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Tuesday morning and the 2013 Giro d’Italia heads into its final week. After two already tough weeks of racing, made a lot harder due to the bad weather that has plagued the race, the final week is the toughest. It is the typical format that the Giro d’Italia organisers have followed; wait until the final week and then add some super-tough mountain stages. Even though Nibali may have a relatively comfortable lead at the moment, with the challenges ahead anything can happen.

Stage 16: Valloire – Ivera: 171.5km Medium mountains – This stage is not really going to see massive fireworks. With the reverse side of the Col de Mont Cenis taking the peloton back into Italy it is not until 18km to the finish that the riders take in their second catergorised climb of the day, a little 3rd category climb. It looks like a long break away will be on the menu for the day, but those racing for the GC who have not recovered well from the previous week may get into trouble on the final ascent. At just over 6 kilometres long with a section of 13% it could see some small gaps that could be significant later in the Giro.

Stage 17: Caravaggio – Vicenza: 214km flat – This is the final flat stage of the Giro before the final day. It should be a stage for a bunch sprint, where those big men who have hung in there over the mountains will want to get a final result. There should be little change on GC as those riding for the overall will be more focused on the next three stages, which will be the final battlegrounds in this year’s Giro.

Stage 18: Mori – Polsa: 20.6km Time Trial – 20.6 kilometres may be short for a time trial, but this is an uphill race against the clock. Taking place on the shores of Lake Garda it is not stupidly steep, but those who are tired and have not paced themselves well can potentially lose a lot of time. These is the first major test of the final week for the GC contenders and with some of the time gaps close, lower down in the top 10, places will change. With their current form it looks like it will be a battle royal between Evans and Nibali, but don’t count out those small climbers from Team Sky, Uran Uran and Heniao who could cause an upset.

Stage 19: Ponte de Legno – Val Martello: 139km High Mountain -This is a short and tough Giro stage that offers some of the most iconic climbs to greet the Tour of Italy. A starter of the Gavia, followed by the main course of the Stelvio all rounded out with the climb Val Martello, which makes its debut in the race. This stage has some serious climbs in it, classic Giro battlegrounds. 43 kilometres of climbing will cause havoc to the race, with a potential shuffle in GC on the cards. The new climb to Val Materllo is steep with two sections of 14% in the final 5 kilometres. Anyone having a bad day on this stage will see the end of their GC chances. Plus those big sprinters looking to make it to Brescia might be outside the time limit.

Stage 20: Silandro – Tre Cime Di Lavaredo: 203 kilometres High Mountain – This is the Queen’s Stage of the 2013 Giro. With its length and also over 6,000 metres of climbing it is where the race for pink will be won or lost. 5 climbs face the peloton all of which would be tough in their own right. Putting them back-to-back, with a mountaintop finish after 3 hard weeks of racing will see some fall like flies. The Passo Giau is a monster, with 10 kilometres where the average is no less than 9%. This is technically just part of the wearing down process because the finish up to Tre Cime di Lavaredo is brutal. 21 kilometres long, it has 3 stages, with the final 4 kilometres averaging 11.5% and having sections at 18%. Though as last year, placing a stage this tough this far into the race, it could be more a question of survival. Rather than racing, the riders with their fatigue may just ride to the finish, with those who are weak falling off of the pace. There is one thing for sure, they would never put a stage this tough in the Tour and this is what makes the Giro d’Italia the iconic race that it is.

Stage21: Riese Pio X – Bresica: 197km Flat:  There should not be too much racing today. With the tough stage prior to this the last stage many will be happy just to parade to Brescia and then race on its finishing circuits. With its distance it will not be too much fun for the peloton, but they will dig deep to make it through this last stage.  The GC should already be decided, so it will be one for the sprinters, or chancers.

As with many Giros the best is saved for last. The week ahead will see some of the most dramatic bike racing of the season, the hard parcours, high mountains and fatigue all adding to the show. If Mother Nature throws her hat into the ring, dumping more bad weather onto the race, then we could see some dramatic changes in GC. It ain’t over yet folks, there is still plenty of racing to come!

 

Author: Phil Gale

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