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2011 Giro d'Italia to return to the Zoncolan

The full route of the 2011 Giro d'Italia will be revealed on Saturday October 23 in Turin but the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, that is owned by race organisers RCS Sport, has revealed that the Monte Zoncolan climb will be back as a decisive stage in the 2011 race.

The Zoncolan is in the eastern Carnic mountains of Italy and will be climbed on Saturday May 22 at the end of a 210km stage that starts in Leinz, Austria. Gazzetta reports that stage will include four other passes before the climb to the finish at an altitude of 1,735 metres.

The Zoncolan was first climbed during the Giro d'Italia in 2003, when Gilberto Simoni won the stage and Marco Pantani finished fifth in what would be his last ever ride in the Giro.

The stage climbed from the village of Sutrio on the East of the Zoncolan in 2003 but in 2007, when Simoni won again, the race organisers were able to climb from Ovado on the eastern side. This climb is even harder and considered one of the hardest climb in Europe. It is 10.10km long and climbs at an average of 11.9%.

Ivan Basso conquered the Zoncolan from the Sutrio side during this year's Giro d'Italia. After a head-to-head battle with Cadel Evans, Basso dropped the Australian and finished 1:19 ahead of his biggest rival for the maglia rosa. The rest of the peloton was spread over 30 minutes, with sprinter Graeme Brown last to make it to the finish.

The 2011 Giro d'Italia will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, with other stages expected  to finish on the edge of the Mount Etna volcano in Sicily, in the Dolomites and the Italian Alps.

The race will start on Saturday May 7 in Turin with a team time trial. The race will end with an individual time trial to Milan on May 29.

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.