A stage that rest days were made for. After looking at the profile there’s no wonder most of the sprinters have left. This is the queen stage of this year’s Giro and for the first time ever features a double pass over the Stelvio. We doubt there’s a single rider relishing that fact. The peloton have three killer climbs and three technical descents to race over in Stage 16, and we’re wondering if it might be too much for them — other crazy stages in the past have often not quite lived up to expectations (double ascent of Alp d’Huez, Joaquim Rodriguez’s Andorra stage). However, we have a GC led by a time trialling specialist, and a top 10 made up of some serious climbing talent so we could see some major attacks from those guys who will be wanting to overhaul their time deficits in the mountains.
With the first climb cresting the Mortirolo Pass, which contains some 16% inclines, they will descend before hitting Stelvio #1. Lasting over 21km in length and hitting 12% in places, this will be where Tom Dumoulin will be hoping he still has teammates around him. If he doesn’t, then the descent and following ascent of Stelvio #2 will be nightmarish for him. Movistar are going to attack, it’ll be a case of when and where.
Starting with two ascents before a lovely 70km downhill section, we imagine the peloton will be taking it pretty easy until halfway through this stage as they recover from the gruelling climbs of yesterday. At the bottom of this descent they hit the last categorise climb of the day up the Giovo before a the final 82km is a lumpy, undulating drag to the finish line. It’s here that some riders could be let loose, or a fast tempo could be set by a strong team to try and tire everyone out, but in reality we think this will be a stage won by the breakaway, without too many splits appearing in the GC.
According to the official Giro website, this is also a queen stage, which we didn’t realise was a possibility, and one we’re sure the riders are thrilled about. This is the Dolomites proper, with a nice short 137km that unfortunately also takes in five consecutive categorised climbs (and their descents), and, for the third day in a row, without ever touching a zero gradient. Oof. This will be another massive effort for Tom Dumoulin and his team to defend his jersey with Nairo and his men in navy having definitely circled this stage to attack. However, if he’s feeling fresh, you can’t discount a climbing specialist like Ilnur Zakarin from performing well, as well as the veteran Nibali, who usually comes good in the third week of racing.
With more kilometres spent going downhill than uphill, the riders will have to keep their wits about them if the pace is high on stage 19. Thankfully, the ‘best descender’ jersey was canned before it could be contended so hopefully all our riders will remain safe and up right as they roll down these mountains. With his victory in 1998 up the final climb up to Piancavallo, this is another stage with the mark of Pantani branded upon it, and no doubt the commentary teams on all TV networks will be reminding us of this as the riders haul themselves up this final climb. 15km in length, and hitting an extreme of 14% gradient at one point, this is another climb where Movistar could ‘do a Blockhaus’ and cause a whittled down peloton to watch as Quintana uses those bigger gradients to jump clear. However, that 14% comes just before the halfway mark and after that the climb eases off a little, especially in the last 5km. If there isn’t a large gap by this point, whoever is leading will have a real battle on their hands to remain out in front if a group of chasers can rally. We think Tom Dumoulin will get another stage victory here.
This is the last stage where GC contenders can put time into Tom “TT Machine” Dumoulin. This will be 190km of pain for Team Sunweb as they, the commentators, the viewers and everyone on the road works out how much time they can afford to let slip to ensure that Dumoulin can TT his way to victory in stage 21. With two categorised climbs to fight over there could also be an 11th hour fight over the KOM jersey, if it’s still in contention this late in the race. The first climb hit is Monte Grappa which Quintana will know very well, having won on it in 2014. This could mean an attack is launched at this point, before a 26km descent (containing several hairpins to hamper a chase) and the finally hitting the last climb of this year’s Giro, the 14km long in Foza, which is pretty steady at 7% with only a small section spiking at 11%. However, at this point in the race, that 7% will probably feel like 14% as everyone battles for time gains to try and consolidate their GC positions before tomorrow’s time trial.
And so, the final stage and the final day and it’s not a traditional sprint finish. This means there’s no day off for our GC men and, whilst the majority of the peloton will enjoy and appreciate the gentle downhill 29km to the line, they’ll be at least 15 to 20 men still having to burst their lungs and their legs to try and win. Continuing the growing trend of having bicycles race on motor racing circuits, the TT starts with a lap of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit before the riders ride down the pit stop and out into the surrounding town, toward Milan and the finish. Dumoulin is obviously a clear favourite here. He will either have to claim back the pink jersey or make sure he increases his lead in it so he will be pushing hard for the stage win and as much time as possible. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have come down to a final TT battle between Tom and Geraint for the Maglia Rosa – that would’ve been tense as hell.