Giro d’Italia: Eddie Dunbar up to fifth overall after finishing fourth on stage 16

Ben Healy takes over the King of the Mountains category after strong day of climbing

Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar had a superb showing on stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, rubbing shoulders with the race favourites on the tough summit finish of Monte Bondone and finishing a brilliant fourth on the stage. The performance saw Dunbar jump from eighth to fifth overall.

Dunbar rode strongly on that final first category climb, remaining to the fore as the group of overall contenders was whittled right down. Dunbar’s Jayco AlUla team-mate Filippo Zana drove the pace inside the final eight kilometres with Dunbar sitting second, then dropped to the back of the group after Zana cracked.

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) then pushed the pace for a while before attacking with just over six kilometres to go. Dunbar came under pressure soon afterwards and slipped backwards, but showed great determination in clawing his way back to Primož Roglič, the big pre-race favourite, and Roglič's team-mate Sepp Kuss.

Former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) had bridged across to Almeida and the two were collaborating to gain time. They went on to take first and second on the stage, Portugal’s Almeida winning the sprint, while Roglič and Dunbar were next home, 25 seconds back.


“It is not a victory or anything, it is fourth place,” Dunbar said. “You have to take that into account as well. I am still off the top guys, G [Thomas] and Almeida, but it is a positive day.

“This was all I’ve ever wanted, just to have an opportunity in a race like this. Thankfully the team Jayco AlUla put belief in me and we worked hard these last six months to get into shape for this race. I can just thank them for the opportunity, really.”

Thomas regained the pink jersey of race leader, 18 seconds ahead of Almeida and 29 in front of Roglič. Dunbar is 3:03 back in fifth, well inside his pre-race goal of a top 10 in the Giro. Five stages remain, with Wednesday’s likely to end in a bunch sprint. Three summit finishes then follow, including Saturday’s hillclimb time-trial, before a flat race into Rome on Sunday.

Dunbar had previously been with Thomas’s squad and was only selected for one Grand Tour during that four-year period, being repeatedly passed over for cycling’s three-week races. He moved to Jayco AlUla to pursue leadership opportunities, and has now justified the team’s faith in him.

Meanwhile, Ben Healy also rode strongly, getting into the day’s early break, collecting a bundle of points for the King of the Mountains classification and taking over at the top there. The stage featured five climbs and Healy won the first of them, the first category Passo Santa Barbara, and taking 40 points. He was second over the next two climbs, fourth on the next and then second on the day’s penultimate climb, collecting 56 points in all.

While he slipped back after that climb, he jumped from fourth to first in what is one of the race’s most important competitions. The stage eight winner is now 20 points clear of the next rider and will battle in the coming days to hold on to maglia azzurra jersey until the race finish on Sunday.

“I wanted to go for the stage win, but when we got in that break and there were a few GC [general classification] guys in there, the peloton never really let the leash go,” said Healy. “So I didn’t see an opportunity to go for the stage win. That’s when I switched my focus and tried to race for the points. There were quite a few out there today, so I decided to try to get the jersey.

“I am pretty happy. It was nice to first be able to get in the break and then get the points and end the day in the shirt. I’ve just got to try to defend it now. The body is definitely tired. My legs are sore. But it was a really big day and I think everybody is feeling it now.”

Wednesday’s likely bunch sprint finish means that Healy will keep his powder dry in advance of three very tough stages to come. “Tomorrow shouldn’t be too hard, so I will try to get a bit of rest,” he said. “And then we have got a few more big mountain days to try to defend this jersey.”

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling