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Giro d'Italia 2019: Ciccone wins Stage 16 as the Mortirolo shakes up the GC

Jack Elton-Walters
28 May 2019

Giulio Ciccone won Stage 16 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia but it was in the General Classification that the biggest changes took place

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) won Stage 16 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia, pipping his breakaway companion Jan Hirt (Astana) on the line. Ciccone led from the front and did enough to hold on for the win, likely spurred on by the idea of getting in a warm shower as soon as possible after some torrential rain earlier in the stage.

Behind them, the group of favourites came over the line mostly together but with some big names absent. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) lost the wheel and a bit of time, but much further back were Primoz Roglic (Jumba-Visma), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) who lost almost a minute and a half.

The next few days will be decisive anyway, but even more so as Roglic will be expected to take back time on the final day's time-trial.

No Gavia but still a huge stage

Stage 16 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia should have included this year's Cima Coppi as the race would have crested its highest point over the Passo Gavia.

Instead, standing snow on the pass meant the stage was changed, and this caused a secondary headache for the race organiser as the highest point has now been passed in an earlier stage and so the back-up Cima Coppi will come later in the race but won't be the actual highest point.

Even so the removal of the Gavia didn't mean the peloton was in for an easy day as there were still several ascents to contend with, chief and final among them was the Mortirolo.

A large breakaway went off up the road and gained an advantage of over five minutes, including Ciccone in his quest for yet more mountains points. This was duly achieved at the top of the Mortirolo, despite him failing to get a rain jacket on over the summit.

A number of the General Classification contenders had teammates up the road leading to speculation that they could launch attacks to reach their domestiques and ride with them to the end of the stage.

Heading for the Mortirolo the varying pace in the breakaway saw it split into smaller groups and re-form several times. The break hit the slopes with an advantage of 5:51 while behind the peloton rode like it was heading for a sprint, as the team's jostled for position before the road rose and narrowed.

Vincenzo Nibali's Bahrain-Merida team brought him up alongside Movistar at the front of the GC group, with Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma also present.

Nathan Brown did a huge turn for his Education First teammate Joe Dombrowski, only for the latter to be dropped early from the head of the now much-reduced breakaway.

Astana had numbers up the road but team leader Lopez was having to give his all just to hold the wheel in the group of favourites. Yates was with Lopez and also appeared to be struggling, while the last of Roglic's domestiques was off the back.

Glancing around to get the gauge of his rivals, Nibali came off his teammate Domenico Pozzovivo's wheel and began to ride away from the group. Reactions were limited as Movistar worked to keep the Italian in sight while behind them very few riders could keep pace.

Hugh Carthy (Education First) went next and tried to make his way over the Nibali, and as he made contact the rain started to fall. In the chase, Lopez and Mollema made their way back on to the Movistar trio of Mikel Landa, Antonio Pedrero and current race leader Richard Carapaz, making the most of the slightly easier gradient.

Finding a second wind, Lopez rode away from the group and forced a reaction from Movistar while Roglic and Mollema were distanced. The Dutchman pushed on and the Slovenian looked to be suffering.

Vincenzo reached brother Antonio's wheel and with Carthy still in tow they tried to gain a greater gap. Despite their efforts, their advantage to Landa and co was held at a relatively manageable distance. Landa and Carapaz took it on after Pedrero's day was done.

Yates came up to and past Roglic, who latched on to the group in the hope of lasting to the top of the climb without shelling too much time to his rivals.

Four minutes up the road and the breakaway was still dreaming of staying away for the stage win, but were doing so under worsening weather.

For all his efforts, Nibali couldn't make his advantage stick as Lopez, Carapaz and Landa made their way back. Lopez went straight to the front but simply sat in front of Nibali for a little while before returning to the back of the group.

Not to be deterred, Lopez went for it again and this time caused Carthy to be temporaily dropped. Landa duly worked on the front for the benefit of Carapaz, possibly wondering when his time to lead a team might finally come.

Loitering near the summit was Andrey Amador, another rider to work for Carapaz and Landa. Lopez went over the top first of the GC group with a huge gap back to Roglic but just a few seconds over those he'd been riding up the climb with.

Wet, narrow roads with tight hairpin bends, this was a descent for the skilled and the brave. Lopez's move over the summit was wise as he and teammate Pello Bilbao were able to ride free from the stress of the group while holding an advantage. In weather conditions like these, Nibali's much talked about descending skills were all but neutralised as he was forced to be as cautious as everyone else.

At the very front of the race, Ciccone tried to go alone but Hirt stuck with him, although team orders prevented him from taking a turn. Much to Ciccone's clear frustration.

Amador was done for Movistar, and Nibali took up the pace on the GC group even dispensing with his own teammate who'd dropped back to do a turn. Somehow behind, Roglic, Yates and Mollema had halved their disadvantage to 45 seconds.

That teammate of Nibali's, in the shape of Damiano Caruso came back to the front to have another go for his leader. News of Roglic's recovery must have reached the group as Movistar took up the pace as well.

With his rain jacket on the ground at the top of the Mortirolo and just a lightweight gilet over his wet jersey, Ciccone was noticeably shivering as he and Hirt called a truce and rode together over the closing kilometres.

The lead pair went under the 1km banner with 2:12 over the pink jersey group. A slightly uphill finish but not a categorised climb meant for a grinding sprint to the line.