Giro d'Italia: Valverde wins intense stage to Andalo

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took his first ever Giro d'Italia stage victory and moved himself back into podium contention on a fast and furious stage 16 to Andalo. Valverde beat maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk in a sprint to the line as the Dutchman extended his lead in the overall classification for the second consecutive stage.

Ilnur Zakarin had been in a group with Kruijswijk and Valverde but couldn't handle the finishing speed and rolled in eight seconds down. Home favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) blew up on the penultimate climb and lost over a minute in the fight for the overall classification.

There was action from start to finish with almost all of the key GC riders taking a punt off the front. Sitting just off the podium going into the stage, it was Valverde that forced the race-winning move on the Fai della Paganella with 15 kilometres remaining.

Kruijswijk was wise to the Movistar rider and comfortably closed the gap with Zakarin the final rider able to make the junction. The move forced the first signs of difficulty for Nibali, who swiftly dropped back to a chasing group that contained Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge).

All intent on turning the screws on Nibali, the three initially put their own ambitions aside to do just that. Valverde's intentions soon became obvious as he sat on the back of the bunch, allowing Zakarin to take them through the final kilometres. The Spaniard finally made his move just before the last corner and his finishing speed was too much for Kruijswijk to handle. The time gap and the bonus seconds were enough to move him back onto the podium and within touching distance of Chaves in second with 23 seconds separating the two.

Giro d'Italia Stage 16 Video Highlights

How it happened

The final week of the Giro d'Italia began in earnest with the shortest road stage of the whole race. Short it might be but it packed a punch with three climbs along the road to Andalo.

Kruijswijk had extended his lead in the overall classification in the time trial ahead of the rest day but he would surely face a tough fight to maintain it as the peloton returned to the saddle.

The peloton hit the first climb of the day, the Passo della Mendola, and the attacks rained down. The incessant attacking ensured a blistering average speed of 49.6kph over the first hour. Sniffing an opportunity to put Kruijswijk and Esteban Chaves in trouble, Movistar and Astana drove hard at the front of the bunch. Their efforts put the LottoNL-Jumbo team under pressure and Kruijswijk was soon isolated.

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) all attacked on the Passo della Mendola, but none could shake the race leader who looked calm and comfortable in the maglia rosa. A mechanical problem for Nibali would have had hearts racing in the Astana car but some swift help from a teammate ensured he was back on his way without much delay.

While Kruijswijk stood firm under the repeated tests from his rivals, the same could not be said about Chaves. The Colombian, who so impressed in the Dolomites, struggled to respond in the same way. The key split occurred when Nibali struck out once again towards the top of the Mendola and immediately got a gap on the bunch. Kruijswijk, Valverde and others managed to bridge the gap eventually but a noticeable absence was Chaves. He could only watch the other favourites disappear as he, Rafal Majka and Rigoberto Uran were dropped.

Nibali would have the assistance of Tanel Kangert up front, after the Estonian made it clear in an earlier move on the climb. Kangert flew down the descent at the head of the group of favourites, pushing the gap to Chaves up towards a minute. Behind, Chaves was relying on the help of Damien Howson but the Australian had little help from others and he struggled to get the gap below the 30-second mark.

Cannondale had several riders around the struggling Uran, but chose to let Orica-GreenEdge to do most of the chasing. They did have Joe Dombrowski in the front group, so a stage win was still possible until the team brought him back to the chasing group. The American looked and sounded disappointed with the team's decision and would have been more so when Uran would later be dropped.

Valverde punishes Nibali

The GC favourites continued to cross swords as they hit the Fai della Paganella but it was Valverde that struck the fatal blow to Nibali's chances with 15-kilometres to go. Only Kruijswijk and Zakrin could keep up with the 36-year-old Giro d'Italia debutant as Nibali showed signs of tiring. The Astana rider quickly dropped back through the groups on the road, eventually being caught by the Chaves-led group some two kilometres later.

With 40 seconds between himself and the three out front, the fat lady hadn't sung for Nibali just yet but there was worse to come. While Chaves kicked on over the steepest gradients at the top of the climb, Nibali was heading out the back door for the second time in quick succession.

Up front, Zakarin was putting in most of the effort as Valverde loomed at the back waiting to use his superior sprint. Approaching the final corner, Valverde moved out of the wheel and powered to a comfortable finish over Kruijswijk, with Zakarin trailing over in third. Chaves would limit his losses to remain second overall, finishing 42 seconds down on the winner. Nibali, however, would be pushed off the podium, after finishing 1:47 back.

Wednesday's stage 17 should give the GC riders a change to recoup before the more challenging stages later in the week but, with the Giro d’Italia, you can never be too sure.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team2:58:54
2Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 1 - Cell 2
3Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:08
4Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - Merida0:00:37
5Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 4 - Cell 2
6David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Team Sky0:00:38
7Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Gazprom-RusveloRow 6 - Cell 2
8Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge0:00:42
9Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team0:00:50
10Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:47
11Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 10 - Cell 2
12Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky0:03:20
13Rein Taaramae (Est) Team KatushaRow 12 - Cell 2
14Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 14 - Cell 2
16Sebastian Henao (Col) Team SkyRow 15 - Cell 2
17Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC Racing TeamRow 16 - Cell 2
18Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension DataRow 17 - Cell 2
19Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Valerio Conti (Ita) Lampre - Merida0:04:47
21Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 20 - Cell 2
22Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo0:05:02
23Andre Cardoso (Por) Cannondale Pro Cycling0:05:28
24Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 23 - Cell 2
25Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 24 - Cell 2
26Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 25 - Cell 2
27Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ0:09:14
28Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team0:09:57
29Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team0:10:21
30Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Tinkoff Team0:10:49
31Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky0:11:24
32Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:11:57
33Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:12:43
34Manuel Senni (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 34 - Cell 2
36Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:13:16
37Nathan Brown (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling0:14:18
38Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 37 - Cell 2
39Joe Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 38 - Cell 2
40Damiano Cunego (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini0:15:47
41Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 40 - Cell 2
42Ilia Koshevoy (Blr) Lampre - Merida0:16:02
43Eugenio Alafaci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo0:17:21
44Laurent Didier (Lux) Trek-SegafredoRow 43 - Cell 2
45Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46José Herrada (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 45 - Cell 2
47Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar TeamRow 46 - Cell 2
48Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar TeamRow 47 - Cell 2
49Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Wilier Triestina-SoutheastRow 48 - Cell 2
50Julen Amezqueta (Spa) Wilier Triestina-SoutheastRow 49 - Cell 2
51Matej Mohoric (Slo) Lampre - MeridaRow 50 - Cell 2
52Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 51 - Cell 2
53Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 52 - Cell 2
54Cheng Ji (Chn) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 53 - Cell 2
55Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 54 - Cell 2
56Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 55 - Cell 2
57Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 56 - Cell 2
58Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 57 - Cell 2
59Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM CyclingRow 58 - Cell 2
60Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension DataRow 59 - Cell 2
61Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 60 - Cell 2
62Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 61 - Cell 2
63Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension DataRow 62 - Cell 2
64Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 63 - Cell 2
65Stefan Kueng (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 64 - Cell 2
66Manuele Boaro (Ita) Tinkoff TeamRow 65 - Cell 2
67Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff TeamRow 66 - Cell 2
68Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 67 - Cell 2
69Martijn Keizer (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 68 - Cell 2
70Cristian Rodriguez (Spa) Wilier Triestina-SoutheastRow 69 - Cell 2
71Joseph Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 70 - Cell 2
72Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 71 - Cell 2
73Amets Txurruka (Spa) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 72 - Cell 2
74Jesus Hernandez (Spa) Tinkoff TeamRow 73 - Cell 2
75Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 74 - Cell 2
76Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff TeamRow 75 - Cell 2
77Christian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 76 - Cell 2
78Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) IAM CyclingRow 77 - Cell 2
79Simone Petilli (Ita) Lampre - MeridaRow 78 - Cell 2
80Twan Castelijns (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 79 - Cell 2
81Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 80 - Cell 2
82Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension DataRow 81 - Cell 2
83Alessandro Bisolti (Ita) Nippo - Vini FantiniRow 82 - Cell 2
84Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-SegafredoRow 83 - Cell 2
85Jay McCarthy (Aus) Tinkoff TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
86Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La MondialeRow 85 - Cell 2
87Alexander Foliforov (Rus) Gazprom-RusveloRow 86 - Cell 2
88Ruben Plaza (Spa) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 87 - Cell 2
89Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Dimension DataRow 88 - Cell 2
90Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJRow 89 - Cell 2
91Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 90 - Cell 2
92Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 91 - Cell 2
93Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff TeamRow 92 - Cell 2
94Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 93 - Cell 2
95Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto SoudalRow 94 - Cell 2
96Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 95 - Cell 2
97Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 96 - Cell 2
98Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 97 - Cell 2
99Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto SoudalRow 98 - Cell 2
100Aleksey Rybalkin (Rus) Gazprom-RusveloRow 99 - Cell 2
101Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 100 - Cell 2
102Gianfranco Zilioli (Ita) Nippo - Vini FantiniRow 101 - Cell 2
103Carlos Verona (Spa) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 102 - Cell 2
104Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 103 - Cell 2
105Matteo Busato (Ita) Wilier Triestina-SoutheastRow 104 - Cell 2
106Eros Capecchi (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 105 - Cell 2
107Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
108Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 107 - Cell 2
109Daniel Martínez (Col) Wilier Triestina-SoutheastRow 108 - Cell 2
110Chad Haga (USA) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 109 - Cell 2
111Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff TeamRow 110 - Cell 2
112Artem Ovechkin (Rus) Gazprom-RusveloRow 111 - Cell 2
113Philip Deignan (Irl) Team SkyRow 112 - Cell 2
114Alexander Serov (Rus) Gazprom-RusveloRow 113 - Cell 2
115Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 114 - Cell 2
116Ian Boswell (USA) Team SkyRow 115 - Cell 2
117Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 116 - Cell 2
118Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 117 - Cell 2