Stage 15: A savage day to Zoncolan

Toughest climb in the Giro

Three climbs precede what is widely regarded as the toughest road climb in Europe. Gilberto Simoni claimed the easiest sections of Monte Zoncolan are as hard as the toughest climbs on the Tour de France. Like something from another world, it averages 11.5 per cent for 10km. The fans will love it and turn out in their thousands, the riders will endure it and be thankful for the rest day that follows. It will be interesting to note whether anyone can improve on the time of 39:05 that Simoni set for the climb in 2007. To underline just how brutal it is, his average speed for the ascent that day was just 15.05kph.

Procycling's favourite to win:

Simoni won both the previous stages here, but won't be here aiming for a third. Of course, a specialist will win and few are more specialist than Venezuelan José Rujano (right) if he's got his head together and his form is peaking.

Scarponi says:

"I did the Zoncolan from the slightly easier side in 2003, but wasn't at the Giro when they last went up in 2007. There's drama whenever the Giro goes to the Zoncolan. The secret on such a hard climb is not getting lured too far into the red zone, because the consequences here could be horrific. Nonetheless, it's quite hard to make up lots of time, because everyone goes as slowly as each other! Roughly the same applies on Plan De Corones."

Flashback: Tough climbs ahead

For giro organisers RCS Sport, spectacle is everything. The riders may hate climbs such as Plan de Corones and Monte Zoncolan but fans love the almost stupidly difficult battleground they provide. Expect thousands to turn out to view professional cycling's equivalent of a freak show.

When the Giro first ascended the Zoncolan in 2003, it was via Sutrio on the eastern side of the mountain. Race leader Gilberto Simoni was the first man to the summit after countering an attack by Marco Pantani. Sadly, it was to be one of the final occasions the latter showed his ability on the climbs before his death in 2004.

As had long been rumoured, in 2007 RCS Sport took the race up the much tougher western side of the mountain via Ovaro. The result was the same with Simoni taking victory, just ahead of Saunier Duval team-mate Leonardo Piepoli, now disgraced.

Stage Details

Distance: 218km

Vertical climb: 3,980m

Highest point: 1,730m

Terrain: High mountain

Category: Road Stage

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