Chaves holds onto 2nd place after a mammoth effort on stage 16 of the Giro

Tue 24 May 2016

Giro d’Italia Queen stage winner Esteban Chaves has retained second place on the general classification for ORICA-GreenEDGE today after an extremely difficult attack-filled stage 16.

Colombian Chaves was forced to chase after race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) went clear with eventual stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the last 60kilometres.

Strong work from ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates Ruben Plaza and Damien Howson brought Chaves onto the penultimate climb with the Colombian valiantly taking up the reigns to eventually finish in eighth place.

“I probably made a mistake underestimating the attack,” said Chaves. “Thanks to my teammates we managed to save the day. I’m really thankful for how they rode for me and I managed to keep the pace on the last climb.”

“These explosive stages are always dangerous and I definitely tip my hat to Steven (Kruijswijk). One more day done and we are ready to fight on.”

Chaves is in second place and three minutes down Kruijswijk with five more stages to come.

Sport director Matt White spoke of his surprise at the speed and aggression of stage 16.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted how aggressive the racing was going to be today,” said White. “The way the other favourites rode on the first climb totally annihilated the bunch and turned it into a very dangerous situation for us.”

“Thanks to Damien (Howson) and Ruben (Plaza) we certainly managed to contain what could have been a disastrous day.

“There was a lapse of concentration when the attack came at the top of the first climb which is why we had to chase, but we are still in a good position after an interesting day and lots of racing still to come.”

How it happened:

The final week of the Giro d’Italia got underway with a mountainous stage sixteen today as another warm and sunny morning in the South Tyrol region of northeastern Italy welcomed the riders to the start line.

A fast descent opened the stage with attacks trying to form over the first 20kilometres before ten riders escaped together and gained 30seconds on the peloton. The breakaway group included Simon Clarke (Cannondale) and Joey Rosskopf and Daniel Oss of BMC Racing.

The fast moving peloton were not allowing the breakaway to gain any ground with the field coming back together at the start of the first climb of the day, Passo della Mendola.

The pace did not let up over the first kilometres of the climb with Valverde the first to attack followed by Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha). The move strung put the peloton with riders being dropped out of the back of the bunch immediately.

David Lopez-Garcia (Team-Sky) had also followed Valverde and the Sky rider was now off the front and going for the mountains points on the ‘Mendel Pass’. A select group had formed at the front of the bunch including Chaves, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and race leader Kruijswijk.

Kruijswijk was off the front twice with 72kilometres left to race as he closed down attacks from Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) then Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep). Jungels managed to break free a few moments later and bridged across to the Lopez-Garcia group who now had 37seconds on the Chaves/Kruijswijk group.

With many of the race favourites losing time in Sunday's individual time trial and keen to make immediate amends, the attacks kept coming on the long first climb of this short stage. Nibali went again a few hundred metres from the summit followed by Valverde and the two crested the climb 50metres ahead of the Chaves group.

Nibali was clearly looking to gain time on the following descent but Kruijswijk and Zakarin caught the wheel of the Astana rider and along with Valverde the four made it across to the six leaders creating group of ten at the front of the race.

Chaves had missed the move on the descent and was now 36seconds behind the pink jersey group. Nibali had Astana teammate Tanel Kangert with him in the lead group and Kangert was now driving on the group trying to put more time into Chaves. Plaza and Howson were on the front of the Chaves group trying to bring the race back together before the final climb for the Colombian.

With 40kilometres left to race the gap had fallen to 30seconds as Plaza and Howson continued to lead the chase unaided with only 18kilometres to go until the epic Fai della Paganella climb. 

Cannondale began to help with the chase when Joe Dombrowski was dropped by the lead group although it was still Plaza and Howson rotating off the front.

On the start of the final climb the nine leaders had 35seconds as the chasing group split with Chaves making his move off the front followed by Uran and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff). Uran was dropped instantly as Chaves found his rhythm now only 20seconds behind the leaders.

Valverde attacked with 15kilometres to go and was followed by the pink jersey Kruijswijk and Zakarin with Nibali dropped along with Jungels and Lopez-Garcia. Chaves brought the two chasing groups together one kilometre later with the seven chasers now 18seconds down on the three leaders.

Chaves and Jungels were doing the bulk of the work trying to bridge the gap to the front trio with Chaves briefly distancing Jungels with a burst of acceleration as the ORICA-GreenEDGE rider tried to increase the intensity of the chase. Nibali completely dropped off the back as Chaves, Jungels and Majka accelerated over the summit with a brief descent to come before the final climb to the finish.

Chaves continued to accelerate into the last three kilometres but couldn’t quite close the gap with Valverde winning the stage and Kruiswijk second. Chaves crossed the line in eighth place 42seconds down but holding onto second in the general classification. Nibali came in another minute further down and slipped out of the top three on the overall.

Stage 17 takes place tomorrow and covers 196kilometres from Molveno to Cassano d’Adda. The first 120kilometres of the route are undulating and dotted with relatively short climbs whilst the final 66kilometres descend gradually into a pan flat town centre finish.

Giro d’Italia stage sixteen results:

1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 02:58:54
2. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) ST
3. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) ST
8. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:00:42 

General classification after stage sixteen:

1. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) 63:40:10
2. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:03:00 
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 00:03:23