Running from May 5th to May 27th, the Giro this year is building to a huge climax.
And the last 2 days offer an incredible test of the riders - at the end of 3 weeks of immense effort. The current General Classification [GC] standings after Friday's stage are
1 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA) 77:47:38
2 HESJEDAL, Ryder (GARMIN-BARRACUDA) + 0:30
3 BASSO, Ivan (LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE) + 1:22
4 SCARPONI, Michele (LAMPRE - ISD) + 1:38
5 URAN URAN, Rigoberto (SKY PROCYCLING) + 2:56
6 INTXAUSTI ELORRIAGA, Benat (MOVISTAR) + 3:04
7 POZZOVIVO, Domenico (COLNAGO - CSF INOX) + 3:19
8 TIRALONGO, Paolo (ASTANA) + 4:13
9 DE GENDT, Thomas (VACANSOLEIL-DCM) + 4:38
10 HENAO MONTOYA, Sergio Luis (SKY PROCYCLING) + 4:42
The stages during this week have shown how tight things are at the top: either a big sprint finish in which nobody of significance loses time to each other, or the top names have forged ahead and tried to steal some seconds from each other. Today's stage [Friday 25 May, stage 19, 198km] was another game of extreme cat-and-mouse: just look at the finishing order here and then look back at that GC table:
Stage 19 Results
1 KREUZIGER, Roman (ASTANA) 6:18:03
2 HESJEDAL, Ryder (GARMIN-BARRACUDA) + 0:19
3 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA) + 0:32
4 SCARPONI, Michele (LAMPRE - ISD) + 0:35
5 POZZOVIVO, Domenico (COLNAGO - CSF INOX) + 0:43
6 BASSO, Ivan (LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE) + 0:55
7 URAN URAN, Rigoberto (SKY PROCYCLING) + 0:57
8 NIEVE ITURALDE, Mikel (EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI) + 1:18
9 PIRAZZI, Stefano (COLNAGO - CSF INOX) + 1:22
10 GADRET, John (AG2R LA MONDIALE)
11 DE GENDT, Thomas (VACANSOLEIL-DCM) + 1:34
12 CUNEGO, Damiano (LAMPRE - ISD)
So Saturday's penultimate stage is going to offer a chance to each of them to take the race by the scruff of the neck and show the others who's boss - but the others might be ready to take some minor losses on the penultimate stage, because the Giro finishes with an individual TT on Sunday. If they're still in touch on Saturday night, a good time triallist could turn the world upside down on Sunday.
And for the onlookers, that can only be totally brilliant!
Saturday's finish is at the top of one of the great classic mountain passes in the Giro, passo dello Stelvio [you may have wondered how Schwalbe came up with the name for one of their most popular tyres!] The Stelvio is the Cima Coppi (highest point) of this year's race at 2758 m (9048 ft) and, on larger scale, is the fifth highest paved road in Europe and the second highest paved mountain pass. This will be the first time the Giro will finish at the top of Passo dello Stelvio. This stage is the last chance for pure climbers like Joaquim Rodriguez, Michele Scarponi and Domenico Pozzovivo to gain time before the final day time-trial in Milan. Although, Ivan Basso is a better time-trialist than any of these riders, he'll need to put time into Ryder Hesjedal [who had a good day on Stage 19] if any of the aforementioned riders are going to win this year's Giro d'Italia. Either Ivan Basso or Domenico Pozzovivo should win this mountain stage
And then it all comes down to the time trial on Sunday, 31.5km of total effort - either holding on to gains made on Saturday, or gnawing away at the losses: you only have to think of Steven Roche or Greg Lemond in the Tour de France to see how that can turn out!
For a brief historical look at the Stelvio look at THIS
For a profile of Stage 20 look HERE
and for another perspective look at THIS
[correct link now, original post had incorrect link]
Giuliano Calore - 48 hairpins, took just over 27 minutes averaging 80kph.