Quintana Wins Stage 16 of Giro d'Italia, Leads Race
On a cold, snowy day in the Italian Alps, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) blew the 2014 Giro d’Italia apart. After spending much of the race’s first two weeks recovering from crash injuries and the flu, the Colombian dominated Stage 16. On the descent of the Stelvio Pass, the Movistar man attacked from the maglia rosa group with several other riders and rode them off his wheel on the day’s final climb. Quintana won the 139-km ride from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello/Martelltal in 4:42:35. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp-POC) finished second at 0:08, and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) took third at 1:13. Quintana’s exploit has made him the maglia rosa.
The stage began with a downhill run, but after a few km, the climbing began. The riders took on the Category 1 Gavia Pass. Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) attacked in the snow and fog, and his teammate Jarlinson Pantano and Julian Arredondo (Trek) set out after him. The peloton reeled in the escapees on the descent.
The field began to split. Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giacattoli-Venezuela), Dario Cataldo (Sky), and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale) went off of the front, while Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Vuillermoz’s teammate Domenico Pozzovivo slid off of the back. The leaders forged a 2:38 lead, while a 10-man chase group formed behind them. Among the chasers were Chalapud, Pantano, Diego Rosa (Androni Giacattoli-Venezuela), Robert Kiserlovski (Trek), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Herbert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Alexander Geniez (FDJ.fr). Tinkoff-Saxo Bank chased hard on behalf of Rafal Majka. At one point, the riders received word that the race organizers had neutralized the descent, but the race organizers later denied making that announcement.
On the Stelvio, Cataldo attacked. The break splintered, and the peloton absorbed its remnants. On the descent, Quintana jumped away from the maglia rosa group with Hesjedal, teammates Rolland and Romain Sicard, and his own teammate Gorka Izagirre. The Quintana group caught the last three riders in the chase group and dropped them in the pursuit of Cataldo.
On the lower slopes of the climb to the finish, the Quintana group caught Cataldo. Quintana attacked, and Rolland followed. Hesjedal joined the two leaders later. Tinkoff-Saxo Bank and Ag2r-La Mondiale led the maglia rosa group as it tried to come to grips with the leaders. The Quintana group’s lead continued to grow, however.
In the last seven km, the Movistar man did most of the lead group’s work and launched several attacks. With five km remaining, he dropped Rolland. Hesjedal, who was attempting to break into the top 10 overall, hung on, but Quintana dropped the 2012 Giro champion with one km left. The Colombian finished 4:08 ahead of compatriot Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who began the day as the maglia rosa, to take the overall lead.
Behind, riders fought for GC positions, and a major shakeup occurred. Evans, who began the day in second overall at 1:03, dropped to third at 3:21. Majka fell from third at 1:50 to fifth at 3:28. Stage 15 winner Fabio Aru (Astana) fell from fourth at 2:24 to sixth at 3:34. Pozzovivo dropped from sixth at 2:42 to seventh at 3:49, while Wilco Kelderman (Belkin Linksys) fell from seventh at 3:04 to eighth at 4:06. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) dropped from ninth at 5:44 to 10th at 8:02, while Rolland jumped from eighth at 4:47 to fourth at 3:26 and Hesjedal vaulted from 11th at 6:44 to ninth at 4:16.
Quintana received flak for attacking while the descent was thought to be neutralized, but the Colombian steadfastly denied this. “The peloton was compact until the ascent of the Stelvio,” the Movistar man said. “Then the attacks started. There was a rider with Team Colombia, two riders from Ag2r, one from Sky. They started to descend fast. I just stayed on a teammate’s wheel. I didn’t hear anything about the descent being neutralized. Nor did my teammates. We were just glad to cover up well for the descent. We came down at some speed, and at the foot of the descent I realized that there were six of us in a group behind the breakaway. In any case, the time I gained on my rivals was mostly made on the final climb. I don’t see any grounds for controversy.”
In the overall, Quintana leads Uran by 1:41 and Evans by 3:21. Stage 17 will be a transitional stage that should not change the standings. The rolling, 174-km run from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto will feature three Category 4 climbs—nothing that a sprinter cannot handle. This stage will be the last chance for the sprinters to shine until the Stage 21 cavalry charge in Trieste. Will Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) add another stage to his collection? Will Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) or Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) foil the Frenchman? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!