The Giro D’Italia has so far been a race of exciting racing as major contenders such as Vincenzo Nibali and Mikel Landa have fallen by the wayside.
But it has been the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who in his first ever Giro which has impressed. And despite not being in the overall lead the experienced rider has had a strong Giro.
Stage 16 was the most explosive stage yet as Valverde, Steven Kruijswijk, and Ilnur Zakarin fought for the stage win. But it was the Spaniard’s speed which won him in the stage and ultimately kept the dream of being on the podium alive as he stayed behind Orica-GreenEdge’s Esteban Chaves in third place overall.
The surprise of the race has certainly been Kruijswijk, the Dutch rider has taken the Giro by storm with his commanding riding.
And even though Nibali started off the attacks in the mountain stage on Tuesday, it was the Dutchman who eventually dropped the Italian, and in the process effectively ended his hopes of winning the Giro for a second time – and in the process put the Dutchman on the brink of a historic victory in Italy’s premier race.
Valverde concedes Kruijswijk is the ‘strongest rider’ in the Giro
Speaking after his victory in Stage 16, the 36-year-old said: “From today, he (Kruijswijk) is the strongest rider in this Giro.”
The final stage is in Turin on Sunday, but before that there is still plenty more racing to be done, including two more tough mountain stages. If Kruijswijk has a major meltdown, which at the moment looks unlikely; his other rivals such as Chaves and Valverde could capitalise.
“Sure, there are two more big days in the mountains, but based on how he’s going and his knowledge of the race, I believe Steven Kruijswijk will be the champion,” said Valverde.
Nibali’s capitulation was a shock to some, as he drifted away from the leading contenders on Stage 16. But someone of Valverde’s experience knows nothing should be left to chance regarding the wily Italian: “I’m close to second place with Chaves. Nibali is still there, he’s a very attacking rider, he will try to attack me, and put himself on the podium.”
The main ambition for Movistar was to get Valverde on the podium and for one of their riders to win a stage. And if Valverde can keep up his form till Sunday, it is looking like it will be a successful Giro for the Spanish team.