There were plenty of big rides at this year’s Giro d’Italia as the race lived up to its billing as one of the best races on the calendar. There were eight Maglia Rosa wearers, seven bunch sprints, six days of Dumoulin, five summit finishes, four German winners, three near-misses for Kruijswijk, two more wins for Ulissi and one outrageous turnaround. Quite different from the final GC, here are my top 20 performances from the Giro d’Italia.
Enrico Battaglin (GC finish, 42nd)
Signed from Giro specialists Bardiani, Battaglin found himself in a completely new role for Lotto NL-Jumbo. Perhaps penciled in for stage honours, he soon became the last man working to protect Steven Kruijswijk’s lead from stages 14 to 18. He did a solid job on the steepest of climbs and will have earnt favour with both management and teammates.
Joe Dombrowski (GC finish, 34th)
Despite coming second in the team classification, Cannondale struggled to show themselves in yet another Grand Tour. Rigoberto Uran’s strong finish disguises the fact the squad should not have left empty handed. Their liveliest rider was Dombrowski who was left frustrated when called back from a break in the final week. He climbed well when fourth on stage 20 and looked much better here than at last year’s Vuelta.
Valerio Conti (GC finish, 27th)
Whilst it was all fun and games for teammate Diego Ulissi, Conti rode the steadiest of races for Lampre scarcely getting on TV. Constantly moving up the GC in the final week, Conti never finished outside the top 50 in the mountains. The 23 year-old wound up third in the young riders competition and will only have greater expectations at his next Grand Tour.
Daniel Oss (GC finish, 111th)
The popular Oss displayed his mane of hair in countless breakaways but was ultimately unable to win a Giro stage. Despite this, his daily surges showcased his obvious strength and he was a welcome addition to the race. To put things another way, he amassed 133 points in the Maglia Rossa competition without ever finishing in the top ten.
Hubert Dupont (GC finish, 11th)
AG2R’s ten-year servant Dupont might never have got to grips with his home Tour but consistently goes well at the Giro. After finishing 177th in the opening time trial, Dupont can boast the unique achievement of not once taking a backwards step in the GC. He was up to 65th after stage 4, 38th after stage 6 and into the top 30 after the summit in Sestola. This pattern continued and he sat 17th going into the final week before eventually moving up to 11th, his joint highest Giro finish.
Kanstantsin Siutsou (GC finish, 10th)
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Haimar Zubeldia, Siutsou put together an impressive ride to take a stealthy top ten. It takes a certain type of rider to claim a Grand Tour top ten without ever attacking or heading the race and Siutsou mastered the craft. His climbing was impressive on the hardest stages and Dimension Data will surely use his experience as they look to nurture new Grand Tour potential.
Matteo Trentin (GC finish, 74th, points competition runner-up)
Trentin emerged as Etixx’s fast finisher following the departure of Marcel Kittel. A number of strong sprints led to an outside chance of taking the Maglia Rossa but his best moment came when claiming a wonderful victory as part of stage 18’s break. Seemingly dropped by Moreno Moser and teammate Gianluca Brambilla, Trentin surged up the cobbled finale and ate into his deficit. He closed in remarkably quickly and swung round the leaders to take the win.
Giovanni Visconti (GC finish, 13th)
On the one hand Visconti’s performance was less fruitful than in previous editions of the race, one the other, he rode to 13th place with a suspected fractured rib. His climbing was less dazzling than it has been and he often got caught between personal ambitions and working for Alejandro Valverde. Despite the presence of his Movistar captain, Visconti would claim his highest ever finish at the Giro d’Italia.
Gianluca Brambilla (GC finish, 22nd)
Brambilla was the rider of the day when winning solo on stage 8 and claiming the pink jersey. He went well in the following day’s rainy time-trial before relinquishing the jersey to teammate Bob Jungels on stage 10. He found himself in a strange position that day, simultaneously riding to defend his jersey and making sure Jungels was the man in position to takeover. He cracked for a second time late on but was back to form in the final week, challenging for honours on stage 18.
Alexander Foliforov (GC finish, 45th)
The second of the Giro’s two Pro Continental stage wins came on the time-trial of the Alpe di Siusi. 24 year-old Foliforov put in the ride of his life as Gazprom-RusVelo held a 1-2 in the stage classification with the GC favourites about to start. Only Kruijswijk could get close to the young Russian, stopping the clock just hundredths slower. Foliforov was predictably delighted with the result and will look to join the likes of Ilnur Zakarin as one of Russia’s strongest climbers.
Andre Greipel (GC finish, DNF)
Griepel followed many of the premier sprinters in leaving the race prior to stage 13. The boo-boys call the exodus disrespectful but the much-loved Mario Cipollini would likely disagree. What Greipel achieved in the opening two weeks justifies his place on this list as the only selection not to have finished the race. His hat-trick of wins bests Marcel Kittel’s double and the impressive fashion in which he claimed them highlighted both his raw power and experience.
Primoz Roglic (GC finish, 58th)
The revelation of the race was Roglic and his ability to time-trial. He came so close to upsetting favourite Tom Dumoulin in the opening TT and set about proving himself the real deal on stage 9’s longer form of the discipline. He was fortunate to be one of the early starters but comprehensively beat specialists Matthias Brandle and Fabian Cancellara. He had little pedigree coming into the Giro but with two huge performances he will leave as a man to watch out for.
Darwin Atapuma (GC finish, 9th)
BMC’s Atapuma finished two minutes ahead of Siutsou in tenth but the two could not have had more different Giros. Unlike the steady Belarussian, Atapuma bounced around the race animating the high mountains with his frequent attacks. His pursuit of a stage win was ultimately unsuccessful; he placed third on stage 10, an agonising fourth when caught metres before the line on stage 14, and second when chasing home Rein Taaramae on stage 20. It was on stage 20 that he really shone, looking lively on the steepest of gradients despite three weeks’ racing in his legs.
Esteban Chaves (GC finish, 2nd)
On stage 14 Chaves announced himself as one of the strongest climbers in the race alongside Steven Kruijswijk. The pair broke free of their GC rivals and Chaves brought heartbreak to compatriot Atapuma in the stage’s finale. He rode comfortably for the majority of the final week and was in pink with just one mountain stage to go. This time it was his turn to experience heartbreak, unable to respond to Vincenzo Nibali and drifting backwards on the Giro’s final summit. The smiling assassin held on to second and will be back to put things right.
Mikel Nieve (GC finish, 22nd, King of the Mountains winner)
Once again Team Sky’s hopes were dashed in Italy but this paved the way for Nieve to remind Brailsford of his talents. The Basque native was superb in the final ten days; winning in Friuli, finishing second in Risoul and seizing the King of the Mountains jersey during a solo outing on stage 20. He’ll likely never be seen as the finished product at Sky but he rightfully earnt the title of ‘King of the Mountains’.
Steven Kruijswijk (GC finish, 4th)
We have reached the real stars of the race now with poor old Steven Kruijswijk. For a better part of the race the Dutchman looked the most complete and comfortable rider. He looked to have his rivals in the back pocket of his Maglia Rosa with two stages to go before his race imploded on a snowy descent of Colle Dell’Agnello. He took a bad line and a terrible fall, his bike launched well above his head. Not only did he lose time to Nibali and Chaves but the change in his demeanor was massive. He looked pained, shaken and uncomfortable, never again at ease in his saddle. Kruijswijk soldiered on but would eventually lose his podium spot to Valverde. He leaves behind an unanswerable question – would he be champion had he not fallen?
Vincenzo Nibali (GC finish, 1st)
The fall and rise of Vincenzo Nibali at the 2016 Giro lends itself more to a documentary than a six line paragraph. It’s hard to remember Nibali was the race favourite, such was the depths he went to when shipping nearly two minutes on the Fai Della Paganella. He looked battered, broken and pretty much beaten and it all went silent from the Astana camp. Three days later he restored his reputation riding away from everybody in Risoul, a climb used during his 2014 Tour victory. There was first elation, then tears and finally a renewed confidence. He completed the most unlikely of successes the following day to become a two-time Giro winner.
Michele Scarponi (GC finish, 16th)
Scarponi was Nibali’s first lieutenant and put in a truly incredible performance. Not one mountain stage passed without Scarponi dragging the contenders up the slopes, grinding away and destroying the peloton. He went above and beyond the duty of a super domestique with Nibali often glued to his wheel well into the closing stages. Scarponi won the Giro in 2011, leaving a fledgling Nibali back in third, but at 36 is no longer a complete rider. His climbing remains first-rate, however, and as part of a break on stage 19 rode away to take a well-earned Cima Coppi.
Diego Ulissi (GC finish, 21st)
Lampre’s Ulissi is well and truly back. Infact, if not for asthma drug shenanigans and a nine month ban, he might never have gone away. There is no other rider in the peloton who offers what Ulissi does; a genuinely fast finish and real ability to handle the high mountains. He won stages 4 & 11 through fierce accelerations before finding his inner climber during the final week. He was unable to add a third stage win (which would have been a seventh in the Giro) but wound up 21st in the GC, 11th in the mountains standings and fourth in the points competition.
Bob Jungels (GC finish, 6th, best young rider)
For me, Jungels was the most impressive rider in the race spending the last 18 stages as the best young rider and falling outside the GC top ten on just two occasions. He stands out in the final standings as the only high placed finisher not formerly known as a Grand Tour specialist. After signing for Etixx I believed his GC potential would be nurtured but Jungels exceeded expectation when handling the highest Giro climbs with a mixture of strong legs and gritty determination. His appearance is still that of a powerful time-triallist and his climbing will only get better. In the second week he earnt three days as race leader but actually got better after losing the pink jersey.Though vastly underselling Jungels’ merits, it could be said that a member of Marcel Kittel’s leadout train went on to finish sixth in the Giro d’Italia.