A stunning 16th stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia is in the books. After Fabio Aru dominated the 15th stage with a breathtaking display of late-breaking strength, Nairo Quintana won thanks to his excellent consistency in the saddle.
Tuesday was Quintana's turn to dictate the pace. His steady riding meant every gradient seemed to favor him, and it only took a mini-late flourish to propel himself over the line.
Not too surprisingly, the two steep facing climbs of Gavia and Stelvio provided the toughest challenge for the riders. They had been identified on cycling blog The Province as potential pitfalls for today's teams.
So it proved, as several riders fell out of the reckoning at these gradients. But as much as the course played its part, the weather was an equally big factor.
Stelvio provided the perfect shot for the Sky Sports Cycling Twitter page, a classic man vs. the elements moment in Northern Italy:
The weather was a major issue even at the flatter, easier parts of the course. Cycling Central superbly caught the image of the brutal elements on its official Twitter account:
But Quintana managed to brave the elements and maintain a steady pace to win the stage. Here are the full results from stage 16, followed by the current leaderboard standings:
|2014 Giro d'Italia Stage 16 Results|
|1||Nairo Quintana||Movistar||Colombia||4h 42' 35"|
|4||Wilco Kelderman||Belkin Pro||Netherlands||+3:32|
|8||Sebastian Henao Gomez||Sky||Colombia||+4:11|
|9||Rigoberto Uran Uran||Omega Pharma - Quick Step||Colombia||+4:11|
|10||Cadel Evans||BMC Racing||Australia||+4:48|
The positive result for Quintana was an ode to his steady efficiency and tremendous resilience. While Aru trusted his late power in stage 15, Quintana simply stayed the course.
He set a pace that he rarely varied, acting almost like a comforting reference point for his Movistar team. The Movistar Twitter account snapped a shot of Quintana's remorseless pursuit of the finish:
After seamless riding over the course, Quintana held his strength in reserve. That meant he was always a little stronger when it came to the steeper gradients, enabling him to pull away late.
His closest competition came from Ryder Hesjedal. The Canadian mustered a late spurt, but having spent so long trailing Quintana, he simply couldn't put the Colombian under enough late pressure.
Despite finishing just short, Hesjedal's effort was to his credit. It was incredibly brave riding, particularly in the later stages.
Hesjedal's guts and hustle earned praise from Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters:
Another plucky performance came from Polish rider Rafal Majka. He had the will for a strong finish, but lacked the credible support.
|2014 Giro d'Italia Leaderboard|
|1||Nairo Quintana||Movistar||Colombia||68 h 11' 44"|
|2||Rigoberto Uran Uran||Omega Pharma - Quick Step||Colombia||+1:41|
|3||Cadel Evans||BMC Racing||Australia||+3:21|
Quintana's win has overturned the leaderboard, as the Colombian has leaped from fifth to the pink jersey in one stage.
That's a just reward for his amazingly efficient riding and consistent, steady pace, amid horrendous conditions. Considering how treacherous the weather made some of the steep gradients, particularly on the descent, it was a surprise the race even went ahead.
Credit to all the riders who survived the elements.