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Anyone who wins a Giro stage atop Monte Zoncolan gets the momentum to shoot for the overall victory. That was the case three years ago when Chris Froome won the stage, starting a remarkable comeback that netted him the pink jersey a week later. That stage win, by a narrow margin over fellow Brit Simon Yates, was earned on the steeper, western approach to the mountain that averages 12 percent for its 10-kilometer distance. This year’s stage 14 is up the “easier” eastern approach, which has been used only once in the men’s Giro, in 2003, when Gilbert Simoni took a half-minute stage win and went on to win overall by almost eight minutes. Calling it easier is relative, of course. It’s slightly longer at 13.35 kilometers and rises 1,197 meters (3,927 feet) in three distinct sections: the first 8.75 kilometers at an average of 8.3 percent, followed by 1.5 kilometers at less than 5 percent, and then the coup de grâce: the final 3.1 kilometers at 13 percent, with a steepest pitch of 27 percent with 500 meters to go.
Clearly, Yates would like to go one better than he did in 2018, while Bennett, Pinot and Pozzovivo all finished in the top dozen that year. Also in contention should be Bardet, Bernal and Martin (all riding the Giro for the first time), Carthy, Hindley, Landa and one of Trek-Segafredo’s triumvirate of Ciccone, Mollema and Nibali. Not everyone may be waiting for the Zoncolan. That’s because 40 kilometers before is the Forcella Monte Rest, a deceptively difficult Cat. 2 climb, where Stephen Roche made an audacious attack on the technical descent that caught out his teammate (and race leader!) Roberto Visentini and put the Irishman in pink by the end of the day. Maybe that will inspire a current Irish team leader, Martin, or perhaps a Mollema, a Bennett or a McNulty, who’s not as confident of facing the pure climbers on Zoncolan II.