Cunego Seizes Stage 16 of Giro and Maglia Rosa
Damiano Cunego (Saeco) has taken the maglia rosa in the Giro d'Italia, possibly for good. Cunego, who began the Giro as defending champion Gilberto Simoni's right-hand man, powered away from the field to win Stage 16, a mountainous, 217-km ride from San Vendemiano to Falzes, in 6:11:23. Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua e Sapone) finished second at 1:16, and Alexandre Moos (Phonak) took third at 1:38.
The racing began early. At 21 km, 17 men rolled off the front. Landbouwkrediet decided not to chase, and at 79 km, the fugitives led a four-man chase group by 4:00 and the peloton by 15:00. Alessio, Saeco, and Fassa Bortolo rode tempo to keep the break within reach, but no concerted chase took place.
That state of affairs changed when Saeco took over at the front. The lead gradually came down to 9:45, which was what it was when Niki Aebersold (Phonak) attacked his breakaway companions on the Passo Furcia. Saeco began to press the pace on the steep part of the Furcia, and 2000 Giro champion Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) was in difficulty almost immediately. Three km from the summit, Cunego attacked, ostensibly to set up Simoni. Ahead, Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco) dropped back to assist Cunego, while Andrea Tonti (Saeco) remained with the break.
Maglia rosa Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet) lacked a strong team of climbers and either did not have the strength to chase or expected Cunego's team captain and rival Simoni to do it. With 50 km left, Aebersold led the remnants of the break by 1:25; Cunego, Mazzoleni, and Mario Manzoni (Formaggio Pinzolo) by 6:11; and the maglia rosa group by 7:25. Tonti dropped back from the break when he received orders to wait for Cunego and Mazzoleni.
For a time, Aebersold looked like a winner. He began to struggle, however, on the Terento, the day's final climb. With 15 km left, Cunego caught and dropped Aebersold and the remains of the break. Behind, Simoni, who was 3:05 behind Popovych, attacked on the Terento. Wladimir Belli (Lampre), Tadej Valjavec (Phonak), and Sergei Gontchar (De Nardi) followed the defending champion.
They need not have bothered. With 8.5 km left, Cunego was 1:00 and counting ahead of Nocentini and 1:33 ahead of the remains of the break. Simoni's group was at 3:13. Cunego's descent to the finish and the maglia rosa was uneventful.
In the overall, Cunego leads Gontchar by 1:14 and Popovych by 2:22. Tomorrow will be the Giro's second rest day. Popovych will ponder what he has lost and how to get it back, Simoni will contemplate whether his lieutenant has taken command from him, and Cunego will dream about what he could be about to achieve. Whose musings will be closest to reality? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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