Ciccone defies weather on Mortirolo to take second career Giro stage victory

'The rain and the cold are not my favourite conditions but today was a different day'

Winning stage 16 in Ponte di Legno on Tuesday, after a freezing cold and wet day at the Giro d'Italia, was all it took to warm Trek-Segafredo's Giulio Ciccone up again.

Ciccone out-sprinted breakaway companion Jan Hirt (Astana) to take his second career stage victory at the Giro, having also taken a solo win in Sestola in 2016, while riding for Italian team Bardiani-CSF.

Now with Trek-Segafredo, and having had Monday's rest day to recuperate from two weeks of hard racing, Ciccone was able to extend his lead in the blue 'king of the mountains' jersey competition by taking maximum points on all three of the day's categorised climbs as part of the early breakaway – on a stage that he said he'd targeted to try for the win.

By the top of the Passo del Motirolo, in dark, wet and cold conditions, only Hirt and Ciccone were left from the original 21-man breakaway, and with fireworks happening among the GC contenders behind them, the two riders at the front weren't going to hang around on the descent to put on rain jackets, although both did already have rain gilets over the top of their short-sleeved jerseys.

"The last downhill was very, very cold," said Ciccone on his team's website. "For me, the rain and the cold are not my favourite conditions, but today was a different day. I suffered a lot coming down the Mortirolo, but when you win, you don't feel it anymore.

"For sure, this is one of the best moments of my career," he said. "This is my second victory at the Giro, and the first was, of course, very good, but this stage for me was my dream."
Before he could take victory, however, there was the small matter of Hirt, who stopped working with Ciccone in the latter stages of the race, with a 15km uphill slog still to go to the finish after the descent from the Mortirolo.
"I felt good on the Mortirolo, and had good legs, but the problem was Hirt. You know, if you arrive at the finish with two riders, it's always uncertain. I was nervous when Hirt wasn't working, and I didn't know the distance to the others behind," said Ciccone, "but in the end, it all turned out okay."

Ciccone flung his glasses into the crowd in celebration, having led out the sprint, holding it all the way to the line to beat the Czech rider.

"I went from the front in the sprint because I wanted to have the control, as you never know what might happen in the last kilometre. I know I have a good sprint, so I took the lead.

"This stage was my favourite stage at this year's Giro, with the Mortirolo," added Ciccone. "When I knew that I'd won, I yelled, because I finally felt free of two [three] years of frustrations since winning my first stage at the Giro, and because there was a bit of everything today: the hills, rain, cold… And yes, because it was a bit of a nervous finish. But the day finished in the best way possible."

Ciccone now holds a commanding lead in the blue jersey competition, with a considerable advantage over second-placed Richard Carapaz (Movistar) – the current overall race leader – with five stages now remaining until the Giro finishes in Verona on Sunday.

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