Copy of 2024-05-21T153307Z_1262855258_UP1EK5L1775D1_RTRMADP_3_CYCLING-GIRO-1716312673717
UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar celebrates before crossing the finish line to win Giro d'Italia Stage 16 in Groden on Tuesday. Image Credit: Reuters

Santa Cristina Val Gardena: Tadej Pogacar provided some normality on a day of anger and chaos at the Giro d’Italia by riding away from his rivals to win a weather-hit stage 16 on Tuesday and further extend his massive lead in the general classification.

The Slovenian made light of torrential rain to solo to the summit finish at the ski resort of Val Gardena, counting to five with his right hand to celebrate his fifth stage win at this year’s race as he crossed the line.

Giro debutant Pogacar now leads the standings by more than seven minutes and, barring misfortune in the next few days, looks assured of reaching Rome with the maglia rosa on his back.

Giulio Pellizzari, the last of a breakaway group to keep Pogacar at bay, was second at 16 seconds while Dani Martinez, third, moved above Geraint Thomas into second overall.

The day began in confusion as freezing rain in the South Tirol mountains meant the stage did not start from Livigno and was reduced in length to 121km.

Deteriorating conditions with snow at altitude prompted riders to vote on skipping the 2,500-metre Umbrail Pass and a treacherous descent, citing safety issues.

However, Giro organisers said riders had failed to show up at the start in Livigno despite having agreed to.

“The Extreme Weather Protocol Commission met yesterday to decide on the conditions for today’s stage,” organisers RCS said in a statement. “On today’s meeting, an agreement was reached on (starting) the race from Livigno with a town parade.

“Despite a handshake between the parties, the athletes did not show up at the start in Livigno.” Riders had a different view, however, with Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), calling organisers “dinosaurs”.

“It’s probably one of the worst organised races I think and I’m just being honest. This would never happen in 99% of other situations,” O’Connor told Eurosport.

“It’s just a shame that it is 2024 and you have dinosaurs who really don’t see the human side of things.”

Tough climbs

The shortened stage, which still features two very tough climbs, began in heavy rain and Frenchman Julian Alaphillipe launched an audacious early attack and was still on his own as he crested the Passo Pinei after a 23.3km slog in the wet.

But he could not hang on and was caught by a chase group on the Monte Pana which ramped up steeply near the finish.

Italian Pellizzari (VF GroupBardianiCSFFaizane) then tried his luck but by that time Rafal Majka had accelerated the group containing his UAE Emirates team mate Pogacar, allowing the Slovenian to put on another masterclass.

Once Pogacar went clear there was no doubt about the outcome while behind him Thomas, who had been second overall, lost time.

“The day started on and off and we didn’t know what to do,” Pogacar told Eurosport. “But when we started racing it was fine.

“All the bunch was thinking just to be safe today.” Pogacar, who has 12 wins this season from 26 race days, now leads Colombia’s Dani Martinez (Bora-Hansgrohe) by seven minutes 18 seconds with Welshman Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) 07:40 back.

The day will be best remembered, however, for the chaotic start. Giro d’Italia director Mauro Vegni said organisers had listened to the riders concerns.

“The mountains are like this, sometimes you have to face certain situations,” he told Rai. “We tried to provide additional safety measures for the riders but we agreed that if the conditions worsened we would avoid the Umbrail Pass.

“That’s what happened. Obviously, if you ask the riders if they like riding in rain and snow, they’ll say no.”