Report by Henry Nixon
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Horrendous weather, a lengthy solo struggle by Sky’s Dario Cataldo and a measured, well-paced ride by the new race leader characterised a day which crested three of the region’s toughest climbs.
Cataldo attacked a small breakaway group five kilometres from the summit of the Stelvio, winning the Cima Coppi prize for the first rider over the highest point of the race in weather that made viewing almost almost impossible.
As lenses steamed up from the snow and sleet, the riders switched back and forth past three-metre high snow drifts allowing Cataldo to quickly gain a four minute gap over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). A small breakaway group formed in between Cataldo and the maglia rosa group containing GC threats Quintana, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).
The groups raced over the flat section in between the Stelvio and the Monte Martello with time gaps remaining stable at 4-12 for Cataldo and 2-30 for the chasing group. Quintana’s group quickly approached the final ascent, passing Cataldo as the climb hit its steepest segments of 14 per cent.
The weather brightened up as Quintana led the front trio with the gap growing to around three minutes, placing the Colombian as the virtual leader of the race.
Rolland dropped off first with Hesjedal holding the gap at around 30 metres. The real drama of the race was happening a few minutes behind as former race leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) began to slip back. Uran followed an attack from Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) to claim back vital seconds. However, his efforts were too little too late as Quintana made 4-12 on Uran, placing himself in a fine position for the rest of the race.
British sprinter Ben Swift (Sky) finished in a highly creditable 25th place, just one place behind former Giro winner Ivan Basso (Cannondale).
Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Michele Scarponi (Astana) and Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Sharp) were among those who did not finish the stage. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) was a non starter after suffering with lingering injuries from a crash in the opening week.
Wednesday’s stage 17 features a relatively flat profile, but there could be more time gaps with the Poggio climb situated 20 kilometres from the finish.
To neutralise, or not to neutralise
There was some confusion on the descent of the Stelvio, when a message was put out via the race’s official Twitter account that the descent would be neutralised due to the weather and road conditions. However, Cataldo pushed on and no-one appeared to be slowing up.
A message appeared later on the Giro d’Italia’s official account stating that there was no neutralisation but questions remained at the end of the stage as to whether the message had reached some, or all, of the peloton.
Giro d’Italia 2014, stage 16: Ponte di Legno to Val Martello/Martelltal, 139km
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 4-42-35
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 8 secs
3. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 1-13
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 3-32
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 3-37
6. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 3-40
7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4-08
8. Sebastian Henao (Col) Sky at 4-11
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 4-11
10. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 4-48
25. Ben Swift (GBr) Sky at 17-43
Overall classification after stage 16
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 68-11-44
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1-41
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 3-21
4. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 3-26
5. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 3-28
6. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 3-34
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 3-49
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 4-06
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 4-16
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing at 8-02
Our quick guide to the iconic Giro d'Italia climb of Lo Passo dello Stelvio
Updated: Conflicting reports of whether the descent of the Stelvio Pass would be neutralised or not during stage 16 of