Stage 16 of the 2015 Giro d’Italia has already passed into legend.
The mountainous, 174km drag from Pinzolo to Aprica contained five categorised climbs, including two of the most revered: the Madonna di Campiglio and the Mortirolo. The latter, a narrow, unremitting ascent of nearly 12.5km pitched at gradients ranging from cruel to merciless, had commanded much of the pre-race publicity. History is likely to record the events that unfolded on its broken surface on May 26, 2015 as pivotal to the outcome of the 98th Corsa Rosa.
Alberto Contador began the day in the maglia rosa, and with an advantage of 2'35" over the man still regarded as his principal challenger, Fabio Aru, the 24-year-old leader of a maligned Astana squad that had raced for more than two weeks with the intensity of riders suffering beneath a perceived injustice. Their actions in the kilometres immediately preceding the Mortirolo, and Contador’s response on its painful slopes, provided the principal drama of the entire race.
For Chris Juul-Jensen, a domestique on Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo squad, the events of that day are unforgettable. LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk remembers leading the race over its summit as “an incredible feeling”. For Davide Formolo, the new darling of Italian cycling after winning stage four, even the first hour of a nearly five-hour stage was “incredible, full gas.” And Steven De Jongh, Contador’s DS, describes his man’s performance as “an epic thing”.
The perspectives of each helps to tell the story of the stage from the inside. They are testimony to the frequently dramatic events of a Grand Tour mountain stage and to the often delicate psychology of its protagonists. A Queen stage is more than the sum of its parts.