Any team with GC ambitions must isolate Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) if they are to claw back time on the Colombian on the monster queen stage at the Giro d’Italia on Monday, according to Eurosport experts Bradley Wiggins and Adam Blythe.
Dreams will be dashed when the Giro tackles the 212km run from Sacile to Cortina d’Ampezzo on Stage 16 – a route boasting a staggering 5700 metres of climbing in the Dolomites.
The stage, which climbs to an elevation of 2239m (the peak of Passo Pordio awarded Cima Coppi status for the highest point in this year’s race), will give the clearest indication yet of where the maglia rosa will end up.
Vuelta a Burgos
Bernal, Yates crash ahead of La Vuelta on bad day for Ineos
Bernal is currently in pink and the big favourite to add the Giro to his palmarès after building a 1:33 advantage over Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange). But question marks persist around his fitness as he wrestles with a back injury, while Ineos have shown they are not a completely unflappable force after a Vincenzo Nibali fishing expedition on Stage 12.
- Campenaerts conquers wet Stage 15 as Bernal holds pink
- Stage 15 as it happened – Campenaerts wins in rain as Giro heads to Slovenia
- 'Absolute disaster' - GC hopeful Buchmann, three others out of race after big crash
“This is the big one,” said Bradley Wiggins on The Breakaway.
“I expect it to suit Egan Bernal more than most. We go over 2000m a lot. The body feels really physiological effects when you go over 1800m.
“Simon Yates will be good, he lives in Andorra. The weather, once you go over 1800m, is going to be rain, snowy. May in the Dolomites, it’s not going to be great.
This is what the history and fabric of this race is built on: these climbs. This is what makes the Giro d’Italia so special.
Giro d'Italia 2021 Stage 16 Profile
Can Yates unsettle Bernal?
Four category one climbs await the peloton:
- La Crosetta (11.6km at 7.1%)
- Passo Fedaia (14km at 7.6%)
- Passo Pordio (11.8 km at 6.8%, elevation of 2239m)
- Passo Giau (9.9 km at 9.3%)
The stage actually ends with a 17.5km descent to the finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo, except for a gentle climb in the final kilometre.
Yates showed his hand for the first time at this year’s Giro with a late attack on Monte Zoncolan, but Bernal responded and surpassed him to strengthen his grip on pink.
The Brit is now second in GC and after his oft-referenced collapse at the 2018 Giro – when he spectacularly imploded in the final week as Chris Froome soared to victory – will be desperate to lift the never-ending trophy.
‘Using pawns when necessary’ – How Ineos Grenadiers have saved legs for Stage 16
“I don’t think Simon [Yates] is going to do anything apart from stay near Bernal,” said Adam Blythe.
He’s not going to try and do anything, he’ll just stay near Bernal and not pay attention to anything else. It’s up to Ineos.
“If anyone wants to do anything with Bernal, they’ve got to isolate him, they need to put pressure on the team.
“I expect a lot of attacks from guys like Dan Martin [12th in GC, 7:50 back], the guys who are just close enough that suddenly became a threat if they start trying to go in the breakaway.
“If I was a team manager of Dan Martin or someone in a similar position, you’ve got to apply the pressure at the start and try to isolate and make it a hard day for Egan.”
With the peloton immediately dropped on La Crosetta for the first of four big climbs, Wiggins is predicting an explosive start.
“I think there are going to be attacks at the start,” added Wiggins.
“Simon Yates is sandwiched nicely between Egan Bernal and the rest of the field.
“[Team BikeExchange DS] Matt White and his team will want to expose Ineos by getting the likes of EF Pro Cycling to launch attacks, use up Ineos’ numbers and expose Bernal for Simon Yates to maybe do something.”
'It's brilliant' - Wiggins on Campenaerts and Qhubeka's charity drive
- - -
It’s an early start for Stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia, with live and ad-free coverage on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk from 09:15 BST. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries. Watch it all with GCN+ on any device.
Bradley Wiggins - How Thomas will pick himself up (physically and mentally) after untimely crashes
Bradley Wiggins – Afghan refugee's time trial debut at Olympics ‘puts everything into perspective'