Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. With a height of currently 3,329 meters / 10,922 ft (this varies with summit eruptions), it is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus, and also the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps. To date, the Giro d’Italia has visited the volcano four times, three times to the Rifugio Sapienza and once to Piano Bottaro lower down. The last visit was in 2017, where Jan Polanc, the Slovenian rider of UAE Team Emirates won stage 4, as the last survivor of a four-man breakaway. The fifth visit will be in the 2018 edition.

Mount Etna climb profile

Mount Etna Rifugio Sapienza profile
Mount Etna Rifugio Sapienza profile. There are almost no buildings along the way. The higher you climb the smaller the vegetation, both because the lava flows look more recent and also because the wind gets up to strip away anything trying to exist. If you can pick your day then a still, clear day is perfect but not easy as Sicily can be a windy place. All the time the road is regular, the gradient can change in places, 7% here, 8% there but the changes are obvious rather than abrupt, this is a long climb where you sit back and winch your way up with few gear changes. There are some steeper moments but they’re brief. The Rifugio Sapienza is a bit of a disappointment, it’s your “summit” for the ride but in reality, the road just levels out and looks like a giant car park and souvenir superstore. It’s a small ski resort looking exposed without snow with a large car park and ski lifts dangling redundantly in the wind. You’re at 1900 m above sea level and the peak of Etna stands at 3350 m meaning it’s about the same vertical gain as you’ve done from Nicolosi to get to the very top if you fancied walking, going on a mountain bike, or taking the cable car but the best thing is the view below. Text source: INRNG

Mount Etna in Cycling History

The Giro d’Italia visited Mount Etna four times in history, in 1967, 1989, 2011, and 2017 editions. In 2018, the Italian Grand Tour will visit the volcano for the fifth time. Stage 6, on May 10, a 163 km going from Caltanissetta to Mount Etna, will also be the first mountaintop finish of the Giro d’Italia 2018.

1967 Giro d’Italia, Stage 7: Catania – Etna, 170 km

Friday, May 26. Stage seven, ending atop Mount Etna, broke the peloton into bits for the first time in this edition. Climbing and sprinting ace Franco Bitossi (Filotex) was first to the top of the volcano. Coming in about 20 seconds later, Gianni Motta (Molteni) was the first of the contenders, followed by Eddy Merckx (Peugeot), Felice Gimondi (Salvarani), Italo Zilioli (Salvarani), José Pérez-Francés (KAS), Vittorio Adorni (Salamini-Luxor) and Roger Pingeon (Peugeot-BP-Michelin). Jacques Anquetil (Bic), Rudi Altig (Molteni), and Franco Balmamion (Molteni) were a further twenty seconds back. Michele Dancelli (Vittadello) remained in pink for another day.

Felice Gimondi won the 1967 Giro d’Italia.

1989 Giro d’Italia, Stage 2: Catania – Etna, 132 km

Monday, May 22. Mount Etna has been climbed very early in the race, just in the 2nd stage. Acacio Da Silva (Carrera) won the stage. Laurent Fignon (Super U-Raleigh) won this edition of the Italian grand tour.

2011 Giro d’Italia, Stage 9: Messina – Etna, 169 km

Sunday, May 15. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) took the stage and the maglia rosa. He attacked at 6.7 km remaining in the 169 km stage, over the slopes of Mount Etna. He eventually put 50 seconds into his rivals by the summit finish atop one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Contador would carry the pink jersey to Milan and win the 2011 Giro. But, later, his results were annulled.

“Alberto Contador turns to Ashes his rivals at the Etna Volcano, Giro d’Italia 2011 Stage 9”

Alberto Contador turns to Ashes his rivals at the Etna Volcano, Giro d’Italia 2011 Stage 9

2017 Giro d’Italia, Stage 4: Cefalu – Etna, 181 km

Mount Etna, 2017 Giro
The peloton (or what remains from it) climbing Mount Etna during stage 4 of Giro d’Italia 2107.

Tuesday, May 9. Jan Polanc, the Slovenian rider of UAE Team Emirates won the stage. He was in a four-man breakaway all time. On Mount Etna, he managed to survive and didn’t get caught by the general classification contenders.

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 4: The Battle on Mount Etna

Stage 4 Giro d’Italia 2017: The Battle on Mount Etna


M. Özgür Nevres

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