Nairo Quintana fends off Hesjedal to take Giro d’Italia lead
Canadian cyclist falls behind during final kilometre
Nairo Quintana moved into the overall lead in the Giro d'Italia after winning a tough and controversial 16th stage, in difficult weather conditions across the legendary Gavia and Stelvio climbs on Tuesday in Val Martello, Italy.
Quintana, who is famed for his climbing skills, finished eight seconds ahead of Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal. Pierre Rolland was third, 1:13 slower, on the 139-kilometre (86-mile) route from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello, half of which was uphill.
The 24-year-old Quintana, one of the race favourites, started the day two minutes 40 seconds behind former leader Rigoberto Uran but beat his fellow Colombian by more than four minutes.
Uran slipped to second, 1:41 behind Quintana, who showed he has recovered from a difficult opening two weeks, in which he suffered badly from a crash and also had to take antibiotics to fight a chest cold and fever.
Cadel Evans was third, 3:21 behind Quintana.
It was the first time both the Gavia and the Stelvio had been climbed on the same day and the stage was an exact copy of one of the legs in last year's Giro, which had to be altered because of bad weather.
There were fears the weather would again affect the stage this year and there was brief confusion as it was wrongly reported the route down the Stelvio had been neutralized with blizzards and rain making the technical descent even more treacherous.
Some teams as well as the person responsible for the Giro's official twitter account misinterpreted instructions to be careful on the descent, with riders slowing down at the top, wrongly understanding it to have been neutralized.
Heavy fog, snow
That came after the cyclists had already dealt with heavy fog and snow on the Gavia.
There was a group of 10 cyclists in the break which led up the Stelvio and although, they had a lead of over two minutes, that started to come down on the climb.
Dario Cataldo attacked 2km (1.2 mile) from the summit and went on to claim the Cima Coppi prize, awarded to the cyclist who crosses the highest point of the race first.
He sped down the descent, as confusion appeared to reign in the peloton, with some cyclists sitting up and taking time to put on warmer clothing.
Quintana went clear of Uran, and his chasing group was 1:20 behind Cataldo as the latter started the final climb up Val Martello, with the maglia rosa group more than two minutes further back.
The Colombian and Rolland attacked with 18km (11 miles) remaining and caught Cataldo shortly afterward.
Hesjedal caught up with the leading trio and Cataldo was then dropped as the leaders upped their pace.
They continued to distance the overall leaders and Quintana accelerated with 7.5km (4.6 miles) to go, as the gradient ramped up to 14%.
Rolland and Hesjedal managed to stay with Quintana, but had no response when the Movistar rider upped the pace yet again on an equally steep part just inside the final kilometre.