Former one-day specialist Michele Bartoli previewed Thursday what will likely be one of the first decisive road stages of the 2010 Giro d'Italia, Montalcino. The stage, May 15, tends with three sectors on Siena's white gravel roads.
"Whoever wants to win the Giro will have to keep their eyes open," Italy's Bartoli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Organiser RCS Sport uses the same white, rolling gravel roads that are in its Monte Paschi Erocia one-day race. The Giro stage will include 19.7 of its 215 kilometres on gravel.
"It's like turning back 50 years. It's a striking stage," Bartoli continued.
The first sector (5.5km) starts with 27 kilometres to the finish. Five- and 9.2-kilometre sectors follow. The second sector in Bibbiano will be an ideal launch pad for the stage win and to gain time in the overall classification. Its gravel sector becomes harder due to a climb that reaches 17 percent gradient.
"The entrance of the gravel sector is hard and it scared me a little bit. The road shot up more than I expected. You need a 25 gear behind, otherwise you can't go on."
There are around 10 kilometres after sector three to the hilltop town of Montalcino, famous for its Brunello wine. The final difficulty will be 800 metres of cobblestones in the centre of town.
The stage will play its part in the Giro d'Italia overall battle, which will be decided in the Dolomites and Alps. RCS Sport will take the riders up the Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, Mortirolo and Gavia climbs in the final week.
The Monte Paschi Eroica races nearly 60 of its 190 kilometres on gravel roads and finishes in Siena's Piazza del Campo. Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-HTC) won March 7, Fabian Cancellara won in 2008 and Alexandr Kolobnev won the first year, 2007.
Michele Bartoli raced for 13 years as a professional. In addition to the 1996 Ronde van Vlaanderen and 2001 Het Volk, he won the 1997 and 1998 editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, plus the 2002 and 2003 editions of the Giro di Lombardia.