Distance: 18.6km ITT
Start location: Tarvisio
Finish location: Monte Lussari
Start time: 11:30 CEST
Finish time (approx): 18:29 CEST
Tarvisio is a village located in the Canal Valley, nestled in between the Carnic Alps to the north and the Julian Alps to the south, and, being so close to the Slovenian and Austrian borders, is the meeting point between the Romance, Slavic and German cultures of Europe. Before World War One it was a part of the Hapsburgs Duchy of Carinthia, and Slovenian and German were the languages predominantly spoken here; but that changed after the war when the Austro-Hungary empire collapsed and it became part of Italy. Now it’s very much a part of Italy, and Slovenian and German speakers make up only a minority of the population.
For any Slovenian-speaking cycling fans of Tarvisio who identify more with Slovenia than Italy, the last few years have given them bragging rights over the Italians, as while they are currently enduring a dearth of talent, Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar have elevated Slovenia to the very top of the sport. Having never won a Grand Tour before 2019, between them those two riders the nation has now won two Tours de France and three Vuelta a España, leaving just the Giro d’Italia as the only title left to conquer. If all goes according to plan, Roglič will be cheered on in his native tongue as he goes for overall victory in today’s climactic time trial.
Stage 20 profile sourced on the Giro d'Italia website
Of course, Roglič has bad memories of mountain time trials. The last time a Grand Tour climaxed with one during the final weekend was La Planche des Belles Filles at the 2020 Tour de France, when a dishevelled Roglič was infamously deposed by Pogačar to lose the yellow jersey.
This time trial is similar in shape, starting with a 11km flat section before finishing uphill with the climb of Monte Lussari. The potential for big time gaps and dramatic changes in the GC is, if anything, even greater, due to just how brutal a climb it is. Put simply, it’s agonisingly steep — it ramps up to double digit gradients at the bottom, and doesn’t let up for five whole kilometres, averaging an eye-watering 15.3%. Some mercy is shown when it levels out again towards the top, but a late ramp of 22% ensures its overall average remains as high as 12.1% across its 7.3km. It’s so steep that team cars won’t be permitted to follow their riders up it, meaning team mechanics will instead have to travel with their equipment on motorbikes supplied by the organisers.
Timing your effort correctly, so that you don’t wind up going into the red on the steepest ramps, but also don’t lose too much ground on the flat section, is going to be essential, and is made all the more difficult by Monte Lussari being a new climb to the Giro d’Italia. There will also be an area for bike changes, too, where teams can prepare the best vehicles for the flat section and then the climb. Meticulous planning and recces will have been required in advance for any rider hoping for a high GC finish.
Stage 20 marks the penultimate stage before the rider in pink has their victory lap around Rome. But first, it is man versus mountain with a brutal time trial finishing with a seven kilometre climb up the eye-wateringly steep Monte Lussari. It’s all to play for here between the leading GC riders, and any mistakes will be detrimental, so riders can only bring their absolute best to the start line.
All eyes will be on three riders: Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates). We’ve witnessed the slow burning GC battle between these three riders, and it is finally reaching its crescendo.
Thomas will be the rider with the most at stake as he is the current maglia rosa. However, he also has his previous two TT results in his favour, where he placed ninth (stage one) and second (stage nine). He’s been consistent throughout the three weeks and will need to remain that way to be in pink when he gets to Rome.
But Roglič and Almeida both have top ten finishes for the past time trials, with Almeida also securing a second place finish in the opening stage. The Jumbo-Visma rider stands 26 seconds behind Thomas, and Almeida 59 behind Thomas. They’ll really need to push to knock Thomas off the top spot if he continues the way he is, but anything could happen on a stage like this.
Outside of the top three, Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) could be a threat, and so could Ineos Grenadiers rider Thymen Arensman for the stage win.
Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) is another climbing specialist with a good time trial and will be suited to a course like this, making him a rider to watch for the stage win. The 2022 Netherlands national ITT champion, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), will be his team’s best chance of winning this stage. Michael Hepburn for Jayco Alula may also be in the mix with the quickest times of the day if he can keep the pace up the climb, a skill he surprised us with on Friday’s brutal stage after being in the breakaway.
A final show of his strength, we think Geraint Thomas will take the stage and take the pink jersey to Rome.