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The most surprising thing about Passo dello Stelvio, the second highest paved pass in Europe, is the bustling little town you'll find at the top (photos courtesy of Skip Lauderbaugh)

May 25 update: Passo dello Stelvio... three of the most beautiful words in cycling if you love the mountains. I cycled it 10 years ago and it's stunning in both beauty and engineering (photos) although the Giro d'Italia will be climbing it from the Bormio side which is shorter and less scenic.

The Queen stage of this year's Giro d'Italia, as selected by the fans, ends with the very steep Passo del Mortirolo (11.4 km @ 10.5 %, max 22 %) followed by Passo dello Stelvio, the highest mountain the Giro d'Italia ever uses. The Stelvio is naturally the Cima Coppi (highest point) of this year's race at 2758 m (9048 ft) and, on larger scale, is the fifth highest paved road in Europe and the second highest paved mountain pass. The Mortirolo, Stelvio and the three other categorized climbs on this stage can be explored in greater detail from the table below.

We'll start the final road stage of this year's race from Caldes, in the Trento province, before heading west through the Brescia province and then looping northeast into the Sondrio province. The Sondrio province borders with Switzerland and the last four categorized climbs are part of the Italian Alps. Overall, there is a lot of climbing on this stage, the longest mountain stage of the race at 219 km, but other than Passo del Mortirolo, the climbs aren't as steep as the previous two mountain stages. By the way, this is the 33rd time the Mortirolo has been used by the Giro d'Italia making it one of the events most popular climbs.

This stage is the last chance for pure climbers like Joaquim Rodriguez, Michele Scarponi and Domenico Pozzovivo to gain time before the final day time-trial in Milan. Although, Ivan Basso is a better time-trialist than any of these riders, he'll need to put time into Ryder Hesjedal, who will have to a bad day on either Stage 19 or 20 if any of the aforementioned riders are going to win this year's Giro d'Italia. Either Ivan Basso or Domenico Pozzovivo should win this stage. — Steve

Passo dello Stelvio - A Brief History podiumcafe