2015 Giro d’Italia – Stage 16 Preview
What happened on stage 15
Mikel Landa landed his first career win in a Grand Tour, after catching Yuri Trofimov and leaving him behind with 600 meters to go on Madonna di Campiglio, where the Corsa Rosa returned after 16 years. Alberto Contador rounded out the podium, with Fabio Aru fourth, the young Sardinian again showing some weaknesses that now leave him trailing the Spaniard by 2:35. If Contador’s maglia rosa seems out of reach, it will be interesting to see if Aru can return to his best in the last week or if Landa will get more freedom from Astana to fight for the podium. Besides the two of them, other riders in contention for a top 3 finish are Andrey Amador, Leopold König, Yuri Trofimov and Damiano Caruso.
What comes now
This is a high mountain stage with as many as five categorized climbs and a total difference in altitude of 4500 meters. The route starts uphill in Pinzolo, clears the Campo Carlo Magno climb (this is largely the same ascent as the previous stage), takes a fast-running descent into Dimaro and goes up again, towards Passo del Tonale (15,3 kilometers at a 6,1% average gradient). The stage course drops down into Ponte di Legno and Edolo, then takes in the first climb towards Aprica, through the village of Santicolo (with gradients of roughly 15% in the first stretch).
After rolling past Corteno Golgi, the route takes the ss. 39 and heads for the first passage on the finish line. The following descent is initially wide and fast, and turns narrower and more technical all the way up to Stazzona. The route levels out briefly while running through Tirano (the only flat sector of the stage), then it tackles the Mortirolo climb (10,9 kilometers, 10,9% average gradient and 18% maximum gradient) along the traditional Mazzo di Valtellina slope.
The Mortirolo Pass will be this year’s “Montagna Pantani”, recalling the great success of June 4, 1994, when Pantani clinched a masterful solo win – his second consecutive stage win, from Merano to Aprica – attracting the whole cycling world’s attention and claiming the podium for that year’s Giro, behind Russia’s Evgeni Berzin.
Mortirolo is followed by a technical descent (on narrowed roadway in the first part), leading to Monno and then to Edolo, where the route will cover once again the 14 kilometers leading to Aprica. The road runs entirely uphill, with remarkable gradients between Edolo and Santicolo (max. 15%), but flattens out gradually while approaching the finish, dropping to 5% with 5 kilometers to go, and to less than 2% over the last 500 meters. The finish line lies on a 7,5-m wide asphalt road, running gently uphill.
We can have two fights on this stage: one is for the stage win, which can be decided from a breakaway that can include Carlos Betancur, Mikel Nieve, Beñat Intxausti, Stefano Pirazzi, Davide Formolo, Darwin Atapuma, Igor Anton, Sylwester Szmyd, Esteban Chaves and Przemyslav Niemiec, many of these being interested also in the blue jersey, which lies on the shoulders of Intxausti.
The second fight of the day concerns the GC cyclists, with Alberto Contador in the spotlight. The rider of Tinkoff-Saxo said that he wants a stage victory, but not with the price of spending a lot of energy for it, but this doesn’t mean he can’t attack on the Mortirolo in order to force a selection. On the other hand, after seeing that whatever they do he can’t lose the pink jersey, Astana can try to push it hard on the climbs to isolate and tire Contador ahead of the Tour de France, where he’ll meet Vincenzo Nibali. Besides them and the other cyclists in the top 10, pay attention to Steven Kruijswijk, who looks close to top form, which can help him make an important jump in the overall classification.
Aprica has hosted eight stage finishes throughout the years, with the first taking place more than half a century ago. The riders who have won in the Lombardy ski resort are Vittorio Adorni (1962), Leonardo Sierra (1990), Franco Chioccioli (1991), Marco Pantani (1994), Ivan Gotti (1996), Roberto Heras (1999), Ivan Basso (2006) and Michele Scarponi (2010).