• Vincenzo Nibali. (Getty)Source: Getty
Giulio Ciccone took the Stage 16 victory in a head-to-head battle with Jan Hirt as Giro d'Italia race leader Richard Carapaz held fast against a surging Vincenzo Nibali who moved into second place overall as Primoz Roglic faltered.
Cycling Central

29 May 2019 - 5:51 AM  UPDATED 29 May 2019 - 7:59 AM

Carapaz (Movistar) took a big step towards a Giro d’Italia title by holding off two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and increasing his lead over Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on the 194km stage from Lovere to Ponte di Legno.

He regained contact with Nibali in the gruelling ascent up the Mortirolo pass, an 11.9km climb at an average gradient of 10.9 per cent, as Roglic was dropped to eventually lose more than a minute.

Overall, Carapaz retained the pink jersey with a one minute 47 second lead on Nibali, who leapfrogged Roglic into second place in the general classification. Roglic is now two minutes nine seconds behind the leader.

“The truth is that it’s been a very complicated day, especially because of the weather conditions and the climbs,” said Carapaz.

“But as a team, we’ve worked very well for Mikel Landa and me. It’s another good day in terms of time gained on GC.”

The final part of the brutal Mortirolo climb took place in a twilight glow, with the only light coming from the TV motorbikes’ headlights as rain further reduced visibility.

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) won at the end of a long breakaway after the race organizers decided that the route would avoid the much-feared, snow-covered Gavia pass due to the risk of avalanches. Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) finished third on the stage at one minute and 20 seconds.

The win helped Ciccone increase his lead in the mountains classification as the main favourites had shown no interest in the stage victory.

Among the top three contenders, only Nibali had already climbed the Mortirolo in race conditions, and he looked to take advantage of that when he attacked early on, hoping to then increase a potential lead in the descent.

But while the move was damaging to Roglic, Carapaz was well-protected by his teammates, including Mikel Landa, and eventually clawed his way back.

Roglic had Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) with him to try to limit his time losses.

“It had to be the Queen stage of this Giro," Nibali said. "But without Gavia it was the same a very demanding stage conditioned by the bad weather especially from the Mortirolo to the finish in Ponte di Legno.

"Damiano [Caruso] and I collaborated with Carapaz and Mikel Landa to earn as much as possible on Roglic. Now we have to invent something to try to take the pink jersey but it won't be easy because Carapaz is proving to be a very solid rider."