2022 Giro d’Italia Stage 16 Preview

Salò > Aprica 201.6km

The Queen stage is here, with over 5000m of climbing in the Alps. This is an enormous day in the battle for the pink jersey, but before I look at that in more detail, time for some musings about the week ahead.

The Third Week

Breakaway Contenders – at this point in a grand tour, those who can challenge from the break have already made themselves known, this edition of the Giro is no different. We have three riders who have dropped out of the GC picture and will expect to be fighting for multiple stages this week. Both Simon Yates and Giulio Ciccone already have a stage win, they look head and shoulders above the other breakaway riders at this point, but that can change in the third week. Hugh Carthy is starting to gain some momentum, given the nature of the upcoming stages, he’s another who we’ll see plenty of this week. Throw in the experience of Mollema and Dombrowski and I think we’ve got the mountain breaks covered.

KOM Fight – Bouwman currently leads with 109 points, Rosa has 92 and Ciccone is back on 58, but everything is still to play for. We have a huge number of points on offer this week, and I said in my KOM preview that I expected the jersey to be won by a rider dropping out of GC contention, and I still believe this to be the case. Ciccone has been here before, he won the blue jersey in 2019, he’ll sense a chance of putting Bouwman under pressure in the upcoming stages. 

The Battle for Pink – both Carapaz and Hindley will be thinking the same thing, gain more time on Almeida. With a 17.4km ITT to finish the race off, they’ll want one minute of a lead heading into the final stage. Once they have this, then the focus can turn to trying to beat each other. Bora-hansgrohe have ridden a great race, but Hindley has been unable to put Carapaz into difficulty. Carapaz did manage to distance the GC favourites on Superga, but we don’t know if they couldn’t follow, or chose not to. With some huge stages still to come, the GC is still all to play for.

Team Classification – Bora are currently in charge of this classification, but they only have a one-minute lead over Bahrain-Victorious, with Wanty sitting almost 12 minutes down. Both Bora and Bahrain are involved in the GC battle, but to win this classification you also need to be willing to join breakaways. Given how close Hindley is to winning the pink jersey, I’d be amazed if we saw Bora riders trying for the breaks in the next couple of stages, but Bahrain might. I sense this battle will go all the way to Verona.

Changing Weather Conditions – the intense heat of the second week is gone, replaced by cooler temperatures and a threat of rain in the remaining stages. Most will be happy with cooler temperatures, but rain can cause just as many problems, and the shift in conditions could also lead to some illness in the bunch.

Post-Rest Day Blues – who’s going to have a bad day? There’s every chance someone high on GC goes pop.

Weather

Cloudy, with temperatures under 20 degrees. Rain isn’t guaranteed, but there is a threat throughout the whole stage.

Key Points

The first climb of the day is Goletto Di Cadino which is 20.1km at 5.4%. With 40 points on offer at the top, expect to see a fight in the final kilometre.

Passo del Mortirolo comes next, but it’s not from the hardest side. The climb is still a tough 10.8km at 7.1%.

The descent off the Mortirolo is fast, narrow, and technical.

Next up is the unclassified climb, Teglio, which is 4.8km at 9.2%, and has a sprint point at the top. Could we see a long-range attack from one of the GC riders?

The final climb of the day is Valico Di Santa Cristina, which is 13.3km at 7.8%. The climb goes up in steps, and it gets harder every time. It’s also very narrow and incredibly difficult. From the crest there is just 6km to, first over the hill will likely win the stage.

Tactics

This is the hardest stage in the race, the pink jersey battle could be decided by the end of it, but I hope not.

When will the break form? It’s likely that we’ll see a small group get away at the start, but teams will hold it together, so the main move goes on the first climb. That would suit the likes of EF, BikeExchange and Trek-Segafredo.

Will the break win the stage? That’s up to Bora, Bahrain, UAE, and Astana. Normally, the Queen stage goes to the GC riders, but it can’t be guaranteed. The break will likely contain amazing climbers, they should be able to use the hills to build a big gap, but their chances of success will all depend on the attitude of the peloton. Don’t expect Ineos to chase, but they’ll do their usual of keeping the gap at a manageable distance, teasing others into coming to the front. Ineos will be very happy if other teams use domestiques to chase, that will allow them to save as many men as possible for the final climb.

What happens in the GC group? The previous stages have shown that Carapaz, Hindley and Nibali are currently the strongest, but that won’t necessarily be the case in the final week. I’d be surprised to see anyone going long, the GC battle will happen on Santa Cristina, a climb so hard we could see some huge gaps. Then we’ll see who’s the best climber in the race.

Contenders

Richard Carapaz – I’m not sure what to make of his current shape. His attack on Superga was impressive, but I expected him to sail off into the distance and take the win. When caught by Nibali and Hindley, he didn’t look in any danger of getting dropped, so he is climbing well. This is a huge day in the fight for pink, he and Hindley have looked very equal so far, and as Hindley has a faster sprint it means that Carapaz needs to drop him on the climb. I look forward to the battle.

Jai Hindley – doesn’t need to do anything daft, just try to follow Carapaz. Yes, he’ll likely need some time on him for the TT, but there are more stages for him to do that. This stage is all about following the pink jersey and looking to beat him in the sprint. Hindley has looked back to his very best, I’m hoping we’re in for an epic battle on the slopes of Santa Cristina.

Vincenzo Nibali – climber better than he has in the last three or four years, it’s great to have him back. As he’s retiring at the end of the year, I think we’ll see him ride a very attacking race, he’s not interested in another top 10 finish. Win or bust for Vincenzo, he’s one of the few who’ll seriously consider an attack on the Mortirolo, but he’ll need satellite riders up the road for the valley after the descent.

João Almeida – he’ll be worried about the Mortirolo descent, he’s bound to lose some time there, but should have teammates to help bring him back to the GC group. Almeida rode into good form last year in the third week, he’ll be hoping for something similar this year. We’ve seen in the first two weeks that he’s just a little below the level of the best climbers, but you must respect his never give up attitude, he just grinds away and limits his losses.

Simon Yates – his win on Saturday was brilliant, he rode a very clever race. Yates will have to decide if he wants to jump in the break or wait with the GC group, it’s not a decision I’d like to take.

Giulio Ciccone – was sensational on Sunday, back to his very best. We’ll have to see if he now wants to challenge for the KOM jersey, I think he will. Using up energy going for points could leave him a little tired towards the end of the stage, but it depends on who else makes the break.

Hugh Carthy – things are moving in the right direction for Hugh. He would have been disappointed to drop out of GC contention, but that could well be a blessing in disguise for him, freeing him up to try and win a stage. I think Sunday was very important for him, he might have finished fourth, but it was a positive sign for the rest of the race. He’s one of the best on steep slopes, he should love Santa Cristina.

Joe Dombrowski – usually gets stronger as a grand tour goes on. It’ll very hard to win against those already mentioned, but I expect to see him go well.

Prediction Time

I think we’ll see Bora, Astana and Bahrain look to chase down the morning break, which won’t be easy as it will contain Yates, Ciccone, and Carthy. Despite not being allowed much of a lead, I think the final breakaway riders will last until quite far up the final climb, but they will eventually get caught. With Ineos sitting in the wheels all day, I think they’ll dominate Santa Cristina and Richard Carapaz will take a solo victory.

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