Giro faces dilemma over Coppi stage to Pinerolo

By Gregor Brown

Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport may have to modify the 250-kilometre high-mountain stage dedicated to Fausto Coppi which is set to take place as the race's tenth stage on May 19. The same landslide along the French/Italian border that forced the 2008 Tour de France to skip the Maddalena pass may force RCS Sport to take an alternate route around that same climb which would see riders climb the Colle dell'Agnello instead.

RCS Sport designed the stage to be a duplicate of the one in 1949 where Coppi won with a solo attack of 192 kilometres. The 2009 route would cover the five climbs: the Maddalena, Vars, Izoard, Montgenèvre and Sestrière, with a 55-kilometres descent to the finish in Pinerolo. The stage was made famous when Coppi took the overall leader's maglia rosa from Adolfo Leoni and put an 11:52 gap on Gino Bartali, who finished second. Coppi won the Giro two days later with 23:47 on Bartali.

This year a landslide along the road of the Colle della Maddalena, or Col de Larche in French, forced the Tour de France to alter its 15th stage to Prato Nevoso. It substituted the climb with the Agnello.

The Giro may also use the Agnello, but from the opposite direction, to bypass the Maddalena. It would also have to skip the French Col de Vars in this proposed deviation. The route would resume on the original plan for the final three climbs, Izoard, Montgenèvre and Sestrière.

RCS Sport could, however, face additional problems by using the Agnello. The pass, at 2744 metres, is often still covered in snow in the month of May.

The Cuneo-Pinerolo stage appeared twice after Coppi won in 1949. Italy's Franco Bitossi won in 1964 and Frenchman Jacques Anquetil won the overall classification two days later. Italy's Giuseppe Saronni took victory in 1982 and Frenchman Bernard Hinault claimed the overall one day later. This year the Giro finishes 12 days later in Rome.

Coppi, winner of five editions of the Giro d'Italia, died of malaria in 1960.

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