Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Passo Dello Stelvio

2727. 1540. 36. These numbers are very meaningful if you are Italian. No, they are not Sophia Lorens measurements, or the number of women Silvio Berlusconi has cheated on his wives with (well that one might be close...). This is real data that commands the respect and sometimes fear of every member of the pro peloton. These are the stats for the legendary Passo Dello Stelvio

This beautiful print was designed by the fine folks at Le Rouleur Lent and can be purchased here in the states at those purveyors of all things cycling cool: Gage and Desoto

At 2727 meters it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps. Its vertical climb of 1540 meters has an average gradient of 7.7% with sections going deep into the teens. Its 36 hairpin bends have afforded it the title of "best driving road in Europe" on more than one occasion. To say that Giro stages involving the Stelvio tend to be epic would be an understatement. Since it's first inclusion in the race in 1953 it has been host to some of the most memorable moments in Giro (and cycling) history. 

Fausto Coppi attacking on the Stelvio in its first appearance in 1953. He went on to win his 5th and final victory in the Giro that year.

Because of its geographical location and its elevation it is often still buried in snow by the time the Giro comes rolling around. Countless images of snow banks 3 to 4 meters high along the side of the road can be found on the interwebs, and this years edition will be no exception:

Screen grab of the live webcam at the summit of the Stelvio from May 22, 2013 - 12:00 pm local time. 
Stage 19 of the 2013 Giro is going to be another epic day of racing. Not only is the Stelvio showcased, but it is bookended by the Passo Gavia at the start (another post worthy mountain) and a brutal mountain top finish on the Val Martello Marteltal. 

Some feel that the Giro winner has already been decided for this year but with a stage like this anything is possible... 

Will Vincenzo put his stamp on this years race and send the Tifosi into orbit as the latest example of the Italian domination of their prized national tour?

Will Cadel muster up some of that classic diesel fuel and grind his way to victory and add a second grand tour to his palmares?

What of the Colombian Uran? Can he add his name to the long list of Escarabajos who are revered as national heroes in their home country? 

I have no idea what will happen on Friday, except to say that it will be great and will further push the argument that Il Giro, and not Le Tour is the greatest stage race in the world. 

Racing starts bright and early Friday morning... get over to, find a link that works and doesn't take you to some shady site for russian brides, and then sit back and enjoy the fireworks. 

UPDATE: 05.23.13 5:42 pm - Just learned that both the Gavia and the Stelvio have been removed from this years stage 19 of the Giro. While I applaud the organizers commitment to the safety of the riders I can't help but be a little sad that we won't be able to see the spectacle that the Stelvio would have provided. Doesn't mean it won't be a great stage though, they have added the Passo Castrin in it's place and it will still finish on the Martello Martelltal (most likely in some foul weather), but it won't be what it would have had the grandeur of the Stelvio been a part.

UPDATE 2: 05.24.13 5:01 am - Woke up this morning to learn that the entire stage has now been cancelled completely. Also learned that Danilo Di Luca has returned a positive result for EPO in an out of competition doping control carried out on April 29th. Talk about adding insult to injury. 

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