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Another side of the Etna

24/09/2021

In the imagination of all cycling enthusiasts, no race in Sicily would be complete without a ride up the Etna. This legendary volcano will be, once again, a decisive feature on the route of the 2021 Giro di Sicilia. We will, however, be seeing a different face of it from the one we have become acquainted with, especially at the Giro d’Italia.

Thinking about the Etna immediately brings to mind the many climbs that rise up to 1,900 metres, along the wind‑beaten and barren mountainside. The first Giro d’Italia stage finish at the Rifugio Sapienza dates back to 1967, and it was Franco Bitossi who cruised to victory with his arms aloft. Over the last 10 years, the Etna hosted a further four stage finishes, with victory going to Alberto Contador, Jan Polanc, Esteban Chaves (the line was at Serra La Nave that year) and Jonathan Caicedo. The Giro di Sicilia set a stage finish there as well, on its first and (to date) only edition organised by RCS, in 2019. Guillaume Martin was the winner that day.

The keenest fans might also remember the Giro dell’Etna, a road event that was staged from 1980 to 2004, usually in March. As the elevation gain in those races was only moderate, the roll of honour is populated by sprinters such as Giuseppe Saronni, Francesco Moser, Mario Cipollini and Filippo Pozzato, just to name a few.

The 2021 Giro di Sicilia, however, will take a different route up the Etna, passing through Sciara di Scorciavacca and diverting from the “classic” one that leads all the way to the Rifugio Sapienza. Stage four will be taking the peloton from Sant’Agata di Militello to Mascali, and up a different side of the volcano. That climb is nothing like the one that we are used to, because it is both shorter and milder – 9.5 kilometres on a 6.5% grade, rising to just 671 metres, without reaching the summit. Being the last ascent of this stage race, set at 17 kilometres out, and followed by a steep and swift descent to Mascali, though, it could be just as decisive. And even if the riders don’t hear the volcano rumbling and roaring a few metres behind their backs, they will still find a way to have fun.

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