A long day across the Alps and their foothills made for the breakaway.
Stage 16 Wrap: a fast start and then a slow burning stage. Movistar played a tactical game and eventually placed three riders into the day’s big breakaway including heavy-hitters Winner Anacona and Andrey Amador and it looked like they were setting up the classic “relay” move but that came to nothing although it did burn through all of Team Sunweb’s riders. Which meant when Tom Dumoulin veered to the side of the road at the foot of the Umbrailpass and pulled down his shorts for an emergency nature break he didn’t have anyone left to help pace him. The group ahead seemed hesitant but then Ilnur Zakarin took off and the pace picked up. Dumoulin had a problem but limited his losses to 2m16s which suggests the illness is – for now – one of those things can go away as quickly as it arrives. Meanwhile Vincenzo Nibali took the stage, exploiting the descent to drop Nairo Quintana and catch lone breakaway survivor Mikel Landa and then got the better of him in the sprint, taking the better line through the final bend. Landa at least gets the mountains jersey but he’s got work ahead to keep it but it’s within his grasp now.
Dumoulin grabs the headlines but Thibaut Pinot had a stinker, he couldn’t follow when Nibali and Quintana went clear and the Frenchman fell off the provisional podium with Nibali now up to third. A bad rest day, a jours sans? Time will tell.
Dumoulin is now in a fragile position but still in the overall lead. With Quintana needing a 90-120 second buffer ahead of the Monza-Milan time time trial stage it means Quintana needs to reclaim two to three minutes and he’s running out of road. Should Quintana and company have waited? If Dumoulin had suffered some unimaginable misfortune they could consider it but electing to stop just as the decisive climb of the day begins because the race leader has stomach problems is a declaration of weakness from the maglia rosa. It’s understandable we want to see a straight race, a mano a mano contest, but during a three week race these things happen: a grand tour is as much a test of health, recovery and diet as it is fitness and pedalling. There’s simply no equitable outcome here, you feel for Dumoulin but this seems to be a recurrent problem with him at altitude. The rider himself seemed resigned to the matter and still leads the race.
The Route: 219km, a slog after yesterday’s stage. the town of Tirano will be humming to the sound of riders warming up as the stage is uphill from the start with 6.7km and they turn onto the climb to Aprica.
The stage is so long that some may not even had time to digest breakfast fully so they may taste it again on the Aprica climb, 12.3km at 6.3%, a large steady ascent and a matching descent. Then comes 20km uphill along the valley to Ponte di Legno and the start of the Passo del Tonale.
The Tonale is another steady climb, 11km at 5.7% and crosses from Lombardia into the Trentino region via a reciprocal descent down to the apple orchards and vineyards of Cles and the feedzone.
The small climb to Giovo 5.9km 6.8% but with plenty of 8% and the last categorised climb of the day. But not the last climb. They take the long dragging road up the Val di Fassa to Canazei. It’s a big main road but rises gradually, call it a whitewater road for the way the road tracks the fast flowing river up the valley. The second intermediate sprint comes after a climb from Fiemme with 3.5km at 6%, nothing severe but a launchpad or at least the possibility of a shake out.
The Finish: a flat finish in the town of Canazei. The road climbs up a drag to the 500m point and then levels out but we’re talking small gradients, it’ll be a straight sprint if a group comes in.
The Contenders: who goes in the breakaway? We could look at who went in the move yesterday and rule them out thinking they’ll be rinsed from their efforts but in the third week everyone is tired and often those able to jump in the moves on one day can repeat the next.
Giovanni Visconti could get the day off and he’s good for stages like this. Over at UAE Emirates Rui Costa has had several goes already. He’s a diesel of a rider which suits this hard course but if he comes in for a sprint from a small group he’s not an obvious pick. Team mate Valerio Conti is another one to watch.
Luis-Leon Sanchez has had several goes but his speciality is the downhill arrival into the finish line and this stage doesn’t offer that. Astana team mate Dario Cataldo could have a go too.
There are many more names but in case the peloton or a reduced form composed of the GC contenders is left then Quick Step have two choices in Bob Jungels and possibly Fernando Gaviria.
|Giovanni Visconti, Dario Cataldo|
|L-L Sanchez, Devenyns, Mamykin, Woods, Konrad, Conti, Jungels, Rui Costa, Konrad|
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 28°C in the valleys. No wind.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. Otherwise cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.