Giulio Ciccone wins sodden Stage 16 as Roglic falters – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2019

Stage 16

Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic dropped to third in the overall standings after a trademark Vincenzo Nibali attack on the rain-soaked Mortirolo as Italy’s Giulio Ciccone won Stage 16 and extended his vice-like grip on the blue jersey.

Trek-Segafredo’s Ciccone capped a fine day out in the break by beating fellow escapee Jan Hirt (Astana) in a sodden sprint in Ponte di Legano after crossing every summit of the mountainous 194km stage in pole position.

But all eyes were on the big favourites as the battle for pink intensified with a huge Shark attack on the Mortirolo, the Italian two-time champion NIbali (Bahrain Merida) riding clear of his rivals to pile the pressure on Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Britain’s Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).

Movistar duo Richard Carapaz and Mikel Landa kept their cool before riding back into contention with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) ahead of the summit of the climb – billed by many as the hardest in professional cycling.

Nibali eventually led home a select group 1’41” down on the stage winner and 20-odd seconds behind third place Fausto Masnada (Androni Giacattoli).

Roglic and Yates crossed the line in a beleagured chase group alongside Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) just over three minutes in arrears.

Nibali, the 2013 and 2016 champion, moves up to second place in the standings but stays 1’47” behind Ecuador’s Carapaz, who kept calm and rode a steady race alongside Spanish teammate Landa. Suddenly, those imperious time trial wins seem an age away.

Roglic, from whom the momentum seems to be slipping away, drops to third place, 2’09” down on Carapaz and level on time with fourth-place Landa.

Colombian Lopez was tailed off by the Nibali group towards the finish but rose above Yates and Russia’s Pavel Sivakov (Team Ineos) to seventh place and back into the white jersey.

It was 24-year-old Ciccone’s second stage win on the Giro following his maiden scalp in 2016. Having discarded his rain jacket going over the summit of the Mortirolo, the Italian had to brave the cold conditions on the descent – as well as some gamesmanship from Hirt.

With his Astana teammate Lopez on the attack behind, Hirt refused to help the shivering Ciccone on the approach to the finish. But the Italian had the better kick and made light work of his Czech opponent in the finish, tossing away his sunglasses in rapturous celebration before crossing the line to the delight of the tifosi.

Richard Carapaz in the rough conditions climbing up the Mortirolo pass.

Ciccone added a maximum 58 points to his blue jersey haul to move more than 160 points clear of his nearest rival, the double stage winner Carapaz.

A break of 21 riders formed on the first of two uncategorised climbs that warmed up the riders’ legs ahead of their rendez-vous with one of the most feared and revered climbs in the sport.

Astana placed three riders in this move in Hirt, Davide Villella and Stage 7 winner Pello Bilbao, while Bahrain Merida had two in Antonio Nibali and the irrepressible Damiano Caruso, as did Mitchelton Scott through Mikel Nieve and Chris Juul-Jensen.

Movistar had the Costa Rican livewire Andrey Amador as a potential bridge for their two GC men, while Jumbo-Visma had placed Koen Bouwman in the move, which built up a maximum lead of over five minutes.

Behind, the remaining seven Movistar riders – including pink jersey Carapaz – were all on the front and controlling the pace of the peloton.

Italy’s Ciccone jousted with Androni Giocattoli pair Masnada and Mattia Cattaneo for the KOM points going over the two climbs which had been brought in to replace the Passo di Gavia, which had been ruled out owing to a snow blockage on the summit.

Ciccone extended his lead in the maglia azzurra standings over the Cevo and Aprica climbs, the break completing the descent ahead of the fearsome Mortirolo with over five minutes to play with.

There was two flash-points on the descent delivered by opposing Spaniards: veteran Fran Ventoso (CCC Team) edging clear of the break to build up a small lead, and Movistar’s Antonio Pedrero skidding out on the tight corner just behind teammate Carapaz.

Ventoso was caught by the time the break passed though the intermediate sprint preceding the showpiece climb, which the peloton hit trailing the break by 5’30”.

Veteran Ventoso starred again minutes later after handing a spare water bottle to Nibali after the Italian powered past on the climb.

Nibali had ridden clear of his GC rivals after putting on a stinging attack on the double-digit early slopes of the Mortirolo with around 35km remaining.

The attack saw Roglic, Yates and Lopez instantly dropped – although the Colombian would later rally before returning onto the wheels of Carapaz and Landa, who kept their collective calm under the pressure of Nibali, allowing themselves to continue at the pace being set by Pedrero.

Roglic suffered another damaging day in the saddle.

Up ahead, Hirt had ridden clear with Ciccone, Caruso, Masnada and Nieve in pursuit. As the rain started to pound down, Ciccone and Hirt edged ahead while Caruso and Nieve dropped back to prepare themselves for their returning teammates.

This was a theme of the stage with Caruso supplying pacing support to teammate Nibali, Bilbao doing the same for Lopez, and Nieve eventually linking up with Yates after the climb.

It was Ciccone who crested the summit in pole position after making a hash of putting on a rain jacket, the young Italian eventually resorting to toss it aside and opt for the old-school trick of stuffing some newspaper down the front of his jersey.

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