contador make a real difference here, because he’s the outstanding rider in this Giro. On some mountain stages you can get away with it by being clever, but there’s no hiding place on days like these.
I don’t know the Mortirolo, because they didn’t start riding it until 1990. It would have been impossible with the bikes we had. When I started we had 53/44 on the front and that was it. You had five gears on the back, from 13 to 25. So when we rode up Tre Cime di Lavaredo in a blizzard in 1968, I would have been on 44x25. To be honest I still don’t really know how we made it up there. For ‘normal’ riders like me it wasn’t a race in the traditional sense. We were just hauling our bikes up as best we could and the public helped by pushing us…
Moment in time
As the bicycle evolves, so too does the Giro percorso. These days bikes have very light frames and an infinite choice of gear ratios and as a consequence they can get over climbs that were hitherto unthinkable. When the race organisers introduced the Stelvio in 1953 there was genuine concern they’d lost their marbles. It was the same with the Gavia in 1960 and again with Tre Cime di Lavaredo in 1967. Ditto the Fedaia, the Nigra and latterly today’s beast, the Mortirolo.
It was absolutely hateful when Franco Chioccioli rode over it on 42x26 gears, but nowadays club riders hack their way up on 30x28. It’s subsequently been superseded by the Zoncolan as the Giro’s most horrific climb. All of which leads us back once more to 1933. The Tonale, today’s anti pasto, wasn’t the first Giro climb to exceed 1,000m, but it was a monumental undertaking all the same. The poor blighters who hauled themselves over it had no rear derailleur, much less a granny ring.
What they had was two gears, one either side of a removable back wheel. They therefore switched the wheel round at the foot of the climb and began the long march. And the point of all this? The point is that it was ever thus. To us it’s neither here nor there, but once upon a time getting over the Passo Tonale was a Herculean feat of endurance…