Giro d'Italia stage 16 preview - one of the most important tests of the race
The riders will have to face four categorised climbs before they reach the foot of the menacing Monte Bondone
Start location: Sabbio Chiese
Finish location: Monte Bondone
Start time: 10:50 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:15 CEST
When the Giro d’Italia visited Monte Bondone for the first time in 1956, legendary Luxembourg climber Charlie Gaul appeared to be out of contention in the race for the pink jersey. He was down in 24th place on GC, over a quarter of an hour behind the leader Pasquale Fornara, and, with just two flat stages left to race afterwards, overall victory was surely out of reach. But when extreme snow storms unexpectedly occurred overnight, conditions were in place for one of the most dramatic stages and all-time great comeback in cycling history.
The stage has gone down in history as one of the most brutal in cycling history. There was carnage in the peloton as a blizzard raged and the temperature plummeted, with half of the peloton dropping out of the race, among them Gaul’s great climbing rival Federico Bahamontes, and Fornara in the pink jersey. Excelling in such difficult weather was part of what made Gaul such a mythic figure, and while others simply couldn’t carry on, with some even collapsing in the cold, he was able to dig deep and keep going, hauling himself up Monte Bondone to win the stage by a mile and claim the pink jersey as his own.
Such conditions would of course cause the stage to be cancelled under modern cycling’s extreme weather protocol, but Monte Bondone is still a fearsome test whatever the weather. The highest mountain of the Granda Prealps, it’s known as the Mountain of Trento for the way it towers over that town
Stage 16 profile sourced on the Giro d'Italia website
Monte Bondone will today host a Giro d’Italia stage finish for the fourth time since that legendary day in 1956, and for the first time since 2006. On that occasion, Ivan Basso attacked halfway up in the pink jersey, putting himself in an even more commanding position by winning the stage 1-26 ahead of Gilberto Simoni in second, and 1-37 ahead of his nearest rival in the GC, José Enrique Gutiérrez.
It was possible to gain so much time as the climb is so long, and this time, tackled via its eastern side by the Aldeno road, the riders will spend a total of 21km going uphill, with the second half averaging an unforgiving 8.2%.
It’s sure to be one of the most important tests of the race, even more so considering all the climbing that precedes it. Though, at 1,632m high, Monte Bondone is the hardest of the five mountains tackled, they each pose a stern test in their own right. The first, 12.7km climb of Passo di Santa Barbara has been ranked category one for its steep average gradient of over 8%, and the category three Passo Bordala follows almost immediately with only a very short descent to rest. After that comes successive category two climbs of Matassone and Serrada, which should ensure the riders are already exhausted even before they arrive at the foot of the menacing Monte Bondone.
As is usual with mountain stages in Grand Tours, the battle for victory in stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia will be between those opportunistic attackers at the start of the race and those biding their time and riding for the general classification from the peloton. Since this stage has such a flat opening, it’s possible that whichever breakaway establishes itself won’t be filled with the best climbers in the peloton. It could end up being made up of riders who will suffer in the mountains and get caught by the GC contenders behind.
If this is the case, Primož Roglič of Jumbo-Visma will be a key rider to watch. The Slovenian is a talented climber and also has an impressive finishing speed which will be an asset if he comes to the finish line today in a small group. Former pink jersey wearer Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) will be a key obstacle in between Roglič and the stage victory, however, with the Welshman being on imperious form so far this race. After giving away the pink jersey on stage 14, Thomas should have had a much easier day on stage 15 and on the rest day (he won’t have had to do podium presentations or as many interviews) which could make the difference in the mountains today.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) is another rider in contention today from the general classification group. He is currently sitting in fourth place overall and could try something today if he feels like he has the form to do so. We’re yet to see the likes of Roglič, Thomas and Almeida truly battle it out on a mountaintop finish so stage 16 will be a true indicator of who could win this edition of the Giro d’Italia. Hugh Carthy of EF Education-EasyPost is another rider suited to these tough and long climbs, as is Damiano Caruso of Bahrain-Victorious.
Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ appeared desperate to win a stage of this race when he put in an impressive ride on stage 13 to finish second and the Frenchman might be given the chance to go for it again today. He does currently have pink jersey wearer Bruno Armirail in his team though, so Pinot may be tasked with protecting the maglia rosa to the best of his ability. Jack Haig is another card that Bahrain-Victorious could play, the Australian climber hasn’t performed exceptionally well so far this Giro d’Italia but could be riding into form for this final week.
Lennard Kämna of Bora-Hansgrohe might be able to take the opportunity of a stage win today if the likes of Thomas and Roglič are watching each other and the same goes for Lorenzo Fortunato of Eolo-Kometa. Andreas Leknessund of Team DSM has had an impressive Giro debut this year, wearing the pink jersey earlier in the race. If he can attack when other riders are watching each other, Leknessund could have a chance today, as could Eddie Dunbar of Jayco-Alula.
We think that Primož Roglič will take the victory in stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia. He has been riding conservatively so far in this race and saving himself for these tough mountains in the final week. This stage is the first chance he will have to show his hand.