Giro d’Italia stage 19: The hardest part is still to come

As the Giro d’Italia gruppo pedalled towards Prato Nevoso on Thursday afternoon, the eye will have been drawn by the snow-capped peaks that loomed imposingly on the horizon beyond the day’s finishing climb. They seemed to serve as a tacit reminder: no matter what happens here, the hardest part is still to come.

In the end, the ascent of Prato Nevoso on stage 18 tightened the margins of this Giro in a way that few could have anticipated. It was expected to be the most straightforward of the race’s three days in the Alps, but a breathless finale saw Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) halve Simon Yates’ lead to just 28 seconds.

Come Friday’s immense tappone from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia, however, the arithmetic of this Giro may well be performed in minutes rather than seconds. Stage 19 is, quite simply, the hardest stage of the race to this point. If, as per the truism, anything can happen in the final week of the Giro, then Friday is the day where those things are most likely to take place.

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The dirt road of the Colle delle Finestre is the headline attraction on the stage – not to mention the highest point of the entire Giro – but it would be reductive to focus solely on that evocative ascent. The beauty and the brutality of stage 19 are that there is scarcely any let up at all, with the Colle del Lys, Sestriere and a summit finish on the Jafferau also crammed into the day’s 184 kilometres.

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) sits in the field with his teammates

The route

The stage sets out from Venaria Reale, north of Turin and former residence of the House of Savoy, and the road rises gradually for the first hour or so even before the gruppo hits the day’s first classified climb, the category 2 Colle del Lys (13.8km at an average of 4.3 per cent and a maximum of 12 per cent).

The lie of the land

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