Start: at 11:40 am in Isernia
Arrival: around 5.15 pm at the Blockhaus
Distance: 191 kilometers
The riders already had the stage on Tuesday with the arrival at Etna, now the second mountain stage awaits them – according to the official Giro website the first five-star stage. And it is immediately necessary, because of the five slopes in the ninth stage, three are in the first 40 kilometers. These are the Valico Del Macerone (third category), the Rionero Sannitico (second category) and Roccaraso (second category).
After those three climbs, a long, undulating 90-kilometer section that is mainly downhill begins. Then the riders arrive at the foot of the Blockhaus, which is conquered twice: the first time, the riders only do the first part, which is called the Passo Lanciano. The climb is 10.3 kilometers long with an average gradient of 7.6%.
After the descent, the riders arrive at an uncategorized climb that is immediately followed by the Blockhaus. The final climb is 13.6 kilometers long with an average gradient of 8.4%. The steepest point is about four kilometers from the finish (14%), although some sections in the final kilometers also climb above 10%.
The stage to the Blockhaus will be a real test for the men with classification ambitions. Then we mainly look at names such as Simon Yates, Richard Carapaz, João Almeida, Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao, Romain Bardet and even the Dutchman Wilco Kelderman. It will also be on the lookout for rose jersey wearer Juan Pedro Lopez. Can the 24-year-old Spaniard hold out on the Blockhaus?
Of course there are also a lot of riders who can benefit if the outspoken classification men stare at each other too much. Just think of Giulio Ciccone or even old foxes like Alejandro Valverde and Domenico Pozzovivo. And what if the early flight would stay ahead and a young wolf would come and stir… Mauri Vansevenant, for example?
These will be the key moments
The first three climbs of the day are very early on the course, so it will be a look forward to the climbs of the Passo Lanciano and Blockhaus. It remains to be seen what the classification men want for the stage win. Do the toppers give the pink to one of the lesser gods or do they quickly put their teams to work? For the pink, it all depends on how long Juan Pedro Lopez can follow.
Either way, the favorites will battle each other on the final climb. Nairo Quintana attacked with seven kilometers from the end at the last visit in 2017 and eventually won the stage. The toughest sections of the Blockhaus are in the last five kilometers: those who are good will have to show themselves there.
This is what you need to know
The Giro previously visited the Blockhaus six times. The last time – as mentioned before – was in 2017, when Nairo Quintana managed to beat Thibaut Pinot and later overall winner Tom Dumoulin. For Belgium, however, it is the Giro’s very first visit to this climb that appeals to the imagination: in 1967 a certain Eddy Merckx won a stage in a Grand Tour for the first time. The first of many: 63 more stage victories (!) would follow in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. Merckx then won another stage and finished that Giro in ninth.
You’ve probably also noticed that the name Blockhaus doesn’t sound exactly Italian, but it does sound German. According to the official Giro website, the name may have come from an Austrian commander who was stationed on that mountain with a team of gunners shortly after the unification of Italy in the 1800s. There was then a stone fortress on the slope from which the name is said to have been derived.