Giro d’Italia Stage 16 Preview

The Giro resumes after a rest day and we begin the backloaded final week with the first of three summit finishes.

The Route: 203km and 5,200m of vertical gain. Out of Sabbio and past Salo then along the shores of Lake Garda to Riva del Garda, almost flat although there are some undulations when the road darts away from the lake.

The first climb of the day scales Monte Velo to the Passo Santa Barbara. It’s a deceptive climb at first, a big wide road that heads out of town with the feel of something sluggish, where large trucks and buses cross over to the next valley. Only there’s a 15% gradient warning sign and the road suddenly funnels into something hardly wide enough for two Fiats. Then the slope bites and the hairpins start and the 14% section is real, not the inside line on a hairpin but a ramp. There’s a steep descent and then the road drags up to the Passo Bordala. The descent takes the race into the Adige valley but only just for the first intermediate sprint in Rovereto.

Then comes a second category climb that doesn’t look like much but it’s got 6km at 8% at the start before the slope turns into a drag up the side of the valley before crossing over and descending back down the other side of the valley almost Revereto.

The climb to Serrada depends on your perspective, the gentlest climb of the day but also a dizzying balcony road. There are no surprises but it’s a 17km climb, a team – think Ineos – can put their mountain train to work here and it’s softening things up for the final. There’s a long descent, gentle at first and then 8% for 12km but on a main road before reaching the valley floor and 10km to eat some gels for the final climb.

The Finish: Monte Bondone’s a legendary climb of the Giro, more on this below. Today’s ascent is not the “Gaul” route of 1956 but instead climbs out of Aldeno. From here it’s a 20km climb and the shorthand version is: first 2km hard, next 10km are OK and then the next 10km are hard before it eases to the line.

The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance here. Climbers who can go up the road without forcing Ineos or Jumbo-Visma to chase are Jeferson Cepeda (EF Education-Easypost) and team mate Ben Healy. Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) could get an Italian win. UAE seem happy to let riders go for the breakaway so Jay Vine or Brandon McNulty could try. Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain) is the local rider today and a decent climber but a grand tour stage would be a breakthrough.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is caught in a bind. 11th overall at 4m23s, none of the GC hopefuls will want to let him take time by and become a podium outsider by sliding into the breakaway so even trying to get points for the mountains competition where he’s currently second isn’t easy. Ditto Einer Rubio (Movistar) too, 14th at 5m29s who is almost tied with Pinot for points on the mountains competition.

Will the GC contenders move? There’s no head wind for a change but because the opportunities so far have brought a stalemate it still feels like they might still be observing each other and looking for weakness rather than striking out on their own although of course everyone will be willing an attack-fest, if only on Monte Bondone. It’s hard to pick among Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas and João Almeida. Roglič’s weapon is his uphill sprint but we don’t quite know how his form is and today’s stage flattens out right at the end; Thomas might like the flatter finish today and Almeida briefly showed some punch on the ride through Bergamo Alta on Sunday and is still hunting his first grand tour stage.

Cepeda, Roglič, Thomas
Almeida, Healy, McNulty, Fortunato, Vine

Weather: sunny and warm in the valley, 25°C

TV: KM0 is at 11.05 and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

Embed from Getty Images

Bondone and Gaul: Monte Bondone sits above the nearby city of Trento, a constant presence for locals as well as a ski resort. In cycling Bondone rhymes with the exploits of Charly Gaul. He won when the race first visited in 1956, taking the maglia rosa here on Stage 21 and winning the race overall two days later. Only it was the manner of his win that impressed, he started the day 24th overall and 17 minutes down on GC. A snowstorm hit the race and in sub-zero temperatures he road to the stage win and race lead, tappa e maglia. Many were forced to quit the race and of those who rode make it to the top of the mountain, many took their time and some probably got a lift to the point where the organisers were just desperate for riders to reach the finish by any means so that the event could continue. Even doing the stage on a vehicle wasn’t easy, as John Foot tells in the excellent Pedalare! Pedalare! “only one of the 12 motorbikes on the Giro was able to accompany him up the mountain”.

56 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 16 Preview”

  1. I know Thomas was on the Tour podium last year, but I have a hard time believing he can win a grand tour any longer. Age bias? But if he were going to win the Giro, Jumbo-Visma is racing perfectly to permit it.
    I fear it’s a day where I’ll regret waking early to watch here in western Canada, at least for the gc.

    • I have a sneaking suspicion that Almeida and not Thomas will be the biggest threat to Roglic’s hopes of victory although I don’t think Geraint will slip off the podium. But a lot will also depend on how their teams play it.

      • I think this isn’t a bad shout.
        I’m sort of on the fence of whether I’m with you or not…

        I really like Almeida for his grit and determination but he wasn’t with Rog and Thomas the one time we’ve seen the GC hopefuls go for it and he doesn’t have the pedigree as it stands of Rog and Thomas.

        Thomas is regularly doubted and proves people wrong, and even if his Tour victory was the highpoint of his career, his second a year later and podium last year we almost more impressive so it feels silly to doubt him. I too though have this slightly feeling cracks will show in coming days that will allow Rog to win and might let Almeida pinch second.

        Even if all evidence so far says the opposite.

        • Dave – I don’t doubt Thomas (no pun intended). I just think the other two have the edge on him but team work and tactics could still reverse that (or otherwise).

          • This chat is very funny in hindsight!!

            We’re both wrong in every way…!!!

            Complete opposite to earlier stage, fully expected Almeida to either cling on stoically or drop a few seconds and had a feeling Thomas would do similar… totally wrong.

    • I agree, and I think Roglic would be wise (unless he’s sick/injured) to try to put time into Thomas – and Almeida – before the final TT. But I don’t think it’ll be today with that flat-ish finish. Roglic might sprint for it, but he’s not that likely to drop the others significantly. He’ll wait to do his sprint finishes on another day. I’d enjoy seeing him going longer – and I think he could drop the rest and seal the race, but I don’t think he will.

  2. The rest day “news” that Cav is packing it in at the end of the season was hardly unexpected. He might not be the force he once was but he will be missed. I am sure our host will post his own career review but William Fotheringham has an excellent one in the Guardian , he mentions the Tour crosswind stage into Saint-Amand-Montrond which was just about my favourite GT stage, the image of Brad Wiggins leading him out on the Champs Elysee in the Maillot Jaune was very memorable (and likely to be a one off). It also reminds that G has had just about as long a career, I wonder if any of the “new” generation of riders will still be competing at a high level in 10 or 12 years time?

    I suspect we are in for another no score draw today but I fancy Geraint Thomas to carry Pink into Rome, just get the feeling Primoz Roglic is not quite there.

    • Roglic has said a few times that he doesn’t feel too good, etc. That makes me think that he feels fine because the last thing you do is tell your rivals that you’re not feeling good if that’s true.

    • Off topic for a Giro post, but that image of Wiggins in the yellow jersey leading out Cavendish in the World champs jersey to win the Champs Elysees sprint is indelibly etched in my mind – wonderland for British cycling followers, as well as real panache from Wiggins (when was the last time the tour winner led out a winning sprint there?). I remember Cav bemoaning the lack of support that year in the Tour, but he still won 3 stages, which seems unreal for a GC-focused Sky.

      • I’m optimistic but not insane – conventional wisdom is Roglic can’t shake the memory of his Tour collapse so will wait for Saturday while SKYNEOS will try to keep a tight lid on things while Almeida diesels-away behind until the end.
        But someone might do something? Who was the last real attacker? A guy capable of being on a GT podium who threw caution (and many would say good sense) to the wind and just went for it? Chiappucci was one, Pantani perhaps another. Scarponi should be on the list. Nibali? Virenque?
        Will we ever see men like these again or is the whole thing radio-controlled “marginal gains” and conserving, conserving, conserving until the end?

        • “Who was the last real attacker? A guy capable of being on a GT podium who threw caution (and many would say good sense) to the wind and just went for it? ”

          Chris Froome.

          • Surely you jest! He’s in my “Mow ’em down in the chrono, defend in the mountains” category, near the top of the list IMHO while Pogacar pretty well fits my attacker category and I might put Evenepoel in there via some single-day exploits.
            Jose Manuel Fuentes comes to mind from back-in-the-day when he battled Merckx in the same way Chiappucci battled BigMig. Charly Gaul might get in via his famous Monte Bondone exploit but I’m not up enough on how many other exploits like that involve him just off the top of my head.

        • Nibali raced and won under the whole “earpieces and marginal gains” paradigm. Earpieces has been there for a long time, actually. They were such a relevant part of racing that they got portraited with a specific highlight in the Japanese anime “Nasu – Summer in Andalusia” (2003), for example (to name a cultural product which went beyond the public of pure fans of the sport).
          Same as Nibali for Quintana and Contador. They didn’it all the time, in each and every race (but nobody ever did), but they won (and lost) GTs that way.
          In very recent times, Bernal, too, both won and lost GTs attacking from far, same for Carapaz.

          Re: Froome. My point, to reply to Archie, is precisely that his spectacular raid was *not* about throwing caution and good sense to the wind. It had been programmed and calculated previously in detail. And was probably his only remaining chance after a difficult Giro where, as I wrote back there, the rest didn’t care about kicking him out from GC for good when he was on the back foot. The latter aspect was similar to Pantani 1998, not the former. And both aspects were very different from what Nibali, Contador, Quintana, Carapaz, Bernal did more often, that is, being daring and offensive when all is still very open in itself.

  3. I would normally agree with Jay Vine being given a chainring for a stage like today but looking at his social media it looks like he is still unwell so I wouldn’t expect a stage win today.

  4. Seems everyone is v gloomy on the prospect of action today. 18 and 19 might be more likely, but day after the rest day and a draining race so far, wouldn’t be surprised if someone has a bad day and gets the heat piled on

    • The winner could be decided this way round. Riders having bad days and getting dropped rather than any GC contenders launching winning attacks. The poor weather has made it quite attritional.

      • As if we hadn’t ever had Giri with stages and stages of terrible weather, which didn’t prevent at all attacking racing…

  5. Pinot seems to have the same issue as a lot of others – accepting that he’s not going to win the GC, no matter what, and therefore losing time deliberately.
    At his stage of career, it’s much better to win stages and/or the mountain jersey than come 7th in the GC. If you’ve never done it before, a GC top ten is a big achievement. If you’ve done it multiple times in multiple grand tours, why do you want to do it again?
    Unusually, this year’s Giro may have quite the contest for the mountains prize.

    • Except Pinot worked hard to help the Kamna group on Sunday come back. If it was all about the Mountain Jersey, you’d think he would have lost time then. He’s yet to lose time on any stages by the way by design. The TT’s and the two stages where there’s been a small amount of pushing at the end are where his time has gone.

      • That’s my point. He’s looking at a potential top ten, and nothing more. So, I think it would be better to deliberately lose time and thus be allowed in breaks and thus potentially win stages and/or the mountain jersey.
        Surely it’s better to win something than to get a top ten?
        Virenque is remembered for his seven mountain jerseys not his multiple top tens at the TdF. If more people had this attitude, the competition might regain its stature.

        • I can only guess he’s seeing how far he can go and if say today, he loses a bunch of time because he can’t stick with Rog et al, he’ll reevaluate.

        • Surely Virenque is remembered for being caught doping, denying it to the extent he became a national figure of fun who transcended cycling and repeatedly getting the red peas shirt by shooting off the front every day then letting the real contenders for the actual GC contest past on the final climb. It’s a tactic, true, but if anything he devalued the contest. Pantani knew, and said so.

        • It’s one of the side effects of the lack of GC action in the first 2 weeks: it’s been really hard for riders to lose time because the GC contenders haven’t been trying to gain it!

  6. Going to disagree with everyone above and say we WILL see some GC action today. The cumulative climbing is hard enough; there’s a long section at 8% before the slightly easier finish; tomorrow is an easier day.

  7. I wish John Foot would write the promised follow up to “Pedalare! Pedalare!”, to cover where he left off to the modern era. Absolutely great book – must re-read it now. And everyone who hasn’t already should go buy a copy, perhaps help encourage him to do the 2nd!

  8. Unless there is some sort of wind affect i think we will see at least some GC action today. Even if the top 3 or so come in close together even dislodging some of the top 10 may free things up for later in the week. Giving space for somebody higher up to have a fling and making those who lose a little time more likely to attempt something.

  9. Btw why are some fans calling for an end to boring Giro? Did they expect this year’s course to encourage daily GC battles?

    If we aren’t allowing full on doping it’s not possible for GC riders to battle everyday.

    • No, fans were expecting some vague appearance of a GC contest, at least. Not any great battle, just… anything.
      Some skirmish could be expected on the Gran Sasso, as well as at least some team forcing on Lago Laceno to see if anyone was still too low on form. Same as in previous Giros featuring very similar stages, of both we have decent sampling. None so boring.
      Maybe they could try the same sort of mutual testing we actually saw in Fossombrone, not much more. We didn’t have even that, besides that specific stage.
      Same for Monte Braida. Check Landa and Superman López in the 2019 Pinerolo stage for a positive example under extremely similar conditions, weather included.

      Then, they succeeded in factually cancelling what would have been a potentially impacting stage in Switzerland. They didn’t like it long and didn’t race it short, either. Bergamo could be a very tricky stage like Fossombrone, or a highly tactical one. Neither was even tried.

      Nobody expected any genius move in the way too many stages which were already “sold” by design to a bunch sprint or a break. Fine. But we had 3 tricky stages + 2 minor uphill finishes (where you can test the rest with your team or by yourself without putting too much at stake) + 1 serious mountain stage. Only *one* (1 out of 6!) was partially taken advantage of.
      There’s something of a middle ground between “GC battle everyday” and turning every occasion to try something barring a single one in a series of no contest.
      When it rained, it rained, when it was windy it was windy, if the stage was long it was long, if short, too short, maybe the day before had been hard, if it wasn’t, well you could say that they expected tomorrow to be a hard day. Whatever. Than they got Bergamo with perfect weather, complex terrain, a rest day on Monday and… nothing. When they come up with such excuses… have they ever watched most Giri of, say, the last couple of decades? A Gilberto Simoni stands as a true giant, not to speak of what they faced in 2010 or 2013 and so on and on.

      • Of course, part of it is down to becoming TDF-like under a broad range of POVs. But that’s not the way the Giro must go, IMHO. The TDF isn’t the greatest race because of its contents, not the course, not even startlist, and not the racing, either. So it’s a mistake to try to follow in those aspects, paradoxically following… an old image of the TDF, by the way. The Giro should stay old-style, but *its* old style, the best part of which has actually been copied by the TDF (while ASO also introduced other less valuable trends taking them from the Vuelta).

      • This summary is probably accurate, Gabriele, but imagine it with a healthy Remco still involved and you would have much less of a battle going on.
        Soudal Qst are now down to 2 riders this Giro and it’s become a question of succession with three teams that sent their leaders not worthy of TdF selection. None of these wants to be the lieutenant that loses so we are left in suspense until the moment of “now-or-never”, which let’s hope comes during today’s stage; any stage.
        I do think Leknessund could only benefit – in our esteem at least- from going out to try something today if the other three are stuck, waiting to move.

        • You meant, not worthy of TDF *leadership* rather than “selection”, I suppose.

          Both Roglic and Thomas strated as leaders at the TDF last year, of course, but time is not on their side, surely – although I’m not so sure that Dani Martínez is already that much above G, even less so if we speak of Tao (who’s unluckily out).
          Almeida is various steps below Pogacar, but it’s not like he’s exactly a lieutenant, either. More of a second sword.

          All the above doesn’t justify what we’ve been seeing, anyway. We’ve seen Giri where various “second choice captains” gave them all precisely to prove a point, be it that they were worth of something more, that they were not already finished, or whatever, for example, just wanting to win.

          • You can make the course as interesting as you like but when the 3 main combatants are Thomas (past his best), Roglic (rides ‘a la Valverde’ and relies on his kick) and Almeida (has never knowingly attacked in his life) then what can you do?
            If Remco had stayed in and healthy then he might have had a substantial lead and forced people to attack. The race is lacking a genuinely good pure climber who is required to attack, like a prime Landa or an on form Simon Yates.

          • Richard S – it worked so GRAZIE I guess? As much as I disliked today’s result at least something happened to turn this into a race. Caruso has to take a big swing or he’s done while Thomas, Roglic and Almeida can now duke it out Thursday, Friday and Saturday to see who will wear pink in Rome. W Il Giro!

          • Richard S – EXACTLY, the top 3 at this point are not in the best positions to attack day after day.

            Unfortunately, Remco left the race.

            People need to stop complaining, and appreciate the race for what it is – it’s a beast of an event, and finishing it on a daily basis is hard. We have had great attacking racing for the stage wins, a product of a very unique course.

            Fans complain when there are too many flat stages, they complain when there are too many mountain stages, they complain… it’s tiring listening to fans – this is a great race. I for one, am happy with it, and am not looking forward to next week when there is no more Giro.

  10. I commented elsewhere I thought Almeida would win but I expected Thomas to be 3rd losing time and Remco 2nd gaining time on Thomas.
    Does Remco need warmer temps to perform his best?

  11. Without Sepp, Rog would be in a world more of bother. Kuss after pulling for kilos then was having to time trial Rog to 1 k to go on flatter ground not Sepp’s forte.

    The race is now between Almeida and Thomas

  12. “The race is now between Almeida and Thomas” So quick to write-off Roglic and J-V? I know they have SRAM, but I doubt ( and hope not) we’ve seen the last of them as protagonists. Today’s kinda/sorta another rest day for the contenders so who knows what will happen on Thursday or Friday or Saturday? Unless Roglic’ knee is really banged up it’s hard not to see him biding his time for a huge effort on Saturday to erase (or try) the memory of his famous Tour collapse on a similar stage at a similar point in that race….or at least not blow it so badly. W Il Giro!

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