Giro d'Italia - Jan Hirt wins on Mortirolo in Stage 16 as Jai Hindley slashes Richard Carapaz lead
Czech climber Jan Hirt moved into the top 10 at the Giro d’Italia with victory in Stage 16 at Aprica after starring in the breakaway on the Passo del Mortirolo. Australia’s Jai Hindley closed the gap to just three seconds at the top of the general classification after pipping pink jersey Richard Carapaz of Ecuador in a thrilling sprint for third place.
Stage 16 highlights: Hindley reels in Carapaz in GC battle; Hirt wins in mountains
Runner-up the last time the Giro d’Italia tackled the mythical Mortirolo in 2019, Jan Hirt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) went one better this time around with a fine solo win in Aprica after holding off a late charge from fellow escapee Thymen Arensman (Team DSM).
As the rain started to fall in the Italian Alps, Czech climber Hirt and Dutch youngster Arensman were the last two riders from a large 24-man break that held off the charge from the GC favourites, led home by Australia’s Jai Hindley (Bora Hansgrohe) after a thrilling sprint for third place against the maglia rosa, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
Hindley pipped the 2019 champion for the final four bonus seconds to cut the Ecuadorian’s lead to just three seconds in the standings. Portugal’s Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) battled to defend his place on the podium after a late acceleration by fourth-place Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) on the Cat. 1 Valico di Santa Cristina climb lit the torch paper in the select group of favourites inside the final 10km of the 202km stage from Salo.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan) traded places with fellow Italian veteran Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and moved into the top five after his trademark attack on the descent of the Mortirolo resulted in his countryman hitting the deck. Pozzovivo fought back for 12th place on the stage, one place behind Spain’s Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), who also took a tumble on the final climb following a touch of wheels with teammate Landa.
Dutchman Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) was part of the day’s break and consolidated his lead over Italy’s Guilio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) in the blue jersey classification after pocketing maximum points over the Mortirolo – the second of three first-category climbs on the menu – before being distanced ahead of the finale.
A chaotic opening to Stage 16 brought about the surreal scenario of Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) getting in an early move on a day involving more than 5,200m of vertical ascent. In what looked to be a damage limitation exercise, Cavendish found himself alongside Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) in a six-man move that was quickly scuppered once the pack exploded ahead of the opening climb.
Carapaz found himself quickly isolated before the ascent of Goletto di Cadino as the Bora-Hansgrohe team of GC rival Hindley sent two men up the road in the form of Lennard Kamna and Wilco Kelderman. Joining them in a dangerous 24-man move was a cluster of big-hitters including British duo Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates, the Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, the blue jersey Bouwman and the Stage 15 winner Ciccone.
Alejandro Valverde en la fuga de la 16ª etapa del Giro de Italia 2022
Image credit: Getty Images
As the race finally settled on the first climb, Carapaz was soon surrounded by six Ineos Grenadiers team-mates as the gap grew above two minutes despite the presence of Hirt, the Frenchman Giullaume Martin (Cofidis) and Movistar’s Valverde – three riders entering the stage on the fringe of the top 10 and around nine minutes down in the general classification.
Ciccone’s target became quickly apparent when he kicked clear to take maximum points over the summit ahead of Bouwman to put pressure on the Dutchman in the king of the mountains classification.
On the long descent Kelderman quickly found himself joining forces with Mattia Bais (Drone Hopper-Androni Giacattoli) after picking up a puncture shortly after the Italian overcooked an early bend and almost came a cropper.
The pair managed to rejoin the leaders on the valley road shortly before a freak split in the break saw eight riders – including Valverde, Bouwman, Kamna, Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) and Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) – go clear ahead of the Passo di Mortirolo.
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Dario Cataldo dropped back from the first group to help pace his Trek team-mate Ciccone after he missed the split. Ciccone soon found himself chasing back on in a trio with Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Hirt – the man he beat three years ago when the Giro last tackled the mighty Mortirolo.
This time around the race used the “easiest” of the three roads to the summit, where Bouwman strengthened his grip on the blue jersey by riding over at the nose of the leading break, with a fading Ciccone paying for his earlier efforts.
The Astana team of Nibali took over the reins from Ineos in the main pack ahead of he descent to tee up their leader with a familiar acceleration on the twisting and technical descent. And with one veteran Italian going clear, another was in the wars as Pozzovivo skidded off the road while trying to keep in touch with the GC favourites.
Sitting just 1:01 down in fifth place in the overnight standings, Pozzovivo fought back to rejoin the main field in the valley after Nibali knocked it off and Ineos took back the initiative for their man in pink.
Nibali soars down Mortirolo to rip apart GC group on Stage 16
Seven riders from the initial break led the race going onto the penultimate climb, an uncategorised but brutal double-digit rise to Teglio where the day’s second intermediate ‘bonus second’ sprint was placed. Bouwman was quickly dropped as Kamna took the sprint before zipping clear of Poels, Carthy, Hirt, Valverde and Arensman on the descent.
With the slimming group of GC favourites closing the gap after some hefty tempo-setting from Landa’s Bahrain Victorious team, the scene was perfectly set for an absorbing final ascent of the Valico di Santa Cristina.
If Kamna looked odds-on to double his stage win tally following his earlier win on Mount Etna, the German was caught and passed by Arensman and Hirt ahead of the summit, which the 31-year-old Czech crested with a slender 15-second gap over his 22-year-old pursuer.
Behind, Poels dropped back to join the Bahrain Victorious train paving the way for the expected move from Landa – although the wind was knocked from the Spaniard’s sails after a touch of wheels with team-mate Bilbao sent the latter sprawling.
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Shortly after the resulting regrouping, Poels put in a big pull ahead of Landa’s acceleration which not only distanced the white jersey of Almeida but also put his own team-mate Bilbao into the red. Carapaz and Hindley stuck to Landa’s back wheel and the trio bit chunks out of each other all the way up while Almeida dropped the likes of Nibali and Pozzovivo during his dogged pursuit behind.
The rain that the threatening clouds had promised for quite some time finally started to fall on the descent, resulting in a heart-in-mouth moment for lone leader Hirt on one of the stacked hairpin bends.
But Hirt defied the conditions, some cramps and the returning Arensman to hold on for the first Grand Tour victory of his career, crossing the line seven seconds clear of his deflated Dutch pursuer after the road tilted up in the final kilometre. He is the second Intermarche rider to win a stage on this year's race following the historic win by Eritrea's Biniam Girmay in Stage 10.
“For sure I wanted to do something nice today,” Hirt said. “Every time I’m on the Mortirolo I want to anticipate. I wanted to get in the breakaway today but there were some difficult moments today when the break split and we had to fight back. Then on the last climb I also had a problem with the bike – it wasn’t shifting well and the chain was jumping. I also had cramps on the descent. I was really suffering but I wanted to win so much I fought to the end.”
Hindley and Carapaz came home with Spaniards Valverde and Landa 1:24 down and 14 seconds clear of a chasing duo of Kamna and Almeida. The Portuguese retained his white jersey and third place in the GC but now trails the summit by 44 seconds and has Landa breathing down his neck just 15 seconds behind.
Pozzovivo, Bilbao and Hindley’s German team-mate Emanuel Buchmann all drop one place in the standings while stage winner Hirt rises to ninth at 7:42 in a new-look top 10 that no longer features the Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo), who cracked on the final climb following his 10-day stretch in pink earlier in the race.
Nibali battled to ninth place on the stage to rise to fifth place in the standings albeit with a larger deficit of 3:40 to Carapaz, whose three-second lead over Hindley sets things up nicely ahead of Wednesday’s Stage 17 – a lumpy and unpredictable 168km ride that features three categorised climbs and another short downhill run towards the ramped finish in Lavarone.
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