Friday, 17 May 2013

Giro d'Italia Stage 14: Monte Jafferau

Tomorrows stage of the Giro d'Italia is only 156 kilometres in length but much of it is uphill and the race finishes here (pictured) in the Hautes Alpes on the summit of Monte Jafferau. The long winding road is something synonymous with all alpine type climbs though the Jafferau has fewer switchbacks than many. But there is something else that makes this climb quite unique - look closely and you will notice those unsurfaced gravel roads...

The climb itself is clocked at 7.2km averging a tough 9% which is by no means long when it comes to Grand Tour summit finishes but this is slightly deceptive as once riders descend from the category 2 Sestriere the road gently rises for around 14 kilometres before the official summit finish begins.

The climb starts steep at around 10% before reaching a 14% maximum and drops below 8% only occasionally until the final kilometre which ramps right back up to around 12%. It's a tough climb even if it is short but this year it won't be made worse by the speed-numbing gravel sections as the race will only climb as far as Bardonecchia ski resort on friendlier roads apart from the final section, but remember this finish comes on the back of the Giro's longest stage of 254 kilometres which Mark Cavendish won today despite tweeting this morning that he was extremely tired. A week of harsh weather and torrential rain has taken it's toll on everyone, not least Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal who both failed to start this morning and of course a day of climbing awaits the riders before they even reach the Jafferau. Legs will be tired here.

With Wiggins and Hesjedal no more the group of favourites is fast being whittled down to little more than a small handful and with Vincenzo Nibali looking comfortable and being fronted by a so far very strong Astana team it's going to take some real strength from the likes of  Cadel Evans and Rigoberto Uran if they want to take time from the Shark here. With Wiggins out of contention it means Sky can no longer play poker and there is no plan B - the only plan will be for Uran to attack when and where he can which should add a degree of excitement as the race becomes a straight forward knock-out battle between the top riders. Perhaps the only real danger on the day for Vincenzo Nibali will be the (frighteningly common) falling rocks...

The town of Bardonecchia is the western-most of Italy and is connected to France (Modane) via the Frejus Road tunnel carved 13 kilometres through the Cottian Alps. Surround by high mountain peaks the area is probably most remembered for hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics and thrives as a snowboarding and ski resort where holiday makers can head into the town to sample the restaurants and bars at night after a long day on the slopes. Mount Jafferau is most famous for the 'Fort' or 'Battery' of Jafferau - a military fort build on the summit in the 1890's to maximise artillery strikes across the French border. Little of the Fort remains as it was bombed by agreement following the Treaty of Paris after World War Two but some gun positions and brickwork still remain for military minded tourists.

It's certainly a stage worth watching as the Giro once again kicks in to General Classification mode following a couple of stages for the sprinter and if certain riders have their way this ancient site might become a battle ground once again as the drama plays out amongst the ruins, only this time on bicycles rather than military machinery.

Blick vom Fort Jafferau


  1. Good bit of background, thanks.

  2. Agreed. Really enjoyed it . This is my go-to spot for Giro coverage.