Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 9 preview

Stage: Isernia to Blockhaus

Date: May 15, 2022

Distance: 191km 

Race times: 11:35-17:15 (CEST)

Stage type: Mountain

With around 5000 metres of climbing on the menu, stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia serves up a truly daunting day in the saddle for the riders fighting for the maglia rosa.

Starting in wine country, the race rolls out of pretty Isernia, a historical town in the Molise region, and immediately the ascents are upon the riders. Serving as a brief appetiser for the monstrous later courses, the category 3 Valico de Macerone tips the peloton straight onto the second-category Rionero Sannitico. 

From there, the peloton faces around 40km of descending before a further 40km or so of undulating terrain, which includes an intermediate sprint, an uncategorised climb and the whisper of a suggestion of a flat section, before the serious business of the day gets underway.

If the Passo Stelvio could be likened to a Tour de France climb, perhaps it would be Alpe d’Huez. Blockhaus, by contrast, is more reminiscent of Mont Ventoux in its stark relentlessness. Fearsome by name and by nature, it stands out both in its physical geography – part of the Maiella massif, which contains the second-highest peak in the Apennines – and name, which stems back to the 19th century when Austro-Hungarian forces used the peak as a garrison to control the Abruzzo hills. 

Now, it’s simply an ascent of brutal proportions. And as if climbing the monster once isn’t enough, this year the riders will face a double ascent. The first is the Passo Lanciano, a category 1 test at 10.3km with a 7.6 per cent average gradient. The cracks in the bunch will begin to appear as the GC contenders and hopefuls for the stage win pile on the pressure. The road is narrow in places with an uneven surface adding further challenges to an already difficult day.

The last rider to win on Blockhaus was Nairo Quintana in 2017. With Arkéa-Samsic waiving their wildcard for the race, he won’t be able to take it on again, leaving the door open for a host of both pure climbers and GC contenders to try their luck at purportedly the longest climb in Italy. Depending on how the GC competition is going, favourites such as Simon Yates, Richard Carapaz and João Almeida might find plenty of other strong contenders looking to ensure that it’s no easy ride: Hugh Carthy, Giulio Ciccone and Romain Bardet to name but three.

The final climb is listed at 13.6km with an average gradient of 8.4 per cent, including punishing sections of up to 14 per cent. However that’s not the full story. The ascent begins much earlier, and the climb just gets harder, and there’s nowhere to hide – the pure climbers will have their day. The combined total ascent to the top of Blockhaus is a whopping 28km at an average of 7.3 per cent - the riders will be crying out for the rest day once they’re through with this beast, which also provides the first summit finish of this edition of the Giro.

Katy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has published interviews, features, and previews in Cycling News, Rouleur, Cyclist Magazine and the British Continental. She also writes opinion pieces on her own website and is a frequent contributor to the Quicklink podcast. 

She is obsessed with the narrative element of bike racing, from the bigger picture to the individual stories. She is a cyclocross nut who is 5% Belgian and wonders if this entitles her to citizenship. Her favourite races are Ronde van Vlaanderen and La Vuelta.

In her spare time Katy is a published short fiction and non-fiction author.

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