Thursday, 18 April 2013

Giro del Trentino: Sega di Ala

Type 'The Dolomites' into Google Images and you are likely to be greeted by some of the most breathtaking scenery on earth. The mountain range around Trentino in northern Italy is spectacular and of course where there are spectacular mountains, there is spectacular cycling. Tomorrows final stage of this years Giro del Trentino will end on the brutal Sega di Ala...

I didn't do a preview of this race - I couldn't find the time - but it is one of my favourite races due to a mix of the scenery and the cycling it produces. The climbs here are the first real alpine climbs of the cycling season and the race is usually cram-packed with the Giro d'Italia favourites all looking to test their form on the long, hair-pin riddled climbs.

This years race saw a slightly unusual start with the favourites failing to chase down the break-away who finished the first stage 7 minutes ahead of the pack, effectively nullifying any major battles between Giro hopefuls and GC guys, though it's still possible on this beast of a climb that time can be clawed back by a big favourite though the scenario appears unlikely as heading into this final stage the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi are all over three minutes back and last years winner Domenico Pozzovivo crashed out earlier today.

Still, if the GC is nullified Wiggins and Nibali have still made the most of the chance to test eachother on the slopes and tomorrow's climb should still be about the big favourites attacking eachother even if it's not to win the race. So, the Sega di Ala then...

With 21 hairpins starting from Sdruzzin√† on the bank of the Adige river. The first 6 km average a mean 10% gradient with sections rising to 14-16%. The climb softens slightly as riders work their way up and pass through a tunnel but it's here where the really tough sections begin. 3 km's averaging 11.5% with some 20% sections thrown in for good measure before the final 3 km flatten to around 5% into the finish. It's a long old climb with plenty of switchbacks and riders will not want to attack to early, especially those with a train or at least some help from a couple of domestiques. Expect the big moves to come in the nasty 3km section after the tunnel and I suspect it's here where Nibali may try to put Wiggins on the back foot - Wiggins may not like the gradients but Vincenzo will have to put a big gap between himself and the Sky man because Wiggins will try to motor in the final few kilometres. The winner of the stage may not be a race favourite if the big names spend to long looking at eachother. Look out for a rider like Piere Rolland who likes to ride solo up climbs like these.

The finishing town of Ala is the main economic and cultural centre of lower Vallargarina, the valley of the river Adige which flows south through Veronese territory, past the Verona lock and onto the Venetian plain at the foot of the pre-Alps. The coppice-covered hillsides and the deep side valleys penetrate right into the Lessini mountains to the east (valleys of San Valentino and Ronchi) and the Mount Baldo chain (valleys of Aviana and Sorna). A market town with baroque features, buildings and dwellings flanking narrow winding cobbled streets and bordering pretty little squares in a typically Renaissance and Medieval layout it makes for a charming part of Italy.

Referred to as the 'City of Velvet' Ala is famed worldwide for its fine silks and fabrics the town and has today revived the breading of silkworms culminating in an annual summer celebration called 'Ala, City of velvet' blending history, art, tourism and entertainment with of course fine cuisine and wine. Hillside vineyards and walks around the 'little Dolomites' make the region well worth visiting - if you have missed the Giro del Trentino this year then there is always the next, who knows, maybe silk jerseys could be the next 'marginal gain'...

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