Stage 16: Sacile-Cortina d’Ampezzo
Date: May 24, 2021
Stage start: 11:00 a.m. CEST
Stage type: Mountains
This has been billed as the toughest stage of the 2021 Giro d'Italia, and the stats fully back this up. Extending to 212km of racing through the heart of the Dolomites, it features three first-category ascents and the Cima Coppi, the highest climb of the race. This quartet of huge passes contributes to an astounding 5,700 metres of vertical gain – and, no, that’s not a typo!
The stage gets underway in Sacile, beginning with a dozen gently-rising kilometres where there’s likely to be a busy contest as the GC teams attempt to place riders in the break. That battle is likely to continue on the first climb, La Crosetta, which averages 6.6 per cent for its 15 kilometres. After bumping down to Belluno, a 50km section of false flat follows, passing through the first intermediate sprint at Agordo and continuing to the second at Rocca Pietore.
By this point, the riders will already be on the initial slopes of the legendary Fedaia pass, which lies beneath the region’s highest mountain, the 3,343-metre Marmolada. The gradient changes frequently on the opening half of the 14km ascent until, at Malga Ciapela, the road strikes out for the top with a vengeance, running at more than 11 per cent over the final 5.5km to the 2,057-metre-high pass.
The descent off the Fedaia’s western flank to Canazei is far less intimidating, but leads straight onto the next ascent, the 2,239-metre Passo Pordoi, the highest point of this year’s race and, therefore, the point where the Cima Coppi prize will be awarded. Averaging 6.7 per cent for 11.9km, it rises at a very consistent gradient through 28 hairpins. The descent to Arabba is equally steady, the road then undulating for the 25km to the foot of the final test, the Passo Giau.
It’s just a half a dozen metres lower than the Pordoi, but significantly tougher, averaging 9.1 per cent for its 10 kilometres, with some of the steepest sections arriving very early on. The descent off the Giau is steep too, the gradient easing to reach Pocol, then picking up once again to drop the finish town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the location of the 2026 Olympic Winter Games, which last featured on the 2012 race, when Joaquim Rodríguez led in a small group containing the GC favourites.
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