Chris Froome heading for the stage win.
The finish of Stage 14 is on the monstrous Monte Zoncolan, described as one of the toughest climbs in Europe. Not a bad place to experience my first Giro stage finish.
Just need a plan to get to the top before the crowds get even crazier.
After warming up the legs rolling down to Ovaro, suddenly a 32-tooth rear sprocket seems inadequate as I hit the first 1 km of a 10 km climb up a narrow path (definitely not my definition of a road) with walkers and cyclists going in both directions and both sides of this ‘road’.
So suddenly it’s a challenge to ride and make progress upwards. No longer do I look disapprovingly at people on mountain bikes with a triple front chain ring riding away from me.
I quickly decided the second smartest people on the climb are those with mountain bikes (who I had looked at disapprovingly earlier) and the smartest people are those riding electric mountain bikes!
For those technically inclined the Monte Zoncolan is:
I managed to make it up in short bites and the odd walking section with a rest stop at 5 km for food and coffee (actually a leg-rest). The crowds are getting crazier and the road gets very interesting as the rain starts to fall around the 3 Km to go marker…so welcome to the high Italian mountains and the Giro.
Negotiating the last 2 kms is fun as stopping for any photo’s under the distance banners means getting someone to give you a push to get going again. Grazi..grazi..
After going through 3 narrow tunnels paved with cobbles, the last 1 km opens up into a series of switchbacks lined with police, crowd controllers and general mayhem. The hill is covered in thousands of spectators of all nationalities waving flags and waiting expectantly for the professionals to show how to tackle Monte Zoncolan. A local ‘jug band’ entertains us and as best as I can tell it’s to support the ‘sprinters’ who hate these big climbing stages.
Team cars make their way to the summit on the narrow roads of Zoncolan.
Finally the Giro riders hit the bottom of the climb and the excitement builds especially when any of the Italian riders get to the front..the commentator is his usual excited self and the big screen is showing us on Italian TV…RAI2.
The hovering helicopters overhead mean that the peleton has arrived is close and suddenly Chris Froome who has been having a difficult Giro experience bursts to the front and hammers up the last of the switchbacks. Simon Yates riding brilliantly for Mitchelton-Scott responds and follows in for a well-earned 2nd place and another time bonus and retains his Maglia Rosa.
Wow: what an unbelievable experience….happy crowds, great riding and incredible scenery. Monte Zoncolan is a very special place.
For a cycling fan, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Now I just have to negotiate the descent in one piece in the fading light and those crazy MTB riders…I’m very glad of the disc brakes by the end.
Photo and words by Rossco.