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The stage 14 finish at Cervinia is a ski resort at the base of the famous and distintive Matterhorn peak that divides Italy and Switzerland in this region of the Alps (photo credit: pedro caba)

May 18 update: With Stage 14, we have the first of five high mountain stages at this year's Giro d'Italia. All the action on this stage is backloaded; the first 137 km of this 206 km stage after the start in Cherasco are almost entirely flat before two big mountains in the Italian Alps at the end.

The two climbs are the cat 1 Col de Joux at km 160 which is 22.4 km long with an average grade of 5.6% followed by the second summit finish of this year's race, the cat 1 Cervinia, which is quite similar (27 km at 5.5%). Both are long grinds and not overly steep by Italian standards which means you'll see riders slowly getting dropped off the back more than you'll see attacks on the front. In other words, this isn't the sort of stage that suits race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) who likes the short, punchy climbs, but it's ideal for Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) to gain time. In 1997, Ivan Gotti won on Cervinia and then went on to win the overall. If a one dimensional, pure climber wants to win the Giro d'Italia then he'll need to do very well on this stage.

An important consideration of this kind of double peak finish is the descent in between. In this case, the descent down to Châtillon is technical which means a break of good descenders could hold or extend their advantage leading up to the final climb.

The finish at the ski resort in Cervinia at 2,006m (6,581 ft) elevation is at the foot of the Matterhorn, a famous, distintive peak and one of the highest in the Alps. It is on the border between Italy and Switzerland with the Swiss ski resort town, Zermatt, being on the other side. — Steve
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