Benat Intxausti of Movistar, the man who spent a day in the maglia rosa before Astana's Vincenzo Nibali took it from him on the Stage 8 individual time trial, has won Stage 16 of the 2013 Giro d'Italia in Ivrea. The Spaniard won a three-way sprint from Astana's Tanel Kangert and Lampre-Merida's Przemyslaw Niemiec after the trio got away from a select group late on that included all the riders towards the top of the GC, other than Vini Fantini-Selle Italia's Mauro Santambrogio.
The latter, who had started the day fourth overall just 1 second behind Team Sky's Rigoberto Uran, was distanced on the day's final climb, a short but punchy ascent crested 17.5km from the end of the 238km stage from Valloire.
Other than Santambrogio losing a little more than 2 minutes, there was no change at the top of the GC, the first three riders across the line taking the time bonuses.
Nibali remains in the maglia rosa, 1 minute 26 seconds ahead of BMC Racing's Cadel Evans, with Uran still 3rd, a further 1 minute 20 seconds back. The Colombian now has a cushion of 1 minute 7 seconds to Lampre-Merida's Michele Scarponi, who moves up to 4th.
It was an exciting end to a cracking stage that had seen a big breakaway group of 22 riders form as the race headed back into Italy following its visit to France and the Col du Galibier on Sunday.
In that break as it headed up the day’s first climb, the Category 1 Col du Montcenis, crested shortly before the border some 64.8km into the stage, was the ever combative Stefano Pirazzi of Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox.
Pirazzi went over the summit in second place to Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela rider Jackson Rodriguez to strengthen his grip on the mountains classification, and extended his lead further on the day’s other climb, the Category 3 ascent to Andrate.
By the time the front riders hit that final climb, a little over 6km long with ramps of up to 13 per cent, the breakaway group had split apart and it was Pirazzi who led the race up it alongside the Colombia team’s Fabio Duarte.
Points classification leader Mark Cavendish – presented with a huge cake prior to the start on the occasion of his 28th birthday – had been towards the front of the main group as it started that ascent, but with riders including Scarponi launching attacks he was soon thrown out the back.
Among those also struggling was Santambrogio, winner of Saturday’s Stage 14 at Bardonecchia, and although the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia rider led a desperate chase to try and rejoin the other overall contenders, the pace they would set for the remainder of the stage made it a hopeless task.
The moves from the GC group on the ascent to Andrate meant it rapidly gained ground on the two riders in front, and Duarte and Pirazzi were reeled in ahead of the top of the climb, AG2R’s Carlos Betancur, leader of the best young rider's classification, pinging off the front to go over the summit first.
Pirazzi somehow managed to dig deep to gain yet more points as he became the second rider over, immediately knocking off the gas, his day’s chief work over.
Now, two issues remained to be resolved – who would win the stage, and whether there might be any shuffling of the order on GC.
Heading down towards the finish in Ivrea, one of the peloton’s best descenders, Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, jumped across to Betancur on a technical, twisting descent, with the road surface including patches of wet from earlier rainfall.
If there was one rider who could get across to the pair out in front, it was Nibali, but in his tow he brought riders including Evans, Uran and Scarponi, a front group of ten riders, three from Astana, forming as the road levelled out for the final, almost flat, 8km run-in to the finish.
The pace was unrelenting as a number of riders launched attacks, the one that stuck featuring the trio that would contest the finish, plus Robert Gesink, but the Blanco rider would be ruled out of contention a couple of kilometres from the line due to an unfortunately timed mechanical issue when his chain shipped and blocked his rear wheel.
Giro d'Italia Stage 16 result 1 INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 05:52:48 2 KANGERT Tanel Astana Pro Team ,, 3 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida ,, 4 NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas Garmin - Sharp 00:14 5 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team ,, 6 PELLIZOTTI Franco Androni - Venezuela ,, 7 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida ,, 8 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,, 9 HERRADA Jose Movistar Team ,, 10 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale ,, 11 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling ,, 12 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team ,, 13 SANCHEZ Samuel Euskaltel - Euskadi ,, 14 PIRAZZI Stefano Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox ,, 15 ARU Fabio Astana Pro Team ,, 16 DUARTE Fabio Team Colombia 00:20 17 GESINK Robert Blanco Pro Cycling Team 00:23 18 BONGIORNO Francesco Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox 01:51 19 DUPONT Hubert AG2R La Mondiale ,, 20 FELLINE Fabio Androni - Venezuela ,, Overall Standings after Stage 16 1 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 67:55:36 2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 01:26 3 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 02:46 4 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida 03:53 5 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida 04:13 6 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 04:57 7 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale 05:15 8 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff 05:20 9 INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 05:47 10 POZZOVIVO Domenico AG2R La Mondiale 07:34
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.