The first day after the rest day is always a difficult stage in any GrandTour and with 238km on the agenda today’s stage 16 was going to be no exception. With a route that was mostly downhill some commentators even suggested a small bunch sprint of 50-60 riders might be possible but the final climb to Andrate after 220km proved to me much more selective than first thought.
How It Went Down
For once we can write about a stage that was not affected by the weather or changes in the course with the full distance being taken on by the 180 riders left in the race – or make that 179 with Taylor Phinney abandoning today due to saddle sores.
The fly through for Stage 16 from Global Cycling Network
After twenty kilometers a large group of 16 riders got away that consisted of: Danny Pate (Sky), Wilco Kelderman (Blanco), Eros Capecchi (Movistar), Jose Herrada (Movistar), Grega Bole (Vacansoleil DCM), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos), Christian Meier (Orica GreenEDGE), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani), Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni), Emanuele Sella (Androni), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Rory Sutherland (Saxo-Tinkoff), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel), Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEDGE) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp)
Wilco Kelderman leads the big break of the day
This group got over 5 minutes lead on the peloton before Katusha, Astana and RadioShack started chasing them down. These 3 teams combined started doing the damage to the break’s lead and when the gaps started tumbling the break began attacking each other with a consequence that the harmony was gone and their gap tumbled quicker again.
With 60kms remaining their lead was just over 2minutes and the break was really infighting now. Eventually Kelderman and Sella got away before being quickly joined by Danny Pate to make a harmonious group of 3 out front followed by 5 chasers in Navardauskas, Verdugo, Bole, Pirazzi and Herrada with the rest of the break going back to the RadioShack/Astana led peloton.
The gap between the groups remained steady for a number of kilometers before finally merging at the bottom of the 3rd category and last climb of the day with 23km remaining. It was at this point that the Mountains Classification leader, Pirazzi jumped away hoping to ride to the summit to get the points before the peloton arrived who were breathing down their necks less than 1m30s behind.
Pirazzi couldn’t hold the gap over his ex companions though with Navardauskas, Verdugo and Herrada seemingly climbing the best from this group as they suffered their way up this deceptively tough climb. As the peloton hit the hill, Colombia’s Fabio Duarte attacked solo and crossed up to the break but the pace of the peloton meant that they too were coming up to the leaders and a chance of someone from the break winning the stage looked minimal.
The high pace in the peloton was doing the damage amongst some of the GC men with 11th on GC Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack) in trouble and dropping out of the lead group as was 4th on GC, Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). With the news of Santambrogio getting dropped the Lampre pairing of Scarponi and Niemiec started turning up the pace even more and very quickly the lead group had shrunk to less than 20 riders.
This ever dwindling peloton caught the leaders with a little more than 2km remaining to the summit and despite another Pirazzi attack for the points it was Carlos Betancur who took the prize at the top and with it an 8 second lead going into the descent after attacking in the last 700m of the climb.
It was then on the descent and the following flat run in when the attacks really started flying with almost everyone left in this elite front group having a go at some point. Samuel Sanchez was the first to try at the beginning of the descent and he quickly caught up to Betancur before a Michele Scarponi attack that was followed by Nibali soon shut that pairing down. The speed on the descent was worthy of a moto-gp race and was ceratinly not for the fainthearted as this elite group pushed on hard meaning that those that were dropped on the climb were not going to come back for the finish.
With 3 Astana’s in the lead group Tanel Kangert hit out for the finish at 7.5kms to go but he was shut down by Lampre. He wasn’t disheartened though and he tried again with 6kms remaining and this time he got away with Benat Intxausti (Movistar), Robert Gesink (Blanco) & Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida).
The lead group of 4 is formed
These 4 worked together as the finish approached but it was Gesink doing most of the work before he tragically suffered a mechanical problem with just 2km remaining.
Gesink drops his chain with less than 3km to go whilst in the lead group
There were now 3 in front and despite the repetive attacks from the group behind the race was amongst these three for the win. Niemiec led out the sprint and Tangert was the first to react but it was Intxausti who played it the smartest starting his sprint at the perfect moment to claim a great stage win that follows up nicely from his pink jersey earlier in this Giro.
The following group was then led home just 14 seconds later by the extremely strong Ramunas Navardauskas who put in a superb ride after being in the break all day, sprinting in ahead of Cadel Evans and Italian champ, Franco Pellizotti.
Meanwhile Mauro Santambrogio lost over 2 minutes in the end meaning that he has slipped down to 6th overall – after having a very difficult day on this so called ‘transition’ stage.
Keep it tuned to PEZ for all the latest photos and a roadside report to come as this exciting Giro continues!
Stage 16 Results:
1 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 5:52:48
2 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team
3 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida
4 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:14
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:14
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:00:14
7 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:14
8 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:14
9 José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:14
10 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:14
General Classification After Stage 16:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 67:55:36
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:26
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:46
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:03:53
5 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:04:13
6 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:04:57
7 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:15
8 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:05:20
9 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:47
10 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:07:34