Italian attacks on final climb in stage 16
After struggling in the cold of the Alps, Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) emerged reanimated from the Giro d'Italia's second rest day and went on the offensive in the finale of stage 16 to Ivrea.
In spite of a brace of stinging attacks on the final climb of Andrate, Scarponi was unable to peg back any time on the maglia rosa of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), but he did have the consolation travails of moving up to 4th place overall after a floundering Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) was distanced on its 13 percent slopes.
"Look, the sun's come out and I felt a bit better today," Scarponi quipped to reporters on crossing the line.
The stage was widely anticipated beforehand to be a transitional one, ripe for a successful early breakaway, but those with local knowledge speculated otherwise. And so it proved. An elite group formed under the impetus of Scarponi and his teammate Przemyslaw Niemic on the final climb, and it was ultimately Benat Intxausti (Movistar) who came away with the stage win.
"[Lampre teammate] José Serpa knows the climb well and he told me that was very difficult," Scarponi said. "So I tried to make a move in the hope that they might give me a little bit of leeway or at the very least in the hope of distancing the group behind. That's what happened in the end, I had a bit of a go with Przemyslaw Niemic, who's working well with me, and Santambrogio was dropped."
Scarponi made two fierce attacks on the way up the climb, but on each occasion, the maglia rosa of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was quick to respond, while Cadel Evans (BMC) and Rigoberto Uran (Sky) were also loathe to give him free rein.
"It's not easy because the gap is big and I still feel tightly marked," Scarponi said. "But I did get a good response from my legs today so we'll see in the coming days."
Scarponi made another attempt on the way down, but misjudged a corner where Nibali had correctly established that the longest way round was the shortest way home, and zipped past, quelling his offensive.
In the general classification, he remains 3:53 behind Nibali and a little over a minute off a podium place. Scarponi - who served a suspension last winter after he admitted to working with Dr. Michele Ferrari - was tightly marked by Nibali on the Galibier on Sunday and again in the finale at Ivrea, in spite of his substantial deficit.
"Nibali is the maglia rosa and he has to defend himself," said Scarponi. "We were close to each other on the climb today and on Sunday too, but it's a pity that after 15 days I'm a bit behind him overall."
Scarponi was not the only Lampre rider to move up the general classification in the home of the Olivetti typewriter on Tuesday, however. Przemyslaw Niemic began the race ostensibly as a gregario di lusso for Scarponi but has instead developed into a foil of some considerable value.
The Pole finished second on the stage behind Intxausti and now lies in 5th place overall, just 20 seconds behind Scarponi. "We've got two men up there this year, and that makes it easier," Scarponi said. "It's better than it was last year with Cunego."
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