Stage 16 was provided a worthy crescendo to the Pyrénées triple. Warren Barguil confirmed what a super talent he is as the 21 year old rode like a seasoned veteran when he out-foxed Rigoberto Uran to win the stage in a photo-finish sprint. The two were part of the breakaway group that was finally let go after numerous attacks and breakaway formations were all shut down by Astana as they were deemed to threatening.
Movistar were the team most active trying to send riders up the road and this did not sit well with Astana who could sense a Valverde set-up from miles away. At last a non-threatening group got away and after the hectic race no one had the will to keep it in enough check to keep the stage win in play for the bigs. That left the breakaway to fight it out and surprisingly it was young Barguil, the winner from stage 13 who took the early flyer and went solo from the bottom of the final climb. He soon established a 30 second gap that held for much of the climb until a chasegroup led by Rigoberto Uran of Sky started to close in on the youngster as they hit the steeper upper slopes. Uran pressed on and with about a km to go he caught Barguil who looked to be slowing. Barguil though latched on to the Colombian's wheel and apparently had enough left not to be dropped. sitting in the wheel he let Uran drag him to the finish as the other breakaways closed in from behind. When they both opened up the sprint they had surplus to stay ahead and Barguil had recovered just enough to squeeze up along side of Uran and just pip him on the finishline for his second stagewin of the race. Great tactical awareness and cool head from a first year pro.
Behind in the group of favorites Valverde was the first to attack but Kangert of Astana used his last energy to close him down in seconds. After that Nibali was without helpers and while that hadn't been a problem in the two stages before it would soon turn out to be a factor as Joaquim Rodriguez launched his first really major attack of this race. He accelerated on the upper slopes to quickly gain a good advantage. One by one the other favorites reacted and gave chase. Only when Horner had closed half the gap to J-Rod did he notice that Nibali, for the first time in this race, was struggling and that spurred him on to try and open a wider gap. Valverde soon dropped Nibali as well as the Italian slowly lost ground as he tried to limit the losses by maintaining as high a pace as his legs would allow. In the end Horner managed to distance Nibali with a little over 20 seconds but most crucially the Astana captain showed signs of weakness for the first time.
When the race resumes after tomorrow's restdays the opponents will be itching to test out the race leader if he just had a momentary lapse or if he is running out of steam permanently after the trying first two weeks. The last kilometers today sure looked promising for the final weeks action with the outcome looking far from certain.
Top 10 stage 16:
|1.||FRABARGUIL, Warren||22||TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO||3h 43' 31''|
|2.||COLURAN, Rigoberto||198||SKY PROCYCLING||3h 43' 31''||+ 0''|
|3.||POLHUZARSKI, Bartosz||156||TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA||3h 43' 34''||+ 3''|
|4.||GERNERZ, Dominik||56||BMC RACING TEAM||3h 43' 39''||+ 8''|
|5.||ESPHERRADA, José||5||MOVISTAR TEAM||3h 43' 51''||+ 20''|
|6.||FRACHEREL, Mikael||15||AG2R LA MONDIALE||3h 44' 08''||+ 37''|
|7.||POLPATERSKI, Maciej||76||CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING||3h 44' 08''||+ 37''|
|8.||PORCARDOSO, Andre||63||CAJA RURAL - SEGUROS RGA||3h 44' 11''||+ 40''|
|9.||ESPTXURRUKA, Amets||68||CAJA RURAL - SEGUROS RGA||3h 44' 13''||+ 42''|
|10.||DENSÖRENSEN, Chris Anker||206||TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF||3h 44' 16''||+ 45''|
|1.||ITANIBALI, Vincenzo||31||ASTANA PRO TEAM||64h 06' 01''|
|2.||USAHORNER, Christopher||184||RADIOSHACK LEOPARD||64h 06' 29''||+ 28''|
|3.||ESPVALVERDE, Alejandro||1||MOVISTAR TEAM||64h 07' 15''||+ 1' 14''|
|4.||ESPRODRIGUEZ, Joaquin||121||KATUSHA TEAM||64h 08' 30''||+ 2' 29''|
|5.||ITAPOZZOVIVO, Domenico||11||AG2R LA MONDIALE||64h 09' 39''||+ 3' 38''|
|6.||IRLROCHE, Nicolas||205||TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF||64h 09' 44''||+ 3' 43''|
|7.||FRAPINOT, Thibaut||101||FDJ.FR||64h 10' 38''||+ 4' 37''|
|8.||CZEKONIG, Leopold||151||TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA||64h 12' 18''||+ 6' 17''|
|9.||ESPSÁNCHEZ, Samuel||91||EUSKALTEL EUSKADI||64h 13' 34''||+ 7' 33''|
|10.||ESTKANGERT, Tanel||36||ASTANA PRO TEAM||64h 15' 22''||+ 9' 21''|