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Heavy snow on Passo Gavia likely to see Queen Stage of Giro d'Italia changed

Joe Robinson
21 May 2019

Local authorities have a week to clear pass of snow as further adverse weather throws Queen Stage into doubt

Heavy snow looks almost certain to prevent the Gavia from featuring in this year's Giro d'Italia as local authorities battle to clear snow off the pass just one week away from the race's Queen stage.

The Passo Gavia is supposed to feature at the halfway point of the 226km Stage 16 from Lovere to Ponte di Legno a week from today. The passing of the Alpine mountain would have also been this year's Cima Coppi (the highest point of the race) at 2,618m above sea-level.

However, continuous snowfall in the area has jeopardised the planned route despite the best efforts of local authorities to clear the road.

The Bormio tourist board has already commented on the 'impressive snow walls' and stated that a further 23cm of snow predicted this week could see the mountain scratched from the race due to it being impassible for the peloton.

On Monday, the Valtellina tourist board then posted a photo to Twitter of a snow plough attempting to move the snow from the pass with the caption: 'The province at work to ensure the Gavia stage'.

The mayor of Ponte di Legno, Ennio Donati, the stage's finish town, also spoke of the efforts to the press, telling Il Giorno: 'If the weather improves, we can be sure that we can clean the road. The only element we cannot keep under control is the weather conditions.' 

While the authorities battle to clear the snow ahead of Tuesday 28th May, the threat of more snow has forced race organiser RCS to consider an alternative route.

Reports in the Italian press suggest the race may opt for a double ascent of the Mortirolo as an alternative. At almost 1,000m lower than the Gavia, adverse weather does not present the same risk on the smaller yet steeper climb.

The stage will already tackle the climb from Mazzo di Valtellina, the race's most popular route up the mountain, although could double up by adding the ascent of the climb from Edolo.

While this seems the most plausible alternative, race director Mauro Vegni has confirmed that if the race is forced away from the Gavia it will not revert to two ascents of the Mortirolo.

In a Tweet, Vegni stated, 'As things stand today, there is a 60% chance of being able to ride the Gavia. If the weather remains favourable, we are certain that the stage will be unchanged. Otherwise, we have an alternative route which does not involve two climbs of the Moritirolo.'

Snow impeding the Giro visiting the Gavia is not unfamiliar. The Gavia was canned from the route due to snow in both 1961 and 1969 while, in 2013, an entire stage that included the Gavia and the Stelvio was cancelled due to poor weather.

Adverse weather has not always been enough to cancel stages, however, most famously in 1988 when riders were forced into climbing the Gavia in heavy snowfall with Dutchman Erik Breukink winning the stage and Andy Hampsten iconically riding into the Maglia Rosa.

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