Stage 3: Enna to Etna
Date: October 5, 2020
Stage start: 12:10pm CEST
Stage type: Mountain
The first summit finish is on what have in recent years become the very familiar slopes of Mount Etna, although the riders will come at the volcano via a new route from the north-east. The road towards it commences at Enna, in the dead centre of Sicily, and rollercoasters eastwards.
Etna’s smoking cone soon begins to dominate the view ahead, the peloton approaching it initially from the south-west. As they start a long half-circle around the distinctive peak of Western Europe’s highest active volcano, the undulations become more pronounced. The route passes through the first sprint at Zafferana Etnea, with 43km remaining, then bowls on to the second at Linguaglossa, where the 19-kilometre ascent to the Piano Provenzana begins.
This small ski station is set at an altitude of 1,793 metres and is reached by a road that wriggles upwards through 21 switchbacks. Averaging 6.6 per cent, the gradient is steady for the most part, climbing through deciduous woodland at the start and higher up passing mature pine forest, which should provide some shelter from the strong winds that often rake Etna’s flanks.
The road reaches the lava fields four kilometres from the finish, and it’s here that the aspect of the climb changes significantly. The route cuts between banks of dark pumice, Etna’s smoky and often snowy cone now every evident. At the turn towards Piano Provenzana, 3km from home, the gradient kicks up significantly too, climbing at two points more than the ascent’s average, with a few brief sections well into double figures in the penultimate kilometre. Stands of pine provide what will be welcome shelter on these ramps, before the road returns to Etna’s characteristic lunar landscape on the final approach to Piano Provenzana.
Mitchelton-Scott dominated a similar stage two years ago, Esteban Chaves winning just ahead of teammate Simon Yates, with their rivals the best part of half a minute behind. As was the case that day, the favourites for the maglia rosa should be well to the fore.
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