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Giro d’Italia 2021 Stage 16 (5 stars)
Monday, May 24
With a rest day beckoning, none of the GC leaders will be hanging back on what promises to be the most epic day of this Giro. With four giant climbs (all Cat. 1 or better), the highest mountain pass of the three weeks (the Pordoi at 2,239 meters, 7,345 feet) and a mind-boggling elevation total of 5,700 meters (18,700 feet), only the very strongest and freshest climbers will still be in with a chance of winning the stage in Cortina d’Ampezzo (population 6,000) after 212 kilometers and an estimated six-and-a-quarter hours of racing.
The climbing starts right from the get-go with just 9 kilometers of gentle uphill before starting the Cat.1 La Crosetta, which goes up for 16 kilometers at relentless grades of 8 to 12 percent. After 20 kilometers of descending and 65 kilometers on rising valley roads, an early break should be fully established before starting one of the toughest climbs in the Dolomites. The Passo Fedaia, sometimes called the Marmolada after the nearby mountain peak, it grinds on for almost 15 kilometers, with the second half often dead straight up 9-, 10- and 11-percent grades. Back in ’87 this is where Roche was being abused by the tifosi for his alleged traitorous riding against his Italian team leader Visentini; and to protect him, his Belgian teammate Eddie Schepers and Scottish friend Robert Millar rode alongside him, so he didn’t get hit by pelted rubbish.
The Marmolada nearly always sees significant action by the GC leaders, who also use the perilous descent to gain time before tackling the immediate climb of the Pordoi. These won’t be stage-winning moves, but anyone losing ground will have a hard time making it back up on the Pordoi’s steady 7-percent slopes— especially as the last 4 kilometers are in the thin air above 2,000 meters elevation. Riders in the leading group will have the incentive of sprinting over the summit for the prestigious Cima Coppi prize and with the rapid descent being followed by just 20 kilometers of up and down before the day’s final climb, chase groups will be in full flight.
This last ascent, the Passo Giau, will feel like a wall after already more than five hours in the saddle. Its 10 kilometers average 9.3 percent, with a max grade of 14 percent near the bottom and more double-digit percentages to come. It’s possible that a breakaway rider will win, but the 17.5 kilometers of downhill into Cortina should see just the strongest GC riders coming together and fighting for the time bonuses. Predictions? Bernal, Hindley and Yates could well be in the frame….
SCHEDULE (all times EDT)
Sacile start (0km) after 3.8km neutral (5 a.m.); La Crosetta (Cat. 1), 186.7km to go (5:59 a.m.); Agordo (sprint), 121.1km to go (7:35 a.m.); Rocca Pietore (sprint), 95.8km to go (8:17 a.m.); Passo Fedaia (Cat. 1), 83.9km to go (8:53 a.m.); Passo Pordoi (Cima Coppi), 58.8km to go (9:41 a.m.); Passo Giau (Cat. 1), 17.5km to go (10:53 a.m.); Cortina d’Ampezzo (finish, Corso Italia), 212km (11:15 a.m.).