Giro d'Italia

Steady day at the Giro

Tougher tests lie ahead in final week

Last updated: 22nd May 2012

Team Sky duo Sergio Henao and Mark Cavendish both retained their respective jerseys on a relatively relaxed 16th stage of the Giro d'Italia.

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Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won the stage as his fellow Spaniard Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) kept his overall lead on a day which was dominated by a big breakaway group.

The 10 riders, all from different teams, escaped 63 kilometres into the 173km route from Limone sul Garda and with none of them even a remote threat on the general classification - José Herrada (Movistar) was best-placed at 32:34 back - they were allowed to open up a substantial lead.

It was still over 12 minutes heading into the final 25km and the stage only really came to life on the steep climb inside the final 5km to the finish at Falzes/Pfalzen.

It was there - on a 2km section which averaged 8.6% - that Izagirre made his move. Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli - Venezuela) was the only rider to respond but he was unable to get onto his wheel and soon dropped back to join forces with Herrada and Stef Clement (Rabobank) to try and reel him back in.

However Izagirre had done enough and he had 14 seconds in hand going under the flamme rouge, meaning he was able to savour his victory as the line approached. De Marchi and Clement were second and third respectively, both 16 seconds behind.

The focus then switched to the peloton which eventually arrived nearly nine minutes adrift.

Liquigas-Cannondale had surged to the front late on and the pace remained high which deterred any late attacks, with Team Sky trio Henao, Rigoberto Urán and Juan Antonio Flecha all positioned towards the front.

Indeed it was Flecha who closed down a dig from Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago - CSF) en route to leading the peloton across the line in 11th place.

It was all good news for Henao and Urán - both well looked after again by the whole team - who continue to sit first and second on the young rider standings, meaning Henao will again sport the white jersey on Wednesday, while Cavendish remains top of the points classification and in the maglia rossa.

It's as you were in the overall standings, with Rodríguez still 30 seconds ahead of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), with Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) 1:22 back in third. Henao is eighth and Urán 11th.

Calm before the storm

"It was a good day for the team and we were happy that the breakaway went because it meant we could almost have a second rest day," said Sports Director Steven de Jongh afterwards.

"The main thing I asked for the team to do was take care of Rigoberto and Sergio before that last climb and they did a brilliant job there and neither rider lost any time on the GC.

"Everyone was feeling good when they got back on the bus and they’ll rest up tonight now before a tough day tomorrow. It’s up and down the whole day and going to play a major part in the outcome of the maglia rosa but we’ll do all we can to ensure Rigo and Sergio stay right in the mix."

Resuming after the rest day and at the start of a hugely testing final week of the race it was no great surprise to see the stage turn into something of a stalemate once the right break got away.

That didn't happen until after the 60km mark and the other riders in that escape group who were all rewarded with top 10 finishes were Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank), Matthias Brändle (NetApp), Mathias Frank (BMC Racing), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Luca Mazzanti (Farnese Vini).

After that point there was a relaxed air about the whole stage, with the time gaps hovering around 12 minutes until the closing stages.

It's likely to be much more intense on Wednesday's 17th stage which covers 186km from Flazes/Pfalzen to Cortina d'Ampezzo and features a quartet of big climbs including the epic Passo Giau at 2236m.