After the topographical and emotional rollercoaster that was stage two, the riders awoke on Sunday 7 June to what was, comparatively, a pretty chilled day out. Thing is, they already had 6,500 metres of climbing in their legs and had probably seen almost every centimetre of the 200km parcours so far. Luckily the storms had long since blown over and a gentle breeze made the blue and black flags around the hotel rustle about on what was otherwise set to be a hot day.
The day’s stage began with an undulating roll out of around 23km; snaking up the valley to Andraz before meandering back on the other side of the river and heading north up to the beginning of Passo Giau. Also identified as GC5, this was the last obstacle in the riders’ path before a victory lunch and, for many, a transfer back to the airport.
For this final timed stage, the aim was to get your whole team up the climb as quickly as possible with the average being taken from all eight riders. With a while to go before the timing chips on riders’ helmets would kick off the stopwatch, all four teams rolled over the start en masse and headed north out of the village.
The first 23km of the route wound north out of the village and up to the town of Andraz gaining 250m of altitude at best. After a big day just gone, riders were definitely grateful for this opportunity to spin their legs over as the valley worked its way up before doing an about turn and heading back down to the valley mouth. From here, the road undulated a little more through to Codalonga where riders were delivered to the bottom of the climb.
Passo Giau itself is a climb that keeps giving with an average grade of 9.1% over 10km until you pop out at the top to an altitude of 2,236m. With the good weather back it was a warm one, but teams initially worked together to get over the top in a good time so there was a little more opportunity to take some rest in each of the small bunches. These soon stretched out though and it became a personal battle to reach the top and complete the Trois Etapes Giro 2015.
Over the top, it was a bit of a crazy scene of cars parking, bikers revving in just about every direction – and an absolutely brilliant event welcoming its participants over their final finish line. With quite a few of the supporters already at the top before the first riders arrived, it made for an absolutely fantastic atmosphere with cowbells, cameras and people doing shuttle runs up and down the tarmac with their arms flailing to provide final encouragement.
Cadel was the first up, mirroring the performances he’d been putting in all week and an impressive couple of minutes ahead of anyone else. After crossing the line though, he turned around and zipped back down to pick up each of his Soldier On Australia team mates and join them right up to the line. A few corners down the road he would have crossed paths with Liam Holohan in second place, swiftly followed by Songezo Jim.
Over the next hour or so, the remaining riders wound their way up each of the punishing hairpins but each was welcomed with as much gusto as Cadel had first experienced. The pass also had one of the most spectacular backdrops imaginable, with snow covered peaks, ridges and pinnacles making for a breathtaking scene while team members lay on the ground trying to get their breath back.
All in all, Passo Giau was an incredibly fitting end to the three day event and the roll back down the road the riders had just ascended was reported as a decidedly fun experience. Back at the hotel, the catering staff had put on an incredible buffet and there was much toasting with an Aperol spritz in hand.