210km, warm sun, tailwind and almost three weeks of fatigue seemed like the perfect combination for 18 Giro participants today. In the final 130km before the finish in Varazze, the day’s victor was decided and the recipient of the crown today was a young Frenchman by the name of Christophe Le Mevel.
The stage started very quickly, as it was evident to all that a breakaway would decide the stage. Three promising breaks went up the road (the first break got a solid minute at one point), only to be pulled back. After 80km of racing, the decisive break went, finally escaping the grip of the peloton. 22 riders quickly began to gain time, and with the best GC position being Christophe Brandt, who was languishing 45 minutes back in 40th spot, the likes of the Discovery team and Lampre were happy to let the dogs have their day. Similarly, with no contenders for the Intergiro or Points classifications to challenge Paolo Bettini’s duel supremacy, Quick.Step was content to sit back, as was Fassa Bortolo who were represented in the break by Alberto Ongarato.
Both Petacchi’s Fassa Bortolo and Savoldelli’s Discovery teams were content to let the break go today – a relaxing piano session was the order of the day in the field.
So the break ploughed away, sucking up the kilometres as fast as the camera time. With 40km to go the breakaway had been reduced to 18 as they hit the slopes of the 3rd category Bric Berton climb. Six riders, Christophe Le Mevel (CA), Alessandro Vanotti (Domina Vacanze), Addy Engels (Quick.Step), Christophe Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto) and Frank Schleck (Team CSC) attacked over the summit, cracking the twelve chasers, and quickly built a lead.
The field might have taken a second day off today, but up the road it was all business for the decisive selection of six.
This proved to be the decisive move of the day as the six established a comfortable advantage. The action came in the final 3km when first Frank Schleck of CSC attacked, only to be brought back, and as the road rose marginally upward it was Le Mevel who countered. A moment’s hesitation, a glance into the eyes of rivals, and that was all that Le Mevel needed to power up the road to a comfortable advantage. No one wanted to be the first to react, until finally Christophe Brandt took it upon himself to chase. However, the damage was already done and an elated Frenchman (the first French winner in this year’s Giro) crossed the line alone to take the victory 9 seconds ahead of a devastated Brandt. The peloton eventually rolled in a leisurely 22 minutes behind the winner.
Le Mevel’s Stage 16 win was his first as a professional, not a bad way to open the account, eh?
On The Menu
Tomorrow’s stage continues the race’s course through the Ligurian roads. Beginning in Varazze and finishing with the climb to Limone Piemonte, the 194km of battle could well be decisive with only 4 stages remaining. Will Simoni unsurp the surprising DiLuca and can Savoldelli and the Discovery boys maintain a Lance-like grip on the pack? Stay tuned!
The second of three true mountaintop finishes awaits the riders in tomorrow’s Stage 17.
Stage 16: Lissone – Varazze, 210 km
1 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole 4.50.51 (43.321 km/h)
2 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.09
3 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Domina Vacanze 0.16
4 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis-Le Credit Par Telephone
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
6 Addy Engels (Ned) Quick.Step
7 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 0.50
8 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems
9 Lilian Jegou (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux
10 Andre’ Korff (Ger) T-Mobile Team
GC after Stage 16
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team 76.07.16
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.25
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 1.48
4 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 2.11
5 Jose’ Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia 2.18
6 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 3.25
7 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze 4.05
8 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 5.50
9 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 6.40
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears 6.44