Stage 19: Abbiategrasso to Alpe de Mera (Valsesia)
What a cruel way to approach the concluding time trial in Milan!
Start: 6:20 EDT
Est. Finish: 11:14 EDT
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We’re only two days away from the end of this Giro, but stages 19 and 20 both have mountaintop finishes. What a cruel way to approach the concluding time trial in Milan! It will be fun for the tifosi and the race followers to watch two more mountain stages, especially because they take place in beautiful places—around the lake district of Italy and through a spectacular part of the Swiss Alps. By this point in the Giro, the GC leaders will be depending more than ever on their teammates—for the strongmen to keep the race together on the long approaches to the mountains and on their lieutenants on the climbs (remember how Rohan Dennis turned himself inside out to put Tao Geoghegan Hart in a winning position last October?). There will be other heroes this year, giving their top men the chance to win one of these last two mountain stages or be on the final podium.
The team worker bees will be hard at work for the first two hours, pulling the peloton across the Piedmont plain to the foot of the day’s first Cat. 1 climb, the Mottarone. Ascending for more than 15 kilometers from the shores of Orta Lake, it winds its way past woods of beech, chestnut, larch, pine and fir to a grassy peak from where there’s a 360-degree panorama that stretches north to the Alps and down toward seven lakes around its periphery—let’s hope it’s a clear day! Early breakaways will have a hard time climbing the middle section of 10-percent grades, but the strongest will earn a bonus of hurtling down the switchback descent to Stresa on Lake Maggiore, knowing that the finish is now only 70 kilometers away.
That destination, the remote Valsesia valley, is reached by first looping back to Orta Lake at Omegna and then climbing over a tricky ridge on the Passo della Colma. From the tiny village of Scopetta in the valley, the modern 9.7-kilometer access road to the Alpe di Mera ski resort (cowbells used to ring out from the livestock here in the summer) is not a typical climb. It starts out gently and gradually steepens and is into the double digits for the second half. It will be a truly watt-sapping challenge for everyone, while the fans will get to see the spectacular backdrop of snowbound Monte Rosa. Will Pinot still be around for this first-time finish? Or Bernal? Or Hindley, Or Yates? Or Landa? Or Carthy?