Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) followed the high pace being set by EF Education-Nippo before attacking over the top on the Passo Giau, the Cima Coppi, the highest point of the race.
The Colombian held off Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) and Romain Bardet (DSM) at around 30 seconds all the way down the descent to the finish in Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Bernal cruised to stage victory, taking off his rain jacket in the final few hundred metres to display the maglia rosa as he celebrated across the line. He also extended his lead in the overall standings over Caruso who moved up to second place.
How it happened
Stage 16 started with news that both the Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi had been removed from the stage along with the route being shortened to 153km, containing only two climbs instead of four between Sacile to Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The Pordoi was originally going to be the Cima Coppi, the highest point of the race, but instead that title went to the final climb of the day, the Passo Giau in the Dolomites.
Before the stage started, the riders and everyone involved in the race had a moment of silence to remember what is believed to be 14 people who had died after a cable car dropped from its cable to the ground in Stresa-Mottarone in Piedmont.
Afterwards, the riders set off in abysmal conditions. The weather was so bad that live pictures were very difficult to come by as helicopters were not allowed to take off. A breakaway of 24 riders did eventually manage to escape up the road.
Some big-name riders made it up into the break, including Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), João Almeida (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Gorka Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech), and mountain jersey wearer Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), along with 18 others.
Irish rider, Martin, was the best-placed of the riders in GC at 7-50, which meant that the peloton was working very hard to bring them back so that these riders weren’t able to come back in the overall.
But the descent of the first climb, La Crossetta, saw the break split up with Almeida, Nibali, Formolo, Izagirre, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo), and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) going up this road. This made Almeida the best placed at the front at 8-32 down on Bernal’s pink jersey.
With 65km to go, it looked like the chasing group were not making it back to the leaders with the gap to the chasing group including Martin at 3-30. The Ineos Grenadiers-led peloton further two minutes back.
With 40km to go, news came through that Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) had dropped out of the back of the peloton as EF Education-Nippo upped the pace for their leader, Hugh Carthy. The gap dropped to inside three minutes to the break just before the start of the Passo Giau.
The chasing group was swallowed up by the peloton before the Giau followed by Ghebreigzabhier from the lead group after working hard for his team-mate, Nibali. With 30km to go the gap dipped inside two minutes as Alberto Bettiol (EF-Nippo) continued to drill the pace.
Pedrero led down the brief descent onto the Giau, Izagirre tried to follow but almost crashed before suffering a puncture. Nibali and Formolo managed to bridge across, dropping Izagirre and Almeida. Formolo attacked early.
Pedrero managed to bridge to Formolo before kicking past and going solo to the line. Meanwhile, back in the peloton, the group had dropped to seven riders with Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) suffering a mechanical at the base of the climb with Simon Yates (BikeExchange) struggling at the back of the group.
Bernal then launched a devastating attack with 22km to go with Carthy following as was Romain Bardet. Yates was distanced along with Carthy’s team-mate, Simon Carr as well as Bernal’s final domestique Dani Martínez.
Bernal then dropped everyone, catching Pedrero and immediately dropping them as he disappeared up the road. He held a cap of around 30 seconds as Caruso chased on just behind, with Bardet then making his way back to the Italian on the descent.
There was nothing they could do to stop the race leader from holding his advantage though, as he celebrated his second stage victory at the race and the strengthening of his lead in the overall standings.
The Giro d'Italia now heads into its second rest day, before returning with stage 17 on Wednesday; a 193km summit finish stage from Canazei to Saga di Ala.
Giro d'Italia 2021, stage 16: Sacile to Cortina d'Ampezzo (153km)
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, in 4-22-41
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 27s
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at same time
4. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-18
5. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-19
6. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 1-21
7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 2-11
8. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at 2-31
9. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-33
10. Tobias Foss (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma, at same time
General classification after stage 16
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, in 66-36-04
2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 2-24
3. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 3-40
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 4-18
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 4-20
6. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 4-31
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 5-02
8. Dani Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 7-17
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 8-20
10. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 10-01
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1