After another fast start in Italy, Owsian and Ventoso were part of a successful move off the front of the peloton that had opened up an advantage of three minutes and 30 seconds going over the top of two uncategorized climbs in the opening 60 kilometers, of the 194-kilometer stage.
While the original route was adapted to avoid deep snow on the Passo di Gavia, it was still a brutal day of climbing and as the front group tackled both the Cevo and Aprica climbs, the gap continued to grow, and at one point is reached almost six minutes.
It was on the descent of the second category three climb, that Ventoso, as two-time Giro d’Italia stage winner, went on the attack in an attempt to draw out a smaller group at the front of the race.
However, the Spaniard’s move was not matched by any of his fellow breakaway riders and after pushing on alone, he was eventually caught before hitting the foot of the day’s toughest challenge, the category one Passo del Mortirolo.
It was on the 11.9-kilometer long ascent, which had an average gradient of 10.9 percent and pitches of 18 percent in places, that race exploded and in the end, there were various groups of riders spread out all across the road.
On the steepest slopes of the climb, the breakaway split with only a handful of riders going on to lead the race over the summit as Owsian and Ventoso slipped off the back after a solid effort at the front after an already a tough day of climbing, which by this point was being made even tougher thanks to heavy rain and cold temperatures.
Behind them, the battle for the Maglia Rosa was also heating up and initially Víctor de la Parte was holding his own with the General Classification favorites before attacks, once again on the hardest sections of the infamous climb, saw him drop back to ride his own pace to the finish.
De la Parte eventually finished the stage inside the top thirty, crossing the line first for CCC Team around five minutes 30 seconds behind the eventual winner, Guilio Ciccone (Trek – Segafredo), and he remains in the top twenty overall behind current race leader, Richard Carapaz (Movistar Team).
Quotes From the Finish Line
“It was hard to be in the breakaway with a lot of attacks at the beginning and then on one of the first uncategorized climbs me and Fran went as part of that big group. As a group we were going pretty fast almost all of the time and after the climb before the Mortirolo we pushed a lot and Fran took his chance their too. We gave it everything we could and over the next few days we will look for breakaways and continue to look for stage win opportunities.”
“The race started so fast because we had a couple of uncategorized climbs and in the opening kilometers, me and Łukasz were trying to follow one group and the gap started to go up before finally, after a lot of pushing, we were able to really go clear.”
“The group was working okay together but that was normal because Amador was there and of course he doesn’t need to pull usually but some riders stayed in his wheel etc. however that’s expected sometimes. Most of time though everybody was pulling.”
“The move I made on the descent came after I spoke with one of our Sports Directors, Fabio Baldato and he said that it would maybe be good to try to move on the descent of the Aprica and maybe other riders would follow in order arrive in the valley before the Mortirolo with an advantage. So, I tried to go but nobody followed me but I also think that the motorbike helped the group a little bit to catch me.”
“I feel super good in this Grand Tour. I think it is maybe one of the best in my career and also, in the mountains, I feel really good so we will see what happens in the next few days but for sure, we will try again.”
Stage 16: Lovere > Ponte di Legno (194km)
Top 3: 1. Guilio Ciccone (Trek – Segafredo) 2. Jan Hirt (Astana Pro Team) 3. Fausto Masnada (Androno Giocattoli – Sidermec)
CCC Team Top 3: 29. Víctor de la Parte 53. Łukasz Owsian 57. Francisco Ventoso