Stage 16, the Queen stage of the 2017 Giro d’Italia, was a bittersweet affair – drama, celebration and remembrance from the start right through to the nail-biting end of the 222km epic.
Before rolling out of the start town of Rovetta in northern Italy, riders bowed their heads for two minutes silence – first in memory of those innocent souls who lost their lives in the Manchester, and then for the recent loss of one of their own, Michele Scarponi.
With a total of 5500km of climbing for the day, the first challenge was the mighty Passo Mortirolo, the legendary climb that tops out at 16% near the summit. With the Mortirolo dedicated to the memory of Michele Scarponi, the former Astana rider’s teammate and close friend Luis Leo Sanchez was given the honour of being first over the summit and be awarded the ‘Cima Mortirolo’.
Others Attack As Dumoulin Makes Urgent Stop
In one of the most dramatic Grand Tour stages of at least the past decade, the real action started with 30km to go when Tom Dumoulin made an emergency stop on the side of the final climb. Frantically removing his helmet and pink jersey, he ran down a slight embankment to urgently disrobe & relieve himself.
Unknown to the Dutchman, Ilnur Zakain (Katusha-Alpecin) led a controversial attack from the lead group of climbers with others initially following. Scrambling back to his bike, Dumoulin put in the most thrilling chase. The relentless solo pursuit saw him limit his losses. Incredibly, he still holds the pink jersey by 31 seconds.
“I saved the jersey but if you consider that I chased alone for the last 35km and I only lost two minutes, my legs were very good,” Dumoulin later said.
I had the legs to follow Quintana and Nibali today. That’s why I’m very disappointed to have lost time today because of a problem I had. When it happened, the race was on, it was full gas and Steven Kruijswijk was at the front. It was a different situation to Quintana’s crash on Sunday. I couldn’t expect my rivals to let Kruijswijk at the front. It’s definitely not finished but I have to overcome my anger to look further into the Giro. I’m angry with myself.”
On the urgent toilet stop Dumoulin said “I needed to stop to answer nature’s call.”
“When I was chasing back I decided to fight and not give up and then see where we were at after the finish,” he added.
“It was tough out there on my own and of course it’s disappointing. The legs were good and I feel like I could have been up there with the other GC group but that’s not how it worked out, it’s too bad.”
Nibali Takes Stage After Thrilling Descent
After a strong climb and blitzing, edge of seat descent, Stage winner Vincenzo Nibali described the joy of winning “the beautiful stage”.
“(It was) a very spectacular one, a very difficult one with the highest peaks up the Stelvio; stage that includes the Mortirolo and the Stelvio twice will be remembered for sure,” he said.
“My first attack up the Stelvio wasn’t a very strong one but the second one was. The few words exchanged with Nairo was to cooperate together. We’ll fight till the end in Milan. It’s not easy. This week is very hard and there is the terrain suitable for attacks, especially for Nairo Quintana who wants to reduce the gap on Tom Dumoulin.”
Stage 16 Top 3
1 – Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) – 222km in 6h24’22”, average speed 34.654km/h
2 – Mikel Landa Meana (Team Sky) s.t.
3 – Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) a 12″