Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren) took his maiden Grand Tour victory on stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia 2020, attacking Ben O'Connor (NTT) on the final ascent in the last kilometre of the stage and holding on for victory.
Both had been part of the day's huge 28-man breakaway, but Tratnik was able to go out solo with around 37km to go having gone clear of the main group with Manuele Boaro (Astana) with over 50km remaining.
O'Connor formed part of a chasing group that also included Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) among it, and was able to close a 40-second gap to Tratnik on the third and final ascent of the Monte di Ragogna climb.
The pair were able to ride into the final 2km together when Tratnik stopped working, following O'Connor up the final steep ascent that came with around 800m to go.
The Slovenian attacked the Australian with 600m remaining and created a gap over the top, with the spent O'Connor unable to close it.
Tratnik was then able to cruise down to the finish to take a hard-earned victory, as O'Connor claimed second. Tratnik's team-mate Enrico Battaglin was able to take third place ahead of Kamil Małecki (CCC Team) and Swift in the sprint from the chasing group.
There was very little action among the GC contenders in the peloton until the uncategorised ascent in the final kilometre of the stage. Pink jersey João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) attacked on the climb and was able to gap Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and the other contenders over the top, holding on to take two seconds on the GC group led in by Jai Hindley (Sunweb), extending his lead to 17 seconds over Kelderman in the overall.
How it happened
Following the final rest day, the riders faced a testing week in the mountains in the third week of the Giro d’Italia. While stage 16 wouldn’t reach the heights of the upcoming Stelvio or Colle dell’Agnello stages, the riders would still face a testing day of climbing that finished with three ascents of the Monte di Ragogna climb (3km at nine per cent) over a 27km circuit. At 229km, the stage from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli would be another long day in the saddle for the peloton.
The day got underway with multiple attacks heading towards the first category two climb of the day, with Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) and later Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabù - KTM) getting away to contest the king of the mountains points, which eventually went to Guerreiro.
A split in the peloton also saw a huge group of 26 riders escape, which eventually joined up with the two leaders.
With 160km remaining the gap to the chasing peloton was out at five minutes, as Deceuninck-Quick-Step seemed content to allow the breakaway to get away and take the stage.
Over the next two climbs Visconti was able to take maximum points to secure another day in the blue mountains jersey, with the time gap up and around eight minutes heading towards the final 100km of the stage.
Guerreiro was the first rider to attack out of the breakaway, heading off solo on the first ascent of the Monte di Ragogna with 67km to go and over 10 minutes advantage on the peloton.
He rode solo until Manuele Boaro (Astana) and Jan Tratnik counterattacked and reached him and then dropped him with around 54km remaining.
The remaining break split behind with Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers), Ben O’Connor (NTT), Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Kamil Małecki (CCC Team), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), and Tratnik’s team-mate Enrico Battaglin forming the chase at about 40 seconds behind into the final 40km.
Tratnik was able to drop Boaro on the second ascent of the Ragogna and headed off solo with the Italian eventually dropping back to the chase group which was around 38 seconds down towards 25km to go.
Slovenian Tratnik made a huge effort to keep the chasers at bay, now heading towards over 13 minutes ahead of the peloton, with the gap hanging around 40 seconds with only one ascent of the climb to go.
As Tratnik hit the bottom of the climb with around 42 seconds in hand, it was Ben O’Connor that pushed the pace out of the chasers to try and pin back the lone leader. Only Ben Swift and Battaglin were able to stay with him initially, but neither of them could hold on with O’Connor as he cut the gap down to 14 seconds with 14km to go.
The Australian could see Tratnik just in front of him and edged closer to him in the final kilometre of the climb, eventually catching him just as he went over the top with 13km left to the finish.
Behind Swift, Małecki, and Battaglin pursued but looked to have a tough job in pulling back the duo out front with 42 seconds between the two groups.
As O’Connor and Tratnik entered the final 2km, the latter then began refusing to take a turn on the front, with just one incline to come in the final kilometre with a 20 per cent ramp before a descent to the line.
O’Connor led on to the final climb, with Tratnik holding his wheel until attacking with 600m to go and gapping Kelderman over the top.
The was nothing the NTT man could do after such a punishing stage, and could only watch Tratnik cruise away to take a solo victory.
Around 13 minutes after the leaders, the GC contenders approached the final climb. With little action through the rest of the day, it was race leader Almeida who animated the finale with an attack that gapped the other contenders including second place Wilco Kelderman over the top the climb.
The Portuguese was able to hold them off in the final few hundred metres and take two seconds on the rest of his rivals in the top-10, who were led home by third place Jai Hindley.
The Giro d’Italia continues on Wednesday with stage 17, the first of three huge summit finishes in the final week, starting in Bassano del Grappa and finishing at the top Madonna di Campiglio climb after 203km.
Giro d'Italia 2020, stage 16: Udine to San Daniele del Friuli (229km)
1. Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-McLaren, in 6-04-36
2. Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling, at 7 seconds
3. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-14
4. Kamil Małecki (Pol) CCC Team
5. Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
6. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1-21
7. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time
8. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-25
9. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana, at 1-33
10. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè, at 1-37
28. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 12-54
29. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb, at 12-56
General classification after stage 16
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 65-45-09
2. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 17s
3. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb), at 2-58
4. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-59
5. Bilbao Pello (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 3-12
6. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3-20
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-31
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling, a 3-52
9. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 4-11
10. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 4-24
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