MILAN (AFP) — The fight for the 2014 Giro d’Italia could be decided on a ride into “hell” as the formidable Monte Zoncolan will be tackled on the penultimate stage, organizer RCS Sport confirmed on Friday.
The race’s 97th edition will begin in the decidedly un-Italian city of Belfast on May 10 before rejoining the continent for the remainder of the three-week epic.
Although the battle for the race leader’s pink jersey ends on the 21st and final stage in Trieste, on June 1, those fighting for overall victory are likely to do battle for the final time on the 20th stage, from Maniago to Monte Zoncolan.
A long and steep climb with an average gradient of 11.9 percent and some passages at a whopping 20 percent, the Zoncolan will feature for the fifth time since 2003. Riders will tackle the climb from the most difficult approach, via Ovaro, like three of the last four times it has appeared.
On the last four occasions, the climb featured on stages 12 (2003), 17 (2007), 15 (2010), and 14 (2011).
Local organizers cited two important dates — the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the 60th anniversary of Trieste becoming part of Italy — as reasons for the climb’s inclusion.
During a short presentation Friday called “See you in hell,” governor Debora Serracchiani said she hoped the spectacular images transmitted by “over 180 television channels” around the world would boost tourism.
“It will allow us to showcase our region to the world,” she said.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who led the Vuelta a España on Friday morning, is the reigning Giro d’Italia champion.