Giro d’Italia 2015 – Stage 16, Pinzolo – Aprica; the Mortirolo!
You forget how gruesome the climbs are here in Italy; I'd never been over the Mortirolo before but it was an eye opener - 11.9 kilometres (that's more than seven miles) with an AVERAGE gradient of just under 12% and a maximum of 18%.
Lance reckoned it was the toughest climb he ever raced and 'Bert' was on 34 x 30; 'nuff said!'
On most of the big climbs there are sections where it eases a little; not on this swine, it's unrelenting and unforgiving - ask Fabio Aru ...
And on the subject of As-ta-na who's this dude Landa ?
There were some nice results as an amateur then three years with his home team, Euskaltel where he won a stage in the Tour of Burgos and finished 69th and then 39th in the Vueltas of 2012 and 2013.
This is his second year with the Kazakhs; in 2014 he won a stage in Trentino, was 34th in the Giro and 28th in the Vuelta.
But this year he's really sparked; a stage in the Pais Vasco, 2nd on GC in Trentino and now two Giro stages and the prospect of a podium finish in Milano.
There comes a day when a decent rider becomes a good one - the day when those guys who used to give you a kicking in training are suddenly struggling to hold your wheel.
But we're all so cynical now and the trouble is that most of the rumours turn out to be true - let's hope that Senor Landa is the real deal.
But we have Tom Robinson's 1978 hit, 'Too Good to be True' cued on the second turntable, just in case.
We flew into Bologna on Monday and it was a fair old drive for Martin up to Pinzolo and our credentials - those life transforming bits of plastic which are a bit like putting on Superman's cape giving you powers of access that those behind the barriers can only dream about.
Putting a piece together after getting up at 03:00 am, a flight and all that driving and no stage to discuss isn't the easiest but we made a fist of it and lapsed into a coma after out pizza.
Yesterday we'd hoped to get up on to the Mortirolo before 'closing time' for press accredited vehicles at 13:00 - after that it's just team cars, race vehicles and polis.
But we arrived at a roundabout - which, unknowns to us - where there were direction arrows for stages 16 AND 17, you can guess which ones we followed and were half way up this huge climb when we thought, 'nut !'
The doleful Giro guys at the bottom of the the Passo weren't having any of our pleas so we adopted 'VeloVeritas Emergency Strategy #1' - find a bar.
We watched the race on TV - not knowing that Alberto had been ambushed - then dived outside to watch the faces go past.
Alberto's poker face was concealing anger but those behind couldn't hide the pain of this brutally hard race which was just about to get much harder.
We jumped the tail end of the race for our trek over the beast - there perhaps weren't as many fans up there as we'd have expected but there are very few parking spacers to be found up there and 'wall to wall' campers it certainly was not.
The descent was a total 'radj oot' as we had to keep pace with the team cars on the long run to the start of the last climb to Aprica - as Phil Lynott might say; 'I still think those cats are crazy!'
Almost time for those post-Mortirolo sound bites at the start, so ciao, ciao!