Stage 10: Cuneo - Riomaggiore (ITT)
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 11.00pm
Mega miles, massive climbs
Route: This is undoubtedly the queen stage of this year's Giro. The distance is epic, the climbs are iconic and the day is made for gnarly climbers such as Ivan Basso and Gilberto Simoni, who revel in this type of tough terrain. It comes the day after the first rest day - riders had better make the most of the time off because they'll need it.
Originally mirrored on the stage Fausto Coppi won by an incredible 11 minutes in the 1949 Giro, stage 10 was meant to include the Colle della Maddalena, Col de Vars and Col d'Izoard, although it won't travel up any of these due to a combination of natural hazards (landslides) and a clash between Italian and French radio frequencies.
It's undeniable that the stage, which was designed to celebrate the essence of the Giro, won't garner the same level of intrigue as originally expected. With no Alberto Contador to dominante proceedings though, it's likely the attacks will be on tap throughout the day, which should compensate for the truncated climbing on offer.
Colle del Monginevro - This is the first of the two big passes, where there's no respite from la salita. An average gradient of 6.4 percent and maximum of 14 percent - which comes late in the climb - will likely be contested by a bigger selection than that which will fight for honours on the ascent to Sestrière.
Sestrière - Following a descent of 17km into Gravere it's straight back to work for the troops as they muster to either launch or counter the likely attacks up these slopes. An average gradient of 8.6 percent that peaks at 11 percent early in the climb will be the perfect launching pad for a stab at the stage victory. The early ramps act as a natural selector before some reprieve is offered in the middle section of the climb ahead of the kick back up to gradients of between 6-8 percent.
Sestrière was the scene of an epic battle in the 2005 Giro, where Paolo Savoldelli, gunning for his second title, held off the challenge of Gilberto Simoni and Danilo Di Luca. That Giro was a revelation for Di Luca, who went on to finish fourth overall and claim the crown in 2007.
Procycling's Top Tip: The true contenders are sure to emerge, especially with the addition of the Pramartino just kilometres from the line. A daredevil descender who is also a top climber will win the stage. In the past, we'd say Savoldelli, but Astana's Levi Leipheimer also goes downhill pretty quickly.
Savio speaks: The 'Coppi' stage they had programmed before was going to be lethal. It would have been felt in the legs, up and down, and right after the first rest day – the riders would have been caught off guard. The organisers always knew they might have problems with snow. I remember back in 1994 when we did the Colle dell'Agnello, they had to stop the stage at one point because of snow. That stage has always been problematic.
Pay attention, I was informed by one of your journalist friends that that the arrival in Pinerolo the organisers inserted a wall in the final kilometre. It is a small passage, on pavé, in a pedestrian zone that lasts for 400 or so metres at 15 percent. Immediately after, there is the descent with two curves and then the finish. I know this zone around Torino well because I played football here in the amateur ranks when I was a young boy.