Mikel Landa (Astana) took a second stage victory in a row at the 2015 Giro d’Italia after attacking with 4km to go on a gruelling stage that broke apart on the Mortirolo climb.
Landa moves up to second in the GC behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and ahead of his teammate Fabio Aru, after the Astana leader cracked on the steep slopes of the Mortirolo as the maglia rosa pushed up the pace on 13km climb.
Aru had intially reached the foot of the category one climb 49 seconds ahead of Contador, after the Spaniard had punctured on the descent down from Aprica, where the race would eventually finish.
Astana looked to try and take advantage of the situation, pushing the pace to get away from Contador, but an extraordinary ride from the race leader saw him speed up the Mortirolo to catch his main GC rival and then leave him behind.
Landa, along with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), were the only riders to be able to stay with Contador, and the threesome increased the gap between them and Aru as they hit the descent and the final category three finish back in to Aprica.
Though Contador looked eager to take a stage win to complement what looks likely to be overall success, he was unable to go with his compatriot who launched an attack and was out of sight of the two chasers within a kilometre.
The victory, Landa’s second in a row and Astana’s third of the race, sees him move up to second overall behind Contador with no immediate threat at 4-02 down.
Aru, left isolated behind, was forced to make a bike change on the descent from the summit of the Mortirolo with 20km to go, and was eventually passed by chasing riders Andrey Amador (Movistar), Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), as he saw his Giro hopes slip away.
The Italian moves to third in GC, 4-52 back, and will likely see his leadership responsibilities pass to the better placed Landa.
Wednesday’s stage 17 sees a final chance at victory for the sprinters before the race reaches Milan, with a short 134km flat stage into Lugano.
Giro d’Italia 2015, stage 16: Pinzolo – Aprica 175km
1. Mikel Landa (Esp) Astana
2. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 38 seconds
3. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
4. Yuri Trofimov (Rus) Katusha, at 2-03
5. Andey Amador (CRC) Movistar, st
6. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin, at 2-10
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 2-51
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC, at 3-16
9. Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky, at 3-19
10. Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
Overall classification after stage 16
1. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, 65-04-59
2. Mikel Landa (Esp) Astana, at 4-02
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 4-52
4. Andrey Amador (CRC) Movistar, at 5-48
5. Yuri Trofimov (Rus) Katusha, at 8-27
6. Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky, at 9-21
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC, at 9-52
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 11-40
9. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ, at 12-48
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin, at 12-49