Friday's Stage 19 of the Giro D'Italia won't be the legendary mountain trek it was intended to be, but its still a crucial stage through the Alps as Vincenzo Nibali looks to strengthen his lead even further.
The stage was originally intended to go past two renowned mountain passes: Gavia and Stelvio, each of which Podium Cafe had waxed lyrical over in anticipation of the stage. They're majestic, snow-lined roads that would have brought the riders more than 2,600 meters above sea level, with treacherous, hairpin-filled climbs that would have made for a brilliant day of racing.
Unfortunately, late winter weather has made the roads unbikeable. The stage will be slightly longer -- 160 km, instead of 139 km -- but much less steep: the two major climbs of Friday's stage don't surpass 1,900 meters, with much lower average grades. The stage still finishes with a final climb towards Val Martello, finishing at 2,059 meters. Here's a revised map of the stage and its profile, from Steephill:
The change isn't exactly great news for Nibali, who looked spectacular extending his lead during a mountainous time trial in stage 18. He entered the day with just a 1 minute 26 second lead over Australian Cadel Evans, but burst out of the gates in a 20 km power climb. Although he was released three minutes after Evans due to the time trial format, he nearly caught up by the end of the stage, extending his lead to a whopping 4:02. He wouldn't just see his lead grow, he won the stage, bringing him to third in the points classification as well. With just three stages to go, the race is looking like its his to lose.