Stage 14: Cittadella-Monte Zoncolan
Date: May 22, 2021
Stage start: 11:42 a.m. CEST
Stage type: Mountains
The third weekend begins with the biggest test so far for the GC contenders, a summit finish atop the infamous Zoncolan. The stage is a long one, commencing in Cittadella. It runs north-east initially, skirting the Alps. The first climb arrives after 77km, but it’s a mere taster, a category 4 into Castello di Caneva.
Staying in the lea of the mountains, the riders will pass through the first intermediate sprint at Meduno, where the route turns northwards, high peaks now crowding on both sides. It’s clear the nature of the stage is changing, an impression confirmed when the race reaches Tramonti di Sopra and the 11.1km ascent of the second-category Forcella di Monte Rest begins. Gentle for its opening 3km, it averages around 7 per cent beyond that point.
The route descends, bar one upward kick, into the valley beyond to reach the second intermediate sprint at Arta Terme and, soon after, the village of Sutrio, at the eastern foot of the Zoncolan. This is undoubtedly the easier side of the fearsome ascent, which largely explains why this is just the second time the Giro has climbed this flank in six previous visits, the last time being when the Zoncolan was unveiled to the cycling world in 2003 and Gilberto Simoni was the stage winner.
Yet, the ascent from Sutrio is still extremely fierce, averaging 9 per cent for 13.2km. For eight kilometres, the gradient remains within a point either side of 8 per cent, then slackens off briefly. Unlike the western side from Ovaro, which eases considerably in its final kilometres, the last 3km on this flank are monstrous, averaging 13 per cent and with many ramps almost half as steep again as that. The final kilometre is the steepest of all at 14 per cent, and will finish off the GC ambitions of some of the maglia rosa favourites.
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