Me on the Stelvio’s ‘easy’ side.

For me, stage 16 is where this year’s Giro properly begins (assuming the weather holds), and where many of the competitors will be sorely wishing it properly ended: the mountains — the really, really big mountains.

The 139km jaunt warms up with the Passo Gavia, ridden from Ponte di Legno. I’ve tackled the Gavia both ways, neither of which heroic acts featured in The Breakaway. Next is the mighty (as if the Gavia isn’t also mighty) Passo Stelvio, topping out at a mere 2758 metres. The Giro is racing up from the easier (in my humble opinion) Bormio side. Again I’ve ridden it both ways (go me!) but it was on the climb from Prato that I succumbed to Breakaway bonk paranoia and rode off ahead of my companion, Drew.

Somewhere within the last ten switchbacks I snapped out of the fugue, looked round for Drew, the idea that I had been riding with someone else slowly gaining credence. I eased up and that other person came into view, far in the distance, an ant in my curious gaze. All the while I was watching him, the worrywart voice in my head persisted, nagging incessant, telling me to forget about my friend: hurry, hurry, hurry, before the bonk comes back! Forget about him, save yourself, save yourself! What if you hit the wall? Don’t look back, don’t look back!

Things weren’t quite the same from then on.

Stage 16 of Doom ends atop the 2059 metre-high Val Martello, which, sadly, I haven’t ridden, from any direction.

And there’s more two days later: stage 18 features the Passo San Pellegrino, which Drew and I drove along during The Breakaway but sadly never rode, and climaxes with a cruise up to the Rif. Panarotta, which I’d never even heard of until the announcement of this year’s corsa rosa.

The dénouement is Stage 20 and the Monte Zoncolan, a monstrous ascent that cast a dark shadow over the initial days of The Breakaway, and which will haunt me until I get my skinny Scottish butt back over to Italy for a re-try (and will probably continue to haunt me, only in more gory detail, even after that).

The Bargain

To celebrate (or perhaps for the sprinters in the gruppetto, to commiserate) the last week of the Giro and all this uphill awesomeness, The Breakaway is reduced to only 99p, which works out at about £0.0000099 per word or £0.00004 per metre climbed — check it out here.

It’s a bargain in anyone’s book and might just inspire a bout of mountain madness all of your own.

As one reviewer on Amazon said:

This personalised account gives you the flavour of how difficult, both physically and mentally, these climbs are, but gives you the urge to go out and try them for yourself.

Very kind and, hopefully, true.