This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Benat Intxausti (Movistar Team) claimed stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia from Valloire to Ivrea, beating Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) in a sprint finish.
The trio broke clear of the maglia rosa group inside the final two kilometres of the stage with Intxausti winning Movistar’s third stage of the race.
In the fight for the maglia rosa Vincenzo Nibali faced attacks on the final climb of the stage but easily dealt with the moves of Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida). Mauro Santambrogio lost significant time, however, the Vini Farnese rider dropped on the climb of Andrate with 20 kilometres remaining.
Intxausti, who wore the maglia rosa for a stage during the opening week, dedicated his win to Xavier Tondo, who tragically died almost two years ago.
A very large group
After yesterday’s rest day the Giro sprung back into action in Valloire, with a 238 kilometre jaunt back into Italy and finishing in Ivrea.
The rest day have given the frostbitten, rain-soaked peloton that had survived the brutal conditions of the first two weeks a well-deserved opportunity to rest their legs and assess their standings before a renewed battle with what has been one of the toughest Giros in recent years.
Danny Pate (Sky), Wilco Kelderman (Blanco), Eros Capecchi (Movistar), Jose Herrada (Movistar), Grega Bole (Vacansoleil DCM), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos), Christian Meier (Orica GreenEDGE), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani), Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni), Emanuele Sella (Androni), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Rory Sutherland (Saxo-Tinkoff), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel), Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEDGE) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani Valvole), Francis De Greef (Lotto Belisol), Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini), Darwin Atapuma (Colombia), Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) and Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) finally formed the break of the day.
A strong group, but with Caruso 9:57 behind the maglia rosa, a number of top ten contenders were never going to be willing to see the Cannondale rider gain an advantage.
They led over Mont Cenis, climbed in the opposite direction from stage 15, with Rodriguez pipping Pirazzi to the maximum king of the mountains points.
The peloton kept the break at 5 minutes but within the final 70 kilometres RadioShack and Katusha led the main charge, relieving Astana of their maintained and steady tempo that had dominated the early sectors of the stage.
Attack, attack, attack
Benat Intxausti on the attack
Within ten kilometres the gap had been reduced to 3:20. With 50 kilometres to go and harmony within the group becoming brittle, Pate and Sutherland opened up the attacks. Meier was quick to respond before Navardauskas dragged the group back together.
With 20 kilometres until the foot of the climb to Andrate, Sella and Kelderman finally managed to break free, with Pate able to make contact. The trio demonstrated far more intent than the 22 man group to collaborate but with the bunch closing to within 1:23, the break’s chances looked slim at best. On their side was the fact that Caruso had missed the split.
Navardauskas, Pirazzi, Bole, Verdugo, and Herrada formed a counter attack. The two groups merged inside the 25 kilometre banner with remnants of the original group having been caught by the peloton.
No sooner had the leaders reached the foot of the climb than Pirazzi attacked. His sudden move was neutralised. Herrada was the next rider to chance his luck, as the peloton closed to within 28 seconds. Navardauskas and Verdugo were able to make contact.
As Dupont and Scarponi attacked in quick succession, Nibali pouched on the move immediately.
Tangert took over pace duties once the peloton reformed as Pirazzi recovered and past the leaders as Santambrogio lost contact with the maglia rosa group.
Duarte, who had jumped clear and joined the break, dragged Pirazzi, Herrada and Navardauskas towards the summit but the bunch made contact with 18.7 kilometres, the maglia rosa group down to a dozen riders.
Betacur used Pirazzi’s final desperate attack as a launch, cresting the top of the climb alone. Samuel Sanchez, his forming improving by the day, made contact with the AG2R rider on the first slopes of the descent. But behind, Santambrogio had been dropped.
It inspired Scarponi to move clear on the descent but when Nibali made contact he dropped the Lampre rider and quickly latched onto Bentacur and Sanchez. Scarponi and Evans were equal to the move with the leaders regrouping with 10km remaining.
With five kilometres remaining Santambrogio had dropped two minutes, his podium chances evaporating with every pedal stroke.
The leaders appeared to show more concern with a stage win rather than adding more heartache to the Vini Fantini rider with Sanchez, Betancur, Gesink and Betancur among those who attacked.
The final selection was made when Przemyslaw Niemiec, Tanel Kangert (Astana Pro Team) and Benat Intxausti (Movistar Team) broke clear inside the final three kilometres, with the Spaniard winning back to back stages for the team – and their third of the race – after Giovanni Visconti had triumphed on the Galibier.