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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 16: Hirt kicks for breakaway win, Hindley grabs bonuses with third-place finish

Marathon mountain stage sees Pozzovivo and Buchmann bumped out of GC contention as Hindley moves to within three seconds of Carapaz.

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Jan Hirt added another victory to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert’s season haul with a breakaway win on one of the toughest days of the Giro d’Italia.

The Czech stalwart scored his first grand tour victory by proving strongest from a stacked escape group and distancing Thymen Arensman (DSM) on the third of three huge Alpine ascents.

The GC group also exploded on the final Santa Cristina climb.

Bahrain-Victorious set a crushing pace over the steep slopes before Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and pink jersey Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) kicked away with a hail of attacks.

The trio went on to sprint for third along with breakaway survivor Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Hindley edged the podium spot and a handful of bonus points. The four-second scoop pushes the Aussie to within three seconds of Carapaz in a Giro that could go down to the wire.

Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) were the classification casualties of a crushing day in the mountains. Both lost nearly three minutes and dropped out of the pink jersey fight.

João Almeida (UAE Emirates( lost 14 seconds after being detached on the Santa Cristina GC showdown.

Victory sees Hirt go one better than when he finished second on the Mortirolo stage of the 2019 Giro.

“I wanted to try to do something nice today. Every time I’m on the Mortitolo I want to anticipate, and I wanted to get into the breakaway today,” he said.

“I had some difficult moments in the break, and in the end, on the last climb, my chain was jumping. I was really suffering, and I had all these problems, but I wanted to win so much and I kept fighting until the end.”

Hirt makes the day’s break

Everyone was expecting action from one of the toughest stages of the race, and Tuesday’s multi-mountain marathon disappoint.

Even with 200km and 5,000 meters of ascent on the men the race was red-hot from the get-go.

Ineos tried to keep things under control as attacks flew from the flag drop. A number of small escapes came together over the first mountain of the day to form a 20-rider break.

Top stars flooded into the group with Hirt, Arensman, Valverde, Wilco Kelderman and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Hugh Carthy (EF), Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) all in the move.

The break split in two midway through the stage before a stack of counterattacks on the Mortirolo formed the decisive group.

Poels, Kämna, Carthy, Valverde, Arensman, Hirt and Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) emerged out front and braced to race for the stage.

Astana, Nibali light up the Mortirolo

Nibali took a bite on the Mortirolo but let it go.

Ineos Grenadiers controlled the diminished peloton all through the first half of the race as Hindley and Bora massed behind.

Astana suddenly stormed to the front on the Mortirolo ascent in what looked a pre-planned tactic.

U.S. climber Joe Dombrowski drilled the Astana engine room over the Mortirolo summit, popping Almeida and leaving Carapaz caught with just one wingman in the small GC group.

Nibali launched a wild descent of the narrow and gnarly Mortirolo downhill, pressuring Pozzovivo into a crash and giving “the shark” a gap over his rivals.

Nibali looked to let the group come back together after his warning flare, and Almeida and a number of Ineos riders were among those that clawed back to the GC group.

Pozzovivo took some small scrapes in his crash and had a long chase back to the group ahead of the Teglio and Valico di Santa Cristina doubleheader.

Santa Cristina showdown

Hindley, Carapaz and Landa went toe-to-toe on the day’s final climb.

Bahrain-Victorious began piling on in the peloton in the roads toward the final climb and cut the break’s advantage to less than three minutes ahead of the Valico di Santa Cristina.

Kämna went on the hunt for another stage win and kicked out of the break on the lower slopes of the severe Cat.1 climb.

Arensman and then Hirt went chasing after the charging German and bridged to Kämna 3km from the top of the final summit. Arensman and Hirt kept accelerating past Kämna and went away as a two.

Arensman blew as Hirt went deep into his locker, and the Czech hit the final summit with more than 15-seconds of a gap.

Poels went the other way from the breakaway. The Dutchman dropped back from the break to add numbers to the Bahrain mountain train.

Buchmann and then Pozzovivo were the main GC players to be detached by Landa’s pain-train and eventually lost a handful of minutes and their chance at the pink jersey.

Landa finally kicked out of his teammates’ wheels at 10km to go, but Carapaz and Hindley marked.

Almeida was dropped looked close to catching across when Hindley and Carapaz began trading haymakers a few kilometers from the summit..

Hindley, Carapaz and Landa couldn’t shake each other and stayed locked together over the crest of the Cristina as Almeida limited his losses a few seconds behind.

Hirt shed a handful of seconds as he made tough work of the twisting, recently dampened descent off the Cristina, but had enough left to hold off Arensman to finally land victory in his ninth grand tour.

Carapaz, Landa, Hindley and breakaway survivor Valverde hit the sprint for third together. Valverde went first, but Hindley came through fast.

Carapaz took the Aussie to the line, but Hindley scored the bonus points for third.

Up next: More climbing, a strong chance of storms

Although less severe on paper, stage 17 will still be serious.

Around 4,000 meters of ascent and the chance of heavy storms will make a true stage of attrition after such a heavy day Tuesday.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.