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Cortina d'Ampezzo in the valley against the unmistakable limestone mountain range formation of the Dolomites.
photo w/ permission: Navin Rajagopalan

May 21 update: Each year there is always a big Dolomites stage and this is the one for this year. Stage 17 starts from Falzes, which hosted yesterday's Stage 16 finish, heads south across the Dolomites before bending back north to finish in Cortina d'Ampezzo.

Cortina d'Ampezzo is a valley town in what is considered the heart of the Dolomites. It's a majestic place, now a Unesco Natural World Heritage site, and a hotbed of activity at any time of the year. It hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and has hosted five Giro d'Italia stages in the past, but not since 1977. For recreational cyclists, the Dolomites offer some of the best roads and views anywhere and Cortina d'Ampezzo is often used as a base camp.

This year's route has four big passes: Passo Valparola (cat 2) followed by a very fast descent then there are the steeper Passo Duran (cat 1), Forcella Staulanza (cat 2) and Passo Giau (cat 1, pictured above in the official race poster), all of which have more technical descents. (See the climb details below)

Besides being technical, the descent down to Cortina d'Ampezzo for the valley town finish will have two small hills including the run into town and there is also a small bit of pavé.

You can count on a few of the GC contenders getting dropped on the three final climbs especially the final one, Passo Giau, which has a history of being decisive. To make things more interesting, rain is forecasted for this stage. — Steve