Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia, crossing the line in Brixen-Andalo just ahead of race leader Steven Kruisjwijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) taken 3rd on the stage some 8 seconds after the leading duo.
With the start taking place in Bressanone, it was only a 132km stage but probably one of the fastest and most action packed stages of this year’s Giro. Attacks flew from the peloton as soon as the race saw the flag drop at kilometer zero. Nothing got away until we reached the first of 2 big climbs, the Mendelpass, which began after 50km. The pace was so high though that the race reached the base of the climb in less than an hour.
Our Igor Anton actually started the climb with a small gap but the likes of Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) decided to throw even more fuel onto the fiery start and attacked from the base. All the GC contenders then got in on the action, putting the pink jersey, Kruisjwijk, under pressure. He was equal to the challengers though and responded to all the moves, and later counter attacked near the top of the climb to form a group of 10 leaders.
Our African Team were on high alert as we tried to protect Kanstantsin Siutsou in order to conserve his top 10 GC placing overall. There was a rolling descent to the start of the final big climb of the day, Fai Della Paganella, which peaked with just 9.5km to go. On the climb the first to make a move was in fact the race leader, Kruisjwijk. He blew the break to pieces and in the end it was only Zakarin and Valverde that could respond. Further down the road there were two other distinct chase groups, all only separated by a matter of 2 minutes.
In group 1 there were the likes of Esteban Chaves (Orica-Greenedge) and Nibali. Siutsou was in the 2nd group along with Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) among others. It would pretty much remain status quo from here on in. Valverde took a good win and Siutsou came home with his group, 3’20” down but 18th on the day and now 10th on the overall GC.
Jay Thomson – Rider
That wasn’t so easy today. It was a deceptive start as we thought it was a lot flatter than it really was, we were doing 60km/h for the first 45 minutes and then we already hit the bottom of the first climb. Then it was just game on. I think it was Movistar who started the troubles. To be honest I don’t really know what went on after that, I was just looking for wheels trying to make sure I just got the finish. It was not an easy day and as you can see, only 43 guys made it to the finish under 17 minutes behind the front guys, the rest being in the grupetto’s. It’s really great to see Kanstantsin kept his top 10 on GC. I tried to help him as much as I could before the bottom of the first climb but after that he was all by himself and man alone, so it was also a hard day for him today. I’m really happy for him though, I hope he can keep on improving and you never know what lies ahead. On the weekend there are 2 super hard days coming so we look forward to then and see what he can do there.