Just how hard was the Mortirolo? Giro riders have their say

The descent played as much havoc as the climb itself, say riders

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rain and cold, and a famously brutal climb – just how hard was the Mortirolo at the end of stage 16? Riders, now dry and warm, have their say.

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) won the stage from an escape and Richard Carapaz (Movistar Team) added to his lead marking the attacks of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Others just suffered.

>>> Riders destroy Mortirolo Strava leaderboard during punishing stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia

"I'm really happy I had my rain jacket from the car, otherwise when I came down, for sure I wouldn't have made it to the finish because it was so cold," Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) told Cycling Weekly.

"It was like two to three degrees, rain, you don't see anything in front of you. Yesterday was really a bad day, but not just for me, all the riders were suffering yesterday. The rain, the cold and the climb... really."

"It was my first time, but one that will stick in my memory," said Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos), who made his debut in the Giro d'Italia and a Grand Tour.

"Luckily for me, I was able to ease back a bit for the descent and take my time going down. I had a nice Gabba jacket at the top. I took my time, no worries. I'm guessing the GC guys took a few more risks."

Bauke Mollema ascends through the dark on the Mortirolo (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dunbar said that it was "colder and wetter" the further they went up the 11.9km climb. Rain poured at the top, 1,854 meters, before they had the final valley road to Ponte di Legno. Most raced to the shelter of their buses for warmth and to escape the downpour.

"I actually think in the whole we got kind of lucky because it only started raining half-way or three-quarters the way up the Mortirolo, if it would've rained like that the whole way we would've froze," Larry Warbasse (Ag2r La Mondiale) added.

The American stopped at the top of the climb to put on his jacket in order to ensure he had it and not to take risks.

>>> Mortirolo descent so cold some Giro d’Italia riders ‘poured hot tea’ on themselves to try and warm up

"Going up I wasn't going á bloc so it was OK, but I froze going down, so going down kind of sucked and it was just trying to get to the in finish. The valley was probably the worst, just freezing," he said. "But I still think we got a little bit lucky."

"It was tough," said Scott Davies (Dimension Data). "It wasn't as tough for me as maybe the guys up front.

"It was steep. I had a 32-36, that helped and then the descent was the same for everyone, super cold. I just suffered through it.

"Going down it was worse. Luckily I got a hot tea from tea from the car but I just poured it straight over my hands. I had two jackets on, I was still cold. But that's what we signed up for, there's no point in complaining about it."

It seems the stronger riders suffered less in the day, 194 kilometres covered in five hours, 36 minutes by the winner. Six hours, 19 minutes for the last rider, Will Clarke (EF Education First).

"I enjoyed it," said Hugh Carthy (EF Education First), fifth on the day. "I had good legs. When you have good legs, it passes much quicker and easier."

"For me, it was good," added Mikel Landa (Movistar), seventh. "I feel good, and when you feel strong it's easier."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.