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Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 16 preview

Martin James
22 May 2017

Tom Dumoulin has a healthy lead after 15 stages of the 100th Giro, but now the real test begins

With respect to the first 15 stages of the 100th Giro d’Italia, the ‘fight for pink’ begins now.

Tomorrow’s Stage 16 from Rovetta to Bormio sees the riders take on three first category climbs in one day – as many as they’ve climbed in the entire Giro so far – as well as the Cima Coppi, the high point of the entire race.

For more than a week now, we’ve been questioning whether Tom Dumoulin really can hold on to the maglia rosa all the way to Milan. This is the stage where we’ll get the answer.

Stage 16 in detail: The Stelvio awaits

The final phase of the 2017 Giro d’Italia sets off from Rovetta, only 40km northeast from Bergamo, where stage 15 finished prior to the rest day. But from here, the riders head straight north – into the heart of the Dolomites.

First up is the 1,854m Passo del Mortirolo at 84.5km (962m of climbing in 12.6km, average 7.6%, maximum 16%). The Mortirolo is one of the most feared climbs on any Giro route, though normally it’s climbed from the harder Mazzo di Valtellina side.

The Edolo ascent is still far from easy, with the steepest slopes coming near the top, and the first rider over the top will be awarded double king of the mountains points in memory of Michele Scarponi, who used the climb as a springboard to his last Giro stage win in 2010.

Then it’s on to the 2,758m Passo dello Stelvio at 143.5km (Cima Coppi, 1,549m of climbing in 21.7km, average 7.1%, maximum 12%). The Stelvio is the high point of this year’s race, and one of those climbs that instantly becomes the highlight of any Giro route.

The iconic switchbacks take you up to the kind of altitude where only the truly great climbers feel comfortable, yet oddly only on the first of the Stelvio’s 11 Giro appearances did the first rider over the top – Fausto Coppi in 1953 – go on to win that year's Giro.

The final test on Stage 16 is the 2,502m Umbrailpass at 202.5km (1,116m of climbing in 13.45km, average 8.4%, maximum 12%), which takes the riders most of the way back up the Stelvio before descending most of the climb they took on earlier in the day on the way back into Bormio.

While it doesn’t reach the heights of the Stelvio pass itself, it’s still the second highest summit of the entire race, and at a steeper average gradient.

Stage 16: What to expect 

For pink jersey Tom Dumoulin, this is by far the biggest test of his credentials as a potential Giro winner. With chief lieutenant Wilco Kelderman out of the race, Dumoulin will likely have little support from his Team Sunweb teammates once the climbing begins in earnest, and will likely be scaling at least two of the three major climbs of the day entirely on his own.

Against Thibaut Pinot’s Francaise des Jeux and especially Nairo Quintana’s Movistar that will leave nowhere to hide if his legs aren’t up to the task. That said, Dumoulin has exceeded all expectations thus far, so don't be surprised if he defies the odds again.

He has a decent overall lead, so even if he loses a couple of minutes he'll still be well placed with the final time trial still to come.

And what about Vincenzo Nibali? Last year’s Giro winner has thus far failed to truly impress, hitting the front only to fade and lose time when it’s really mattered.

But that’s exactly how his race went last year, and it was on last year’s equivalent to this year’s Stage 16 that he turned it all around. Don’t write him off just yet.

Watch Stage 16 of the 2017 Giro d'Italia

At 222km long and containing three big mountain passes, Stage 16 of the 2017 Giro d'Italia will start earlier than most stages, at 10.30am local time – that's 9.30am UK time. Eurosport's live coverage starts at midday, and we advise you to tune in early: based on the race itinerary, the leaders on the road should already be about at the summit of the Mortirolo by then.