Steven Kruijswijk finds himself still leading the Giro d’Italia after Sunday’s uphill time trial, now doing so with a modest margin of 2′ 12″ to nearest rival Esteban Chaves, while Vincenzo Nibali trails by 2′ 51″ after a poor TT struck by misfortune. With considerable time to regain and only a handful of opportunities before Torino to do so, Stage 16’s 132km yomp from Bressanone to Andalo looks to be a sleeping dragon amongst the race for the maglia rossa.
Esteban Chaves may have missed out on taking back t0 back stage wins at this year’s Giro d’Italia, but the time trial did once again reinforce the belief that the diminutive Colombian is the best climber in the race right now. He recorded an impressive split time on the steeper sections of the time trial, faster than Kruijswijk even and would have come closer to the win had the course been a tougher contest throughout. It is definitely touch and go whether a breakaway will decide Stage 16, but if the GC riders do decide stage honours amongst themselves instead, Chaves could make it two wins at the race upon today’s finale.
Alejandro Valverde confirmed our belief that Stage 14’s performance was primarily a blip due to the high altitude, returning to action in the time trial by finishing third and taking time on all his rivals except Kruijswijk. The day’s finale in Andalo looks tailor made for the Movistar captain, with the softer gradients and flatter run into the line allowing him to demonstrate his prowess for accelerating on such terrain before finishing it off with a sprint if required. Much will depend on the very hectic tactics likely to dictate the day’s attacks, but if Movistar assemble a coherent chase on behalf of Valverde, there is every chance he could be part of an elite group which reaches the finish first.
Vincenzo Nibali now has to animate the race with every opportunity if he is to have any chance of chipping away Kruijswijk’s lead by Torino. With bonus seconds up for grabs along with any stage win, Nibali could definitely attack late on the descent to establish a gap (TdF Stage 2 Sheffield style), after which he would become a difficult man to pull back. Given his urgent need to gain time, it is also worth mentioning that he is no slouch in a sprint finish after a stage like this, so may consider working with another climber in hope of beating them in a sprint for bonus seconds.
Rafal Majka and Ilnur Zakarin offer an interesting dynamic worth taking note of during the latter moments of Stage 16, as the duo are only a couple of seconds apart on the general classification and will have no doubt been ordered to mark one another closely. Of the two riders, today’s stage suits Zakarin the most, potentially allowing the Russian to attack on the final ascent and make a move for the stage victory.
As mentioned previously, the breakaway does certainly have a great chance of making it to the line if the general classification favourites leave it late to really duke it out. Diego Ulissi, Nicolas Roche, Giovanni Visconti, Joe Dombrowski, Stefano Pirazzi, Ramunas Navardauskas and Riccardo Zoidl could all walk away with the win here.
1st Alejandro Valverde 2nd Ilnur Zakarin 3rd Vincenzo Nibali
Breakaway: 1st Diego Ulissi 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Ramunas Navardauskas