Valverde wins stage 16 in Giro d’Italia as Nibali cracks

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took his first ever Giro d’Italia stage victory and moved himself back into podium on a fast and furious stage 16 to Andalo. Valverde beat maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk in a sprint to the line as the Dutchman extended his lead in the overall classification.

The final week of the Giro d’Italia got underway with a mountainous stage sixteen today as another warm and sunny morning in the South Tyrol region of northeastern Italy welcomed the riders to the start line.

A fast descent opened the stage with attacks trying to from over the first twenty kilometres before ten riders escaped together and gained 30seconds on the peloton. The breakaway group included Simon Clarke (Cannondale) and Joey Rosskopf and Daniel Oss of BMC.

The fast moving peloton were not allowing the breakaway to gain any ground with the field coming back together at the start of the first climb of the day Passo della Mendola.

The pace did not let up over the first kilometres of the climb with Valverde the first to attack followed by Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha). The move strung put the peloton with riders being dropped out of the back of the bunch immediately.

David Lopez (Sky) had also followed Valverde and the Sky rider was now off the front and going for the mountains points on the ‘Mendel Pass’. A select group had formed at the front of the bunch including Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and race leader Kruijswijk.

Kruijswijk was off the front twice with 72kilometres left to race as he closed down attacks from Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) then Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep).  With many of the race favourites losing time in Sundays individual time trial and keen to make immediate amends, the attacks kept coming on the long first climb of this short stage. Nibali went again a few hundred metres from the summit followed by Valverde and the two crested the climb fifty metres ahead of the Chaves group.

Nibali was clearly looking to gain time on the following descent but Kruijswijk and Zakarin caught the wheel of the Astana rider and along with Valverde the four made it across to the six leaders creating group of ten at the front of the race.

Chaves had missed the move on the descent and was now 36seconds behind the pink jersey group. Nibali had Astana teammate Tanel Kangert with him in the lead group and Kangert was now driving on the group trying to put more time into Chaves. Plaza and Howson were on the front of the Chaves group trying to bring the race back together before the final climb for the Colombian.

With 40kilometres left to race the gap had fallen to 30seconds as Plaza and Howson continued to lead the chase unaided with only 18kilometres to go until the epic Fai della Paganella climb. Twenty-two kilometres in length with a short descent and maximum gradients of 15% before the summit finish in Andalo.

Cannondale began to help with the chase when Joe Dombrowski was dropped by the lead group although it was still Plaza and Howson rotating off the front. The nine leaders still had 30seconds going into the final 30kilometres.

On the start of the final climb the nine leaders had 35seconds as the chasing group split with Chaves making his move off the front followed by Uran and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff). Uran was dropped instantly as Chaves found his rhythm now only 20seconds behind the leaders.

Valverde attacked with 15kilometres to go and was followed by the pink jersey Kruijswijk and Zakarin with Nibali dropped along with Jungels and Lopez. Chaves brought the two chasing groups together one kilometre later with the seven chasers now 18seconds down on the three leaders.

With 40 seconds between himself and the three out front, the fat lady hadn’t sung for Nibali just yet but there was worse to come. While Chaves kicked on over the steepest gradients at the top of the climb, Nibali was heading out the back door for the second time in quick succession.

Up front, Zakarin was putting in most of the effort as Valverde loomed at the back waiting to use his superior sprint. Approaching the final corner, Valverde moved out of the wheel and powered to a comfortable finish over Kruijswijk, with Zakarin trailing over in third. Chaves would limit his losses to remain second overall, finishing 42 seconds down on the winner. Nibali, however, would be pushed off the podium, after finishing 1:47 back.

Wednesday’s stage 17 should give the GC riders a change to recoup before the more challenging stages later in the week but, with the Giro d’Italia, you can never be too sure.

Giro d’Italia 2016 – stage 16 (Bressanone – Brixen-Andalo):

1 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

2:58:54

2 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)

,,

3 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha)

+08”

4 Diego Ulissi (Lampre – Merida)

+37”

5 Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick-Step)

,,

6 David Lopez Garcia (Sky)

+38”

7 Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-Rusvelo)

,,

8 Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge)

+42”

9 Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

+50”

10 Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R)

+01’47”

 

General classification after stage 16:

1 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)

63:40:10

2 Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge)

+03’00”

3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

+03’23”

4 Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

+04’43”

5 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha)

+04’50”

6 Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

+05’34”

7 Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick-Step)

+07’57”

8 Andrey Amador (Movistar)

+06’53”

9 Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R)

+10’05”

10 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data)

+11’03”

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