Giro d'Italia Stage 16 Preview
As expected it was a day for the breakaway, but it turned out under some unusual circumstances. With 215 kilometers to go Mattia Cattaneo and Dario Cataldo attacked from the peloton, and alone, they were never to be seen again. They rode together for the remainder of the stage and in the sprint, amazingly, Dario Cataldo led out and outsprinted the Androni rider to take a massive win. In the peloton the gap was let to extend to 16 minutes, Mitchelton helped it come down and in Sormano Simon Yates was on the attack, some riders fancied their chances but no gaps were made there. In Civiglio Primoz Roglic lost ground after a bike swap in the approach left him with Tolhoek's bike, and with some ground to make. On the climb Nibali and Carapaz set out after Carthy and Yates had attacked, the quartet flyed down the descent and arrived together in the end, gaining some time on their rivals, mainly Roglic who lost 40 seconds to his most direct rivals after he crashed in the descent of the Civiglio.
Positive: Nibali and Carapaz. Nibali seems to be coming to his best form, he was able to distance Roglic for the first time and gained time on him in the stage where it was expected he'd do so. Carapaz extended his gap in the lead very well, takes another step forward in the fight for pink. Simon Yates looks to be coming to his best form finally, it's a sign but if he's this strong on the final week he will be looking to explode the race. Hugh Carthy mega strong aswell, he had a rough second week but looked at his best today. Polanc rode strongly, almost getting to Roglic, also Pozzovivo seems to be coming to his best, and will be a massive help for Nibali in the final week, Bahrain are looking like the strongest team for the climbs.
Negative: Roglic has had a bad day today, bad luck all over, he didn't loose the race but 40 seconds is a lot to loose to Carapaz when he has shown no signs of keeping up in the climbs.
No surprise the breakaway was only made of two riders, that first uphill pitch was raced at an amazing speed where only the climbers could get away. Cataldo and Cattaneo got away, some other riders tried but didn't have the power to close it, and the pace was very calm for a lot of the stage after that.
Mitchelton's labour is visible in there, Ghisallo and Sormano were both very pushed, but the gaps just weren't created and the GC riders still had a lot to fire in Civiglio. Formolo was dropped and arrived in the chasing group to Nibali's, very good climb but Nibali/Carapaz must've been around the 7W/Kg mark.
Stage 16 will be another beastly day in the Alps. Coming after the final rest day, the 226-kilometer long slog through the mountains is one the the Giro's most familiar scenarios and on this day there is no room for a bad performance. The scheduled presence of the Passo Gavia has been a subject of discussion the past few weeks, but ultimately the snow and risk of avalanches forced the organizers to go for an alternative route.
Although easier the alternative route is still mighty hard, the uncategorized Passo della Presolana (11Km at 5,8%) and Croce di Salven (8,8Km at 4.1%) will open things up, and instead of the set ascent of the Gavia it's been replaced by the Cevo climb (10.8Km at 5.8%) and the drag to Aprica which is a traditional presence in the Giro, that brings another 15Km at an average of 3.4%, with a steep start to it.
From there on the route comes back to it's original plan, with the Mortirolo ascent. It's definetely the highlight of the stage, it's an absolute brute of a climb no matter who rides it, it's a whole 11.9Km at 10.9%, very constant yet very steep, similar ascent to the Colle San Carlo but even harder.
As in stage 14 there's a hellish drag to the line in Ponte di Legno, a steep descent down the Mortirolo will leave the riders with a little over 7Km to go where there's a slow drag to the fine averaging 2%, climbing close to 200 meters in height it's far from flat.
This is the snow accumulation, and Ponte Di Legno won't escape it. It's easy to see why the Gavia isn't being ridden, from all the way down the valley the conditions are already tough and there is forecast of rain for tomorrow, that can even turn to snow at some points. It's going to be a treacherous day, the descent of the Mortirolo specially, but it will only add to the stress and positioning importance in the peloton.
The day after a rest day is always a mistery, breaking the routine of the riders and presenting such a stage in the next day can have catastrophic consequences for some, fatigue won't be the main factor tomorrow but instead, their sensations.
And with such a hard stage it's the same scenario as stage 14, it's hard to see someone outside of the GC fight with a solid chance of winning. Giulio Ciccone, Hugh Carthy and Joe Dombrowski are the only ones that surely have the legs to get such win. Also Domenico Pozzovivo and Damiano Caruso but the reasonable mind would assume they will be on Nibali watch even if they go up in front.
Richard Carapaz has looked sublime so far in every mountain, there's no reason to believe he will fade tomorrow, specially with Mikel Landa who may give a huge support to the Equatorian. Mikel Landa himself may be a big favourite for the win. With the Mortirolo on the route it's simple to think the big guns will save themselves for that ascent, but in case a rider like Simon Yates or Miguel Angel Lopez go on a rampage before they get to that climb, it will open a whole range of possibilities, where the classic strategy of attacking with (in this case) Landa and having Carapaz sitting in the wheels could work perfectly for them, and it could work just like in Lago Serrù.
Vincenzo Nibali started the Giro in good form, yesterday he gave his best signs so far yesterday, and he has a good team to support whatever strategy he may have planned, and his form seems on spot aswell. Primoz Roglic on the other side won't come as confident to the stage, he arguably has the less support in the mountains, he's been able to take care og himself so far but he's been loosing time, and tomorrow isn't a stage where he can hide himself, everyone will have to go to their limit.
Some riders will race more conservatively, Rafal Majka and Bauke Mollema may have an alliance, they are currently 4th and 6th and surely they would love it if the race was to finish already. Both have good support for the mountains, Majka has Formolo and with the Maglia Azurra almost confirmed Mollema may count on the support of Brambilla and Ciccone, and they can always play part if the race takes an unexpected turn, as Ilnur Zakarin who took part of the break in stage 13 and profited big time.
Carapaz will surely retain his lead, Roglic is the closest to him but doesn't seem to have it in him to take back the jersey, and Nibali is still far from the lead even if he manages to win sme time.
⭐ MA.Lopez, Roglic, Pozzovivo, Majka, Mollema
I'll say it's time for Nibali to rack a stage win. Caruso and Pozzovivo have been looking mega strong, Nibali himself has given the best signs so far in the race, and I think he is at the level of Carapaz, or very similar at least. Carapaz won't play defensive, I think the duo can top the Mortirolo in front and work until the finish to distance Roglic, Nibali will try to get the win whilst Carapaz will work harder to get Roglic out of the fight.
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