Zoncolan looms as contenders eye steeps slopes in finale

The Monte Zoncolan, one of the most feared climbs in cycling is on the menu for the competitors on Stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia.

Egan Bernal, Giro d'Italia, Stage 12

Egan Bernal waits prior to the start of the twelfth stage of the Giro d'Italia Source: Getty

One of the sternest tests in cycling, the 13.1 km at 8.9 per centgradient, the easier slopes at the start of the ascent are just a hint of the misery to come as for the final three kilometres of the climb head heavenwards at an average of 15 per cent.

With the forecast for poor conditions, rain, a breezy cross-tailwind and a high of six Degrees Celsius, it will be a torrid affair for all on the infamous mountain.

The key contenders for the overall win of the Giro d'Italia all head into the fearsome summit finish of the Monte Zoncolan with different questions and expectations following their bid for the overall win.

You can watch all the Stage 14 Giro d'Italia action from 1920 AEST on SBS OnDemand and 2120 on SBS VICELAND.

Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) - Race leader

"I go by what the team tells me in the morning of the stage, I don't look at it on Strava or Veloviewer beforehand," Bernal said of his approach to a typical mountain stage. I know the Zoncolan has got slopes of up to 27 per cent. If you've got the legs to go for it on that kind of climb, you will, and if you don't have the legs, you won't."

"We all know that in the Giro anything can happen, too, and I'll need to be careful. I need to keep my feet on the ground. If there's an opportunity to take time, I won't miss it, but I need to stay calm."

"I've never been there, I've read a bit about it in the Giro route book, and for sure it's a climb where if you've got the legs, you can create a big gap, particularly in the last three kilometres where it's hardest. Plus there's talk of a storm and cold weather, too, so that'll make it even harder."

"I like the long stages and the hard, long mountain climbs the Giro always has, too. And for sure on Saturday we'll see a big battle."

Alexandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) - 2nd overall + 45

“Bernal is going very well," said Vlasov, quite a reserved character not often taken to long comments. "But now we’re coming into the big mountain stages and we’ll see more then. Now I’m just trying to stay calm, because I certainly think the third week will be decisive.”

“We’ll break our legs on the climbs and then we’ll see,” Vlasov said of the upcoming tests in the mountains. “On Saturday on the Zoncolan, we’ll already start to see how we are in the high mountains.”

Hugh Carthy EF Education First - 4th overall + 1'17

"I am feeling good, but it's another mountain, another race, so it's not the same," said Carthy, speaking after Stage 13. "Tomorrow another race starts, a different kind of Giro."

"It'll hit some guys harder, others improve in tough weather, and that'll be a challenge, just like the climb, itself,"
These mountain stages are all going to be vital before the final time trial in Milan. On the Zoncolan, it's going to be head to head between the favourites and the strongest will win."

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) - 7th overall +2'22

Evenepoel had a bad day on Stage 11, struggling on the gravel and the final climb of the route.

"I don't have much of an explanation for it," said Evenepoel. "I hope that was my worst day, then it's not so bad."
Moving onto the next challenge at hand, Evenepoel revealed that he hadn't experienced a climb of the intensity of the Zoncolan before and would be tackling the ascent for the first time.

"I've never had a finish with such high percentages," said Evenepoel. "By those last steep stretches, we're going to be on our limits and grinding up it. It's a mythical mountain and everyone has a healthy stress about it."

"For me, the attacks can happen earlier. Accelerating in that last kilometre requires a lot of explosiveness and that is not my strongest point. Especially when I see how Bernal is flying around in that last kilometre... Then I have a problem,"

"I don't know what to expect, but the freshness is better. Yesterday and today I had a better feeling. For now, I want to secure my position in the GC, keeping the final time trial in mind. Winning the final classification will be difficult since Bernal is so strong... even stronger than when he won the Tour de France."

Stage 14, a 205-kilometre stage that starts in Cittadella and finishes on the infamous slops of the Monte Zoncolan is the next challenge for riders at the Giro d'Italia. Watch all the action from the feared climb with Matt Keenan and Robbie McEwen in commentary from 1920 AEST on SBS OnDemand and 2120 on SBS VICELAND.

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5 min read
Published 22 May 2021 at 11:53am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS