Movistar imperious as Richard Carapaz extends lead
Movistar put in an exceptional team performance to ensure that Richard Carapaz emerged from one of the hardest stages of this Giro with his lead not only in tact, but extended.
His pink jersey first came under pressure when Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) exploded out of the peloton near the bottom of the Mortirolo. The peloton behind was immediately decimated, yet despite the carnage Movistar impressively managed to keep two domestiques with Carapaz (Mikel Landa and the surprise package of the day, Antonio Pedrero), even as GC riders in the top ten overall were being dropped.
Pedrero kept Nibali in check, and once Landa took over the pace-setting it was only a matter of time until Nibali was brought back.
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Yet more impressively, Movistar then instructed Andrey Amador to drop back from further up the road (having been part of the day’s breakaway) just before the summit of the Mortirolo, and he proceeded to play a significant role in maximising the advantage Carapaz gained over Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) by taking turns on the subsequent descent and draggy uphill to the finish.
Carapaz now boasts a 2-09 lead ahead of Roglič, and retains his 1-47 advantage over Nibali, while Landa remains well positioned in fourth at 3-15. From this position, Movistar look perfectly equipped to win this Giro d’Italia.
Primož Roglič loses time
Concerns that Roglič was beginning to tire following his time loss on the stage to Como were confirmed, as the Slovenian was dropped on the Mortirolo.
He was one of the many victims left in the dust after Nibali’s attack, and spent the rest of the stage on the defensive, trying to limit his losses to the other GC contenders.
With no teammates to help him, he was fortunate to stay around riders also with a reason to ride, with Simon Yates proving to be an especially valuable ally. Without that help his time losses could have been fatal, but instead he averted disaster and finished a damaging but not decisive 1-22 behind Carapaz and co.
Having looked unbeatable all season, maintaining that form into the final week of the 2019 Giro d’Italia might prove to be too much of a challenge for Roglič, who could be in danger of ceding more time in the coming mountain stages. However, with one more time trial to come on the final stage of the race, he cannot yet be discounted from overall contention.
Giulio Ciccone triumphs adversity to win the stage
The two-man tussle for the stage win proved to be some contest, with Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) overcoming a stressful run-in to the finish to take the stage in a sprint ahead of Jan Hirt (Astana).
The pair emerged as the strongest riders from the day’s large break on the Mortirolo, which they peaked together having dropped everyone else. They seemed certain to contest the stage win, until Hirt made the unusual decision to stop pulling, presumably citing the presence of his team-mates Miguel Ángel López and Pello Bilbao in a group behind.
That put Ciccone in some stress, which was exacerbated when the cold started to affect him to such a degree that he could be seen chattering his teeth.
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No doubt at this point he regretted the impulsive decision to throw away his rain jacket at the top of Mortirolo after struggling to put it on, but he nevertheless still had the strength to defeat Hirt in the sprint at the finish.
The result reinforces what has already been an exceptional Giro for the young Italian, who also looks guaranteed to seal the mountains classification having claimed another haul of points over the day’s many summits.
Hugh Carthy impresses
One of the rides of the day came from Britain’s Hugh Carthy (EF Education First), who finished fifth on the stage after finishing in an elite group of GC riders.
Remarkably, Carthy was the only rider capable of following Nibali’s acceleration on the Mortirolo, and hung on to the Italian’s wheel on the climb’s absurdly steep slopes.
Soon after the pair were brought back, Carthy was briefly dropped following a López attack, but showed great resolve to claw his way back before the climb’s summit.
Despite his efforts, he only moves up one place to thirteenth overall, but is now far closer to the top ten than before – 6-32 behind Jan Polanc (UAE Emirates).
Such a high finish is within reach for the 24-year old, and would be an exceptional achievement, and a realisation of the talent he has hinted at over the past few years.
No Gavia, no problem
The decision to remove the Passo Gavia from today’s stage on safety grounds was met with disappointment, but the stage still lived up to the hype and provided great drama and entertainment.
Hostilities resumed very early with Nibali’s attack over 30km from the finish, and the intrigue did not relent for the rest of the race.
Arguably, the absence of the Gavia might have been a blessing in disguise. With a couple of easier climbs replacing it on the route meant that the riders were fresher than they would have been had the Gavia been tackled first, meaning the Mortirolo became a launchpad for attacks and aggressive racing rather than an attritional whittling down process.
Sometimes less is better, and stage 16 provided a great spectacle even without the dramatic sights of the high altitude of Passo Gavia.