Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won the 16th and Queen stage of the Giro d’Italia, sprinting to the win just ahead of Mikel Landa (Team Sky). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crossed the line in 3rd place on the stage while Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) lost a fair amount of time but still retained the overall pink leaders jersey.
At 224km in length and including the climbs Passo Mortirolo, Passo Stelvio and the Umbrailpass, it was clear to see why the 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia was considered the queen stage of the race. The peloton did not start the stage with any fear though, in fact there was constant attacking from the gun as riders tried to form the break of the day. Daniel Teklehaimanot was among the early attackers but our Eritrean Champ was reeled in.
50km was completed in the first hour of racing and only then did a big move of 27 riders go clear of the peloton. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Igor Anton, Omar Fraile and Natnael Berhane in the escape, with hopes of gaining valuable mountain points and targeting a top stage result. On the Mortirolo, which was raced in memory of Michele Scarponi, Fraile allowed Scarponi’s former teammate Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) to take maximum points with our Basque rider in 2nd.
As the race descended the Mortirolo the peloton kept close tabs on the break as Andrey Amador (Movistar) was in the move, and he was a threat to the GC contenders in the main field. Berhane worked hard to try extend the lead but it never got up over the 3-minute mark. When the race hit the Stelvio, riders started to go out the back of both the break and the peloton. Berhane and Fraile both could not sustain the pace upfront as 8 riders surged clear near the top, Anton one of the 8 representing our African Team.
The Umbrailpass was the final big test of the day but it was moments before the start of the climb where the real drama of the day began. Race leader Dumoulin had to stop for a natural break just before the climb began and by the time he got going again, the other GC contenders were a minute down the road already. As the break started attacking, Anton did what he could to follow the likes of Landa and Steven Kruisjwijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) but our Basque climber was eventually reeled in with 28km to go.
Nibali attacked near the summit of the final climb and took Quintana, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) with him. The quartet was able to catch the remnants of the break except for Landa, who started the descent with a 20″ lead. Nibali’s superior downhill ability saw him bridge that gap alone though and then out sprint the Sky rider to the line, giving Italy its first stage win of this years Giro.
Anton would end as our best placed rider on the day, finishing in 23rd. In earlier team news, Ryan Gibbons did not start today’s 16th stage. Riding his first grand tour, Gibbons impressed with a top 10 result on every sprint stage of the race. With no sprint stages remaining though and to preserve his young talent, the decision was made by team and rider to leave the race. We can only look at Gibbon’s debut grand tour as a massive success.
Igor Anton – Rider
Omar wanted to get into the break today. We started the first climb with 45 seconds and I just set the tempo at a fast pace until we made it. It would have been nice to go one and two over the climb but with Sanchez from Astana there, it was better for him to pass first as we dedicate the climb to Scarponi. On the next climb Kiryienka set a tough pace, I was going to wait with Omar but he said if I can, I must stay with the front. My legs were good so I rode until we were finally 6 riders left on the last climb but it was a long day. I eventually dropped to the peloton, I tried to fight and stay with these guys but eventually I crossed the line in 23rd position.