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Gravel time trial to 2,850m summit of Mount Etna reported for 2020 Giro d'Italia

Joe Robinson
20 Aug 2019

Race to reach altitude with added bonus of gravel and potential volcanic eruptions

The Giro d'Italia is looking to turn up the heat in 2020 with a gravel time trial on Mount Etna that finishes 2,850m above sea level. It has already been confirmed that the race will visit the southern Italian island of Sicily once the race has left the Grande Partenza in Budapest, Hungary, but it is now expected to visit altitude on the famous volcano.

According to reports in the Italian press, rather than climbing the usual tarmac ascent, the proposed route for next year will take the race along a finely-packed gravel road that finishes at 2,850m.

Volcanic expert Marco Neri helped pen a nine-page document for the Catania region which was sent to race organiser RCS arguing for the inclusion of this new route, according to Meridio News.

'From a volcanological point of view the climb is technically feasible,' said Neri. 'The eruptive activities typical of this volcano remain for most of the year compatible with the race.'

If the route is given the green light, it will likely be 27km starting at Piano delle Concazze, northeast of the volcano.

The first 19km would take place on tarmac before turning onto the final 8.7km and the dark, volcanic ash road to the summit which also contains sections over 20 per cent in gradient.

With Etna being an active volcano, the big risk faced by RCS is the chances of an eruption. Neri stated that the chances of this happening are low and the route is considered safe considering it is a road used to guide tourists to the volcano's summit throughout most the year.

If an eruption did occur, Neri said a shortened stage could take place but added, 'but how frequently do eruptions occur in those parts? Excluding eruptions fed by summit craters, the last lateral eruption along the northeast crevice dates back to 2002, 17 years ago. They are not particularly in high frequencies.'

Gravel is becoming more and more common in Grand Tour racing. This year, the Tour de France extended the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles to include a final gravel section near the summit while the Vuelta a Espana will also tackle gravel tracks while in Andorra on Stage 9.

The Giro is also no stranger to gravel roads, often tackling the famous 'strade bianche' of Tuscany.