For cycling fans, May means one thing: the start of the grand tours. The Giro d’Italia began in Torrino on 8th May, and has seen aggressive racing through beautiful scenery, exactly as you would expect from the Italian grand tour. Yesterday, with 15 gruelling stages already under their belts, the riders took on the queen stage, in which they will reach the highest point on the race.
Stage 16, from Sacile to Cortina d’Ampezzo was set to be an absolute brute of a stage. At 212 km long, the stage would be one of the longest days on this years race, with a parcours that would amass over 5000 m of climbing incuding four 1st Category climbs (the hardest category in the race). Up first would be La Crosetta (11.6 km at 7.1%) more or less straight after the start, before the riders take on the Passo Fedaia (14 km at 7.6%) which 5.5 km which averages 11% for the final 5.5 km. As if that wasn’t enough of a leg snapper, the Cima Coppi, the highest point on the entire race, would come 153 km into the day’s stage, when the riders crest the Passo Pordoi at 2,239 m after a tough 10 km climb at 9.3% average gradient. Adding insult to injury, next comes the infamous Passo Giau, 9.9 km at 9.3%, to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
Unfortunately, strong rain in the Dolomites lead to the race organisers changing the route slightly. Instead, the riders took on a 153 km parcours, with the Pordoi taken out completely. This meant the Cima Coppi would instead be the Passo Giau at 2233 m- still an altitude more than high enough to take the breath away!
On the day monumental weather conditions lead to some epic racing, which ultimately saw Columbian Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers take the stage win, and tighten his grip on the overall lead. Frenchman Romain Bardet (Team DSM) finished second, alongside Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) who crossed the line 26s behind Bernal.
Now, the riders head into a rest day, before the final week of racing as the Giro winds its way ever closer to Milan.