Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 16 preview - Into the Dolomites

The return from the second rest day sees the peloton work its way from the Alps to a summit finish in the Dolomites

Date: Tuesday May 21, 2024
Distance: 202km
Start location: Livigno
Finish location: Santa Cristina Val Gardena (Monte Pana)
Start time: 11:25 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:12 CET

The third week of the Giro begins against a backdrop that’s quintessential to the Giro d’Italia. Picking up from where we left off two days ago in Livigno, we’re deep inside the Alps, with mountains surrounding the riders from all directions, an imposing taste of what they will be up against for this final crunch week. And looming above them all is race's Cima Coppi, the highest point of the entire race. 

Since first being visited in 1953, the Stelvio has contributed many memorable entries to Giro d’Italia history. Fausto Coppi was the first rider to reach its summit that inaugural year, going on to both win the stage and ultimately the pink jersey, and since then a succession of legends from Charly Gaul to Marco Pantani to Vincenzo Nibali have used its slopes to win memorable stages. Unfortunately, riders will no longer ride all the way to the 2,758m summit of the Stelvio because of snow, but instead will peel off the climb a few kilometres earlier at the Umbrailpass and cross into Switzerland instead. The Umbrailpass is no stranger to the Giro and was last used in 2017 when eventual winner Tom Dumoulin memorably stopped near the foot of the climb to answer nature's call. At 2,498m it will still be this edition’s Cima Coppi as the highest point of the Giro, narrowly pipping the finish to Livigno by around 100m. The Umbrailpass is just 3km shorter than the Stelvio at 16.7km with an average gradient of 7.1% and still includes multiple leg-breaking hairpins of double-digit ramps.  

Snow routinely covers the Stelvio and the threat of either cancellation or freezing cold weather is never far away, as Jai Hindley found out in 2020 when his GC bid nearly unravelled as he struggled for an agonising time to put his jersey on with his numb hands. That stage, when Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart emerged as the top GC candidates while João Almeida was dropped and lost the pink jersey, also demonstrated how the Stelvio has a tendency to turn a race on its head: in 2014 Nairo Quintana prised the jersey from Colombian compatriot Rigoberto Uran when he attacked over the top of the climb and pushed on amid mixed messages about whether the wet descent had been neutralised, while in 2012 a young Thomas De Gendt threatened to cause a huge upset by nearly taking the pink jersey at the expense of Joaquim Rodriguez and eventual winner Ryder Hesjedal. 

This year, however, the Umbrailpass' impact will be limited to King of the Mountains contenders battling for the large bounty of points on offer at the top, as a long descent and the Adige valley mean that over 100km separate its summit to the foot of the next climb. That might make for ponderous racing for most of the day, but things will kick off when the riders arrive at the Dolomites for the last 35km, virtually all of which is uphill. First is the Passo Di Pinei, which climbs at 7.3% for the first 7.5km and 7% for the final 5.5km, with a plateau in the middle; then, following a very short descent, the Monte Pana climb to the finish, which after a manageable beginning kicks up to almost 12% for the last 2km. 


Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website


With the general classification victory now all but over save for Tadej Pogačar's safe passage to Rome, there seems little incentive for his UAE Team Emirates squad to ride aggressively and keep a breakaway in check as they did on Sunday's queen stage.

It therefore seems likely an escape will get the chance to contest victory should no GC riders sneak in, and the opening unclassified ramps and the Umbrailpass are perfect launchpads to escape before the long road through the valley where a gap can be built up.

Many climbers in the peloton will have been waiting for this third week for opportunities and stage 15 showed some of those who are hitting top form. After a slow start, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) looked somewhere near his best on Sunday and a summit finish like this will be well suited to the Colombian.

Young German climber Georg Steinhauser (EF Education-EasyPost) seriously impressed in the queen stage to finish third, and that could spur him on to try his hand at victory in the Dolomites. His teammate Esteban Chaves could be another option for the American squad on this terrain.

Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek) has now fallen well out of contention for a high GC placing, but it frees up the Spanish climber for opportunities from the break on stages such as this.

French brother Aurélian and Valentin Paret-Peintre are both already Giro stage winners, but are capable enough climbers to win on this stage should they be given the all clear to leave their podium-contending teammate Ben O'Connor.

Nick Schultz (Israel-Premier Tech), Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal–Quick-Step), Attila Valter (Visma-Lease a Bike), and Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck) could all be possible contenders too.


After his impressive performance on Sunday, with think Georg Steinhauser will win from the break on stage 16.

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