Giro d'Italia

US pro roundtable: What is the hardest stage of the 2020 Giro d’Italia?

Brandon McNulty and Joe Dombrowski give us the racer's perspective on this year's hardest stage in the Giro d'Italia.

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The Giro d’Italia is in full-swing, and for the next three weeks, we will be covering every angle of the Italian race here on velonews.com. As an added bonus, there are eight American riders starting the 2020 Giro d’Italia, and they have lent us their expert perspective to help shed light on the event and all of its glorious trappings.

We have questions about the Giro, and our pro riders have the answers. So, every day throughout the Giro we will roll out a new Pro Roundtable, with expert perspective from two pro riders and one VeloNews editor. Today, the questions focus on what’s the hardest stage in this year’s race, and what’s their best Giro memory — as a racer or a spectator.

What is the hardest stage of this year’s Giro and why?

Joe Dombrowski: People always ask questions like this and it is kind of a funny answer because really it is how we race and not the racecourse that decides. I’ll never forget a day in the Giro last year or two years ago that came just after a rest day. We started up a 10km climb and Esteban Chaves was dropped and all of the other GC guys just went for it. The stage was 220-kilometers long and the bunch split in two at the beginning. There was only a minute’s gap, but for like five hours it was just full gas! And at the end, the chase finally gave up like 20 – 30 kilometers from the end. That was an example of a stage that didn’t look so hard on paper that turned out to be really hard.

Brandon McNulty: Something in that last week. I did not have a chance to inspect any of these stages in person. We only saw the opening time trial. We’ve been studying the routes on VeloViewer, so we know how hard that last week is going to be. The big thing will be the altitude. I am not sure how many guys will like going to such high altitudes so late in the season. I don’t know how that will go. There’s fear in the weather changing the courses, too. I’ve raced stages with mid-4,000m of vertical before. I’m not sure if I’ve ever done more than 5,000m. I know it’s not going to be easy.

Andrew Hood: Stage 20 is a brute. If weather forces it to be altered, that will be a shame and will alter the tactics going into the final week. If it’s re-routed over Finestre, we’ve seen how that can still be difficult enough to blow open the race, based on how Froome delivered the dramatic turn of fortunes. The finish would be at Sestriere, rather than Bardonecchia like in 2018, so it will be less decisive. If the weather forces organizers to reroute the big climbing stages in the north, that will favor whoever is in pink at the time.

What is your best Giro d’Italia memory from your own experience or watching it on TV?

Joe Dombrowski: That’s tough. Hmm, I would say this stage 20 in the 2016 Giro that started in southern France. I was in a breakaway that raced through the Southern Alps there. We did the Col de la Bonette and some other climbs close to Nice, where I live and train. I knew the roads quite well so I felt that I was racing close to home. And then my mom and dad and some friends were there about a kilometer from the finish and I got third that day. That was very cool!

Brandon McNulty: To be honest, I’m not really attached to the Giro. At least not yet! I know some guys really like the Giro, more so than any of the three grand tours. For me, it’s just crazy that I’ve made it here. In a dream world, I would do well on a stage or finish on the podium. In reality, I can imagine it will just be surviving, and trying to get to the final stage.

Andrew Hood: For me, it had to be the first Giro I covered all the way back in the 1990s. Everything was full-gas (in every sense of the word) and seeing the likes of Pantani, Cipollini, Olano, and Bartali in person was so impressive. The color, enthusiasm, chaos, and passion of the Giro is unlike any race in Europe, and it remains one of my favorite events to cover.