Monte Zoncolan has only featured three times in the Giro d’Italia, but it has already established itself as one of the race’s iconic climbs and the organisers want it back. According to newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, the climb will return next year on May 22, one week before the race ends.

This May, fans arrived to northeastern Italy in thousands to line the 10.1-kilometre pass, which kicks up to 22 per cent gradient. Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) rode away from their rivals in a mid-section that averages 15.3 per cent.

“I don’t know how it looks on TV,” explained Evans. “It’s not very long, it’s quite steep, it’s unrelenting steepness and doesn’t let up for seven kilometres.”

Italy’s Basso powered away from Evans at 3.7 kilometres to race and won by 1’19”. Spain’s David Arroyo struggled further back, but maintained the leader’s pink jersey.

“There are five to six kilometres,” said Basso, “where you can’t breathe.”

At 11.9 per cent, the Zoncolan climb has a greater average gradient than many of Italy’s other famed climbs: Mortirolo (10.5% over 12.4km), the Colle dell Finestre (9.1%, 18.6km) and Passo Gavia (7.9%, 17.3km).

Next year, the climb will conclude a stage that starts in Lienz, Austria, and includes three other mountain passes. The stage may climb the Passo di Monte Croce di Comelico and the Tualis as when the race visited Zoncolan in 2007.

Organiser RCS Sport will announce the full Zoncolan stage details at the Giro d’Italia route presentation next Saturday in Turin. (Organiser ASO will announce the 2011 Tour de France route on Tuesday in Paris.)

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Italy’s unification, the Giro d’Italia will start in Turin on May 7 with a 22-kilometre team time trial. The last time the race started with a team time trial in 2008, Mark Cavendish took the leader’s pink jersey after his Columbia-Highroad team won the stage in Venice. He kept it for two days and won three stages.

The Giro d’Italia will end in Milan with an individual time trail from Piazza Castello to Piazza Duomo.

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Basso conquers Monte Zoncolan to move into Giro top three