The Giro d’Italia’s 19th stage could be described as the antipasti to a full-on weekend that features what could well be a race-deciding summit finish on the legendary Fedaia pass and the final time trial in Verona.
Extending to 179km and described by Ineos Grenadiers deputy principal Rod Ellingworth as “very tricky indeed”, it starts very close to the coast at Marano Lagunare, heading north from there towards the foothills of the Alps, bypassing the city of Udine on the way. There are two third-category climbs before the route turns east towards Slovenia and the Julian Alps, where the stage’s main difficulty awaits.
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The first-category Kolovrat climb rises for 10.4km at a fearsome average of 8.9%. Its fiercest sections are nearest to the top, the last 4.5km averaging a leg-breaking 10.3%. Beyond the testing descent off the Kolovrat, the stage returns to Italian soil and heads for the final difficulty, the short but sharp climb up to the Santuario di Castelmonte, which rises at 7.2% for 2.3km to reach the finish line.
Israel-PremierTech’s Alessandro Di Marchi is from the Friuli region that’s hosting the majority of the stage and knows the roads well, including the Kolovrat. “I’ve done it three times now and it’s tough. It really takes your breath away. It’s a slow grind on a wide road,” says the Italian. Ineos’s Richie Porte, meanwhile, said, “It’s a super hard climb and quite a technical downhill.”
Di Marchi has had his focus on this stage for months. His fan club will be waiting for him at the finish, as will his family. But he says that his form is not good enough for him to try one of his trademark breakaways. “I’m going to enjoy it, because it would just be a bit pointless to try anything. My mind and legs aren’t going hand in hand at the moment,” he said at the stage 18 start in Borgo Valsugana.
“I’ve had a lot of dreams about for tomorrow, though. I will certainly sleep soundly tonight, but I’ll perhaps be a little more agitated than usual, because the idea of seeing so many people waiting for me including my wife and son is something that has been buzzing around in my head for months. Finally, the moment has come.”