Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) won stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday in Ivrea. Intxausti won a three-up sprint from a late escape that formed after the descent from the Cat. 3 Andrate climb.
Tanel Kangert (Astana) was second and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) was third in the 238-kilometer leg.
“It’s impressive. I still cannot believe it,” said Intxausti. “I felt good on the rest day and I knew I would have good legs today. Finally I could win.”
Overall leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished in a chase group 14 seconds behind Intxausti to defend the maglia rosa with five days of racing remaining.
The 96th Giro d’Italia continues Wednesday with the 214km 17th stage from Caravaggio to Vicenza.
Meier, Pate, Sutherland make early break
A group of riders that eventually swelled to 22 surged ahead of the peloton 46km into the stage, near the base of the Cat. 1 climb of Col du Montcenis: Damiano Caruso (Cannondale); Wilco Kelderman (Blanco); Danilo Di Luca and Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia); Darwin Atapuma and Robinson Chalapud (Colombia); Francis De Greef (Lotto-Belisol); José Serpa (Lampre); José Herrada (Movistar); Peter Weening and Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge); Stefano Pirazzi and Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox); Jackson Rodríguez and Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela); Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi); Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp); Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos-Shimano); Gregor Bole (Vacanoleil-DCM); and Danny Pate (Sky).
Following the 31km descent of the mountain, the breakaway riders turned feisty. With the gap under three minutes, Sutherland and Pate attacked, with Meier bridging across. Their former companions shut the trio down after a kilometer.
The group’s advantage dropped below two minutes with 35km to go. Pate jumped free again before the final climb, with Sella and Kelderman, but there were eight riders on the front when the leaders arrived to the Andrate climb.
Behind them, Astana upped the pressured on the peloton and the leaders reached the climb less than a minute before the bunch.
Pirazzi, Scarponi, Betancur attack on the Andrate
The real fireworks fired off on the Cat. 3 Andrate climb, which peaked with 17.5km remaining in the race. The breakaway fell apart on the 6km ramp and when the road pitched up near the summit, Pirazzi was the only rider remaining on the front.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) attacked, but Nibali closed him down. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) followed.
Nibali and co. caught the KOM leader 1km from the top and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) countered. The Colombian rode alone over the top, soon joined by Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
Nibali aced the descent to bridge onto the two leaders with 13km to go. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) was on his tail, however, and soon the leaders were six: Nibali, Betancur, Sánchez, Scarponi, Evans, and Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia).
“I accelerated where the road surface was good, to close the gap,” said Nibali. “On some corners, there were rivulets of water, and I didn’t like the conditions, so I didn’t take any risks. At one point, Scarponi missed a curve, so I rode quite carefully and just kept a watchful eye to make sure nothing happened.”
Sánchez continued to lead the escapees, but a big chase group was coming up from behind. In that group were Niemiec; Rigoberto Urán (Sky); Fabio Aru and Kangert (Astana); Robert Gesink (Blanco); Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff); Intxausti and José Herrada (Movistar); Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox); Franco Pelizotti (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela); and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp).
Mauro Santambrogio (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) did not make the split and trailed behind, forced to pull a group of roughly 10 riders across the flat run-in to the finish.
Attacks fly for the stage win
With 9km to go, the two groups were one and Niemiec went to the front. Nibali sat up at the front of the group and Kangert jumped with 7.2km to go, Gesink following. Nibali chased back onto the leaders to shut Gesink down.
With 6km to go, Santambrogio was more than two minutes back.
Aru attacked with 5.8km to go, but it was Sánchez who took a big gap when he countered the Astana rider. Betancur chased, but Nibali and Majka closed them down.
Gesink attacked again with 3.3km to go. Intxausti, Kangert, and Nemiec followed and the group took more than 10 seconds. The Dutchman soon lost contact, however, after a mechanical. Niemiec led the leading trio into the final kilometer.
“Tangert had his freedom to play his card in the end,” said Nibali. “Also, it would have been good to eat up the finish-line time bonuses. I wasn’t attacking. I was just following the moves of the important men on the GC. Otherwise it was a good day.”
With a gap of nearly a half-minute, the leaders started eying each other on the finish straight. The chasers were coming up from behind, but the trio spent more time looking backward at each other than forward to the line.
Niemiec opened the sprint from 400 meters. He didn’t have the burst, however, couldn’t distance his rivals. Niemiec sat at the front of the group and had no answer when Intxausti opened with 300 meters to go.
“It wasn’t easy. In the final three kilometers, Kangert was on my wheel,” said Intxausti. “I knew he was dangerous. Six-hundred meters from the line, I cold-bloodedly moved behind Niemiec and Kangert into third place. Three-hundred meters from the finish line, the pace slackened. With the wind behind us, I darted past on the left and gave it everything.”
Looking over his shoulder the whole way, the Spaniard just held off Kangert. Nemiec came through third. Intxausti wore the maglia rosa for one day earlier in the race, losing it after the stage 8 time trial.
“Above all, I came to the Giro with the goal of raising my hands at the end of a stage,” he said. “The maglia rosa was very important for the team, although losing it during the time trial at Saltara left a strange taste in my mouth. Today I got my stage win.”
Navardauskas led the Nibali group through 14 seconds later.
Santambrogio finished 2:23 behind Intxausti and fell out of the top five overall.
“In a three-week race, a bad day can happen to anyone,” said Santambrogio. “To Wiggins, to Scarponi … today was my turn. Tomorrow, I
will start with peace of mind with the goal of doing well at every opportunity that presents itself. Even if today did not go as I
hoped, I can not complain about my Giro.”
With his ride, Niemiec moved up to fifth overall, at 4:13.
With five days of racing remaining, Nibali leads Evans, who is second overall, by 1:26. Urán is third, at 2:46. Scarponi is fourth, at 3:53, 1:04 ahead of Santambrogio.