After a day’s rest at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the riders are thrown back into the deep end upon Stage 16, potentially the most foreboding day in the saddle for much of the peloton. This is an occasion for the purest of climbers to take full advantage of and shall be the greatest test thus far of Tom Dumoulin’s ability to stay in the maglia rosa. A 222km long route from Rovetta to Bormio is only made longer by a triptych of ascents intended to carve great divides amongst those gunning for the general classification podium in Milano. The first leg breaking challenge is the Passo del Mortirolo, possessing a notoriety for its gruelling slopes, this ascent is in fact somewhat easier due to being ridden from its less intense side. The average gradient of the 12.8km climb is 7.6%, while the steeper sections hover between 9% – 10%, potentially proving a quiet affair with so much more climbing to follow throughout the day. The subsequent sharp descent soon leads back onto rising roads, reaching the foot of the first of two contrasting climbs up the famous Stelvio. The 21.7km rise is the highest point of this year’s race, earning the title of Cima Coppi, averaging 7.1% from bottom to top. From here a long descent begins, taking the riders down to the base of the second ascent of the Stelvio, the 13.4km Umbrail Pass. This is to be tackled at an average gradient of 8.4%, though much of the difference shall be made by the slopes which kick upwards to 12%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will thunder down the resulting descent, a tricky affair which leads onto an equally technical finale in Bormio.
Nairo Quintana should view Stage 16 as an ideal opportunity to inflict maximum damage upon Tom Dumoulin and other rivals in the general classification. He usually relishes these ascents, especially when part of long attritional stages like today, allowing him to maximise any advantage which he is able to open up on the maglia rosa. We are yet to see the best from the Colombian rider, yet given his plan to peak in the final week of this year’s Giro d’Italia, this might be the day we see the Movistar captain attack with all guns blazing.
Ilnur Zakarin appears to be peaking in the third week of a grand tour once again, the Russian climber now a real candidate to pick up stage honours during this barrage of difficult stages. As one of the purest climbers amongst the general classification names, Zakarin has often showed himself to be unmatchable on these longer and steeper ascents, possessing the ruthless tactical nous required to win when part of an elite group deciding the outcome.
Thibaut Pinot will find the day’s three main climbs to his liking, allowing him to set a strong tempo for the majority of the ascent and attempt to stick the pace of main rival Nairo Quintana. Rivals may try to expose his apparent weakness for descending by upping the pace on the final descent, something which might motivate the Frenchman to launch a preemptive attack on the last climb and open up a gap before they can target him. Whatever the plan, Pinot is one of the few capable of matching Quintana for the most part on Stage 16 and will prove an interesting watch during the final kilometres.
Pierre Rolland is still hunting for an elusive stage win at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, proving to be one of the most active provocateurs during the opening skirmishes and has previous form when it comes to emerging victorious upon these big days in the mountains. He fits the terrain well on Stage 16, an ideal platform for the Frenchman to settle into a strong rhythm and aim to sail off into the distance to victory.
Others to consider are Vincenzo Nibali, Omar Fraile, Mikel Landa and Domenico Pozzovivo.
1st Pierre Rolland 2nd Mikel Landa 3rd Ilnur Zakarin