Piemonte

The ascents of the Giro: Oropa

Start

Biella (BI)

Finish

Oropa (BI)

Distance

11 km

Elevation

733 m

Maximum altitude

1.142 m

Maximum gradient

13%

Average gradient

6.20%

The 14th stage of the Giro visits – for the sixth time in the history of the event – the Sanctuary of Oropa, scene of the legendary climbing exploits of “Il Pirata” in 1999, leading to its renaming as “Montagna Pantani”.

 

On Saturday 20 May, Oropa, in the province of Biella, have seen the arrival of a stage of the Giro for the sixth time. Famous for its sanctuary of the Black Madonna, the town became equally famous for cycling fans in 1999 when Pantani’s celebrated efforts rewrote the meaning of the word comeback.
A legendary feat

For those with hazy memories, it was the day when a mere jammed chain left Il Pirata stranded at about 9 km from the finish, losing 40 seconds to a group of 49 riders. From that moment it was a race within a race: Pantani set off travelling at twice the speed of the others and flew past them all, one by one, without once looking back. He then went on to triumph with a 21-second lead over Jalabert, putting in one of the all-time great performances not just in cycling but in all sport.

In memory of that day, Oropa was renamed “Montagna Pantani”, as testified by the commemorative signposts mounted this year on the 11 km climb from Biella to the sanctuary. The signs indicate not only the distance from the top and gradients involved, but also thumbnote facts from the history of Giro, as well as the names of the 5 previous winners: Vito Taccone, Massimo Ghirotto, Marzio Bruseghin, Enrico Battaglin and of course Marco Pantani, who is honoured with a special sign right at the place where he had the mechanical.
The climb

Leaving Biella and taking a kind of ring road, the climb immediately begins and doesn’t let up until you reach the summit. It’s very irregular and just as challenging, due to the repeated steep sections that destroy lungs and legs.

With the last houses now behind you, the ascent gets progressively harder, with steep bends cutting through the woods.

At the village of Favaro (758 m and 5 km to the finish) a short tunnel takes you through to the real Valley of Oropa, where the toughest slopes lie ahead, made even more difficult by a section with paving slabs. After the 1,000 metre level, at the little chapel of St. Fermo, the short nearly-flat stretch offers the sole chance for a breather before the road veers up again for the last ascent that leads to the esplanade of the sanctuary.

The finish, on a porphyry cube surface, lies at 1,142 metres above sea level, after 11 km of 6-7% climbs and peaks at 13%.

The ascent is altogether very demanding and even “King” Miguel Indurain had trouble with it in 1993.

 

Festive initiatives

On this year of the Centenary Giro’s visit to Oropa, a range of extra initiatives are being planned to celebrate the event.

The dome of the sanctuary’s Basilica Nuova was illuminated in pink for the duration of the Giro. Other highlights include a display of memorabilia ranging from Binda to Pantani, plus a special pink menu offering dishes made from local produce, available at street food stalls set up by caterers from around the valley.

For more info: http://www.santuariodioropa.it/

 

Summary
The ascents of the Giro: Oropa | Discover Italy with Selle Italia
Article Name
The ascents of the Giro: Oropa | Discover Italy with Selle Italia
Description
The 14th stage of the Giro visits – for the sixth time in the history of the event – the Sanctuary of Oropa, scene of the legendary climbing exploits of "Il Pirata" in 1999, leading to its renaming as "Montagna Pantani".
Author
Publisher Name
Selle Italia
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