João Almeida of UAE Emirates lit the fuse from the leaders’ group of the Giro d’Italia and saw only one rider respond — INEOS leader Geraint Thomas — and the pair cycled away to glory atop Monte Bondone. The 16th stage of this gloomy Giro marked the first major test of the climbers, and these two riders aced it, while their presumed main rival Primož Roglič of Jumbo failed his final exam, dropping 25 seconds despite the advantages of teamwork that Thomas notably lacked. It was a slow-developing but dramatic turn of events which put Thomas into the overall lead and Almeida, not Roglič, the closest threat.
Numerous riders animated the early phase of the stage, notably Ben Healy of EF Education who will wear the KOM jersey for a while after taking maximum points early on, and Aurelien Paret-Paintre, who alongside his brother was briefly in the virtual maglia rosa ahead of overnight leader Bruno Armirail. But reality set in and the final survivor from the early group was Italian National Champ Filippo Zana, whose final act was to set a bit more pace for Eddie Dunbar, his Jayco-AlUla leader, before the Bigs took over.
Jumbo set pace for some time, as usual, but all was not entirely well as Roglič could be seen sliding back several places, particularly when UAE put Jay Vine on the front to up the pace. Armirail hung on as long as he could but then faded away from his time in Pink. Finally, down to a minimum number of riders (including Sepp Kuss still pacing Roglič), Almeida attacked the group, barely gaining much distance but laying down his marker. Before too long Thomas realized that Roglič might not have it, and set off to catch up with Almeida. The two created half a minute’s gap over the final km of pure climbing, and held the space well over the last 3km of undulating road. Roglič had little answer except in the final meters, where he seemed to claw back some seconds, crucially the third time bonus, to limit his losses, thanks largely to Kuss. But the race has taken on a completely different shape now.
Sabbio Chiese – Monte Bondone 203 km
Final week is upon us, there’s no hiding anymore. The contenders are coming out to play.
Expected finish time: 16:50-17:45 CEST
Charley Gaul of the Day : Primož Roglič
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