Jan Tratnik won stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia from a breakaway as Joao Almeida used a late attack to add a couple of seconds to his lead in the pink jersey.
With gradients of 20 per cent inside the final two kilometres, Deceuninck-Quick Step's Almeida rode away from Wilco Kelderman of Sunweb to take his overall lead to 17 seconds, two days after Kelderman took 41 seconds out of him on the road to Piancavallo.
That all happened almost 13 minutes after Bahrain-McLaren's Tratnik beat Ben O'Connor of NTT up the final climb to secure his first grand tour stage win.
The rolling 229km stage from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli was custom-designed for a breakaway and duly attracted a 28-strong group which went up the road and was handed a 15-minute advantage by a disinterested peloton.
The group began to splinter with more than 60km to go, first as EF Pro Cycling's Ruben Guerreiro went clear and then as Tratnik and Astana's Manuele Boaro overhauled him.
Tratnik went solo on the second of three ascents of the Monte di Ragogna, building a lead of 45 seconds before O'Connor set off after him, making the catch as they reached the summit for the final time with 13km left.
But that effort told in the legs as Tratnik accelerated away inside the final 600 metres for a comfortable win not far from the border with his Slovenian homeland.
"Today was special because it was really close (to home)," he said. "In the finish my brother and my girlfriend were there.
"The last three kilometres I was already on the limit but when I saw 500 metres from the finish I saw my girlfriend and got some extra energy and I flew to the finish line."
Almeida began his attack at a slightly earlier point as the peloton arrived, but it had the same effect as Kelderman, his team-mate Jai Hindley and the Ineos Grenadiers' Tao Geoghegan Hart, the Londoner now fourth overall, lost his wheel by the summit to concede time.
"I was feeling good," Almeida said. "Sometimes the best defence is attacking and that's what I did today. I tried, why not? When it's steep like this, everyone's spent energy so I think it was good."
Hindley's deficit in third is two minutes and 58 seconds, with Geoghegan Hart still one second off the podium.
Geoghegan Hart's team-mate Ben Swift took fifth place on the stage after being active in the breakaway.
The day had begun with news that Fernando Gaviria would not start after the UAE Team Emirates rider tested positive for coronavirus during Monday's rest day, along with a staff member from AG2R La Mondiale.
That made Gaviria the fourth rider to test positive during this Giro following Simon Yates, Steven Kruijswijk and Michael Matthews.
Significantly, it is the second time this year that Gaviria has tested positive for the virus, having been quarantined in March following the UAE Tour — the first race to be affected by the pandemic.
Meanwhile in Spain, Primoz Roglic won the opening stage of the Vuelta a España as Chris Froome was dropped on the final two climbs of the day.
Froome, riding his final race for Ineos Grenadiers, said on Monday he was unsure of his form coming into the Vuelta but got immediate confirmation he was not in shape to contend for an eighth grand tour title as he was distanced on the first serious ramps of the 18-day race.
The 35-year-old lost the wheels late on the 173km stage from Irun to the Alto de Arrate above Eibar as the full impact of the career-threatening crash he suffered some 16 months ago was given another brutal illustration.
Ironically, it was an injection of pace from Froome's own team — working for Richard Carapaz — that did for the two-time Vuelta winner as he dropped out of the back of the peloton on the climb of the Alto de Elgeta, still 18km from home.
That left little hope Froome could get back on come the more challenging final climb of the Arrate, and he ended the day having conceded 11 minutes.
Instead the day belonged to Roglic, the defending champion who is desperate to make up for his disappointment at the Tour de France, where he lost the yellow jersey to fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar last month.
This mountainous stage was an unusually brutal way to open a Grand Tour, but this had been intended as stage four following a planned start in Utrecht which fell victim to the pandemic.
And so instead it was straight on to the climbs, causing major splits amongst the overall contenders for red.
An attack from Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team-mate Sepp Kuss inside the final five kilometres made a decisive split, with the likes of Carapaz, Dan Martin and Hugh Carthy following but Tom Dumoulin and Alejandro Valverde among those left behind.
After they crested the climb EF Pro Cycling's Carthy struck out for glory on the short descent to the finish but could not distance his rivals and it was Roglic that made the winning move as they passed under the flamme rouge.
With bonus seconds applied, Roglic takes a five-second lead over Carapaz and Martin third, a further two seconds back, while Carthy sits seventh with a 14-second deficit.
Enric Mas and Esteban Chaves also kept themselves in contention, 11 seconds down in the general classification.
But Dumoulin and Valverde are already a minute down while the likes of Thibaut Pinot and Aleksandr Vlasov suffered even greater deficits.
Almeida attacks to extend overall lead!
After his Deceuninck-Quick Step team spent the whole day riding on the front of the peloton, Joao Almeida attacked on the final climb of the day to gain two seconds on the rest of the general classification contenders. Jai Hindley (Sunweb) followed Almeida, ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers). Other than the two seconds gained by Almeida, there were no changes in the top 10 of the general classification.
Tratnik wins stage 16 at the Giro!
Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren) lands the biggest win of his career. The Slovenian allowed Ben O'Connor (NTT) to lead the way onto the final climb of the day as he sat patiently on the wheel of the Australian before jumping him with around 300 metres to go.
Following the huge effort he had done in chasing Tratnik down, O'Connor was unable to respond and in the end rolled over the line 7sec adrift of the latest Slovenian to win a WorldTour race.
Just over a minute later, a three-man group containing Enrico Battaglin (Bahrain-McLaren), Kamil Gradek (CCC) and Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) arrived at the line where the Bahrain-McLaren rider beat his CCC rival in a two-up sprint to take third, while the Briton rolled over in fifth.
800 metres to go
Cat-and-mouses stuff from Ben O'Connor and Jan Tratnik as the pair edge their way onto the final climb of the day.
1.5km to go
Ben O'Connor is on the front, looking over his shoulder as he monitors Jan Tratnik's every movement.
2km to go
Ben O'Connor and Jan Tratnik are onto the punchy finale to today's stage.
4km to go
Ben Swift is continuing to ride on the front, but unless something awful happens to the leading pair he will not be challenging for the stage today. He could, however, yet take third which would be the highest place at this year's race for the Yorkshireman.
5km to go
No change on the front, other than they have increased their advantage slightly to 56sec. Here's a reminder of the profile of the final 2,000 metres of today's stage . . .
8km to go
A very nervous few minutes now for those in the Bahrian-McLaren and NTT team cars. The pair have safely navigated their way through a technical looking left and right, along a very narrow road. The peloton will, hopefully, not be racing through that section as it looks pretty dangerous.
10km to go
Ben O'Connor and Jan Tratnik are descending at speed, but the chasing trio of Ben Swift, Kamil Gradek and Enrico Battaglin are already 46sec down on the leading pair. The peloton is 15min down the road.
12.5km to go
Ben O'Connor who has just three wins — stage at the Tour of Austria, Tour of the Alps and Etoile de Bessèges — on his palmarès, none of which are at WorldTour level, has caught Jan Tratnik. That was a huge effort from the NTT rider.
14km to go
Around 1km from the top of this climb and Ben O'Connor will feel as if Jan Tratnik is within touching distance, the Australian is attempting to reel in the Slovenian here.
14.5km to go
Good grief, the Australian rider Ben O'Connor is giving it beans on this steep steep climb. Ben Swift has been dropped now; Jan Tratnik's lead plummets to just 15sec.
15km to go
Hello, what's this? Ben O'Connor has caused a split in the chasing group and has just Ben Swift for company after Enrico Battaglin fails to hold on. The injection in pace from O'Connor has seen Jan Tratnik's lead slashed to around 20sec.
16.5km to go
Deceuninck-Quick Step, Sunweb and Ineos Grenadiers are tapping away on the front of the peloton, 15min 10sec behind Jan Tratnik who will surely be winning today's stage? This would be the first grand tour stage win of Tratnik's career and only his second at WorldTour level. That win at the Tour of Romandie, by the way, was in the prologue. he will be hoping his time trialling skills pay dividends here today.
20km to go
It's a case of as you were for Jan Tratnik whose advantage over Ben Swift and his six co-riders to 40sec.
22km to go
Jan Tratnik is holding on, but his lead has dropped by a few seconds. Ben Swift is pulling hard on the front, in reality this could be the last chance of a stage win for the Yorkshireman at trhis year's race. Without sounding too dramatic, it could even be the last chance of his career!
23.5km to go
Not sure how I missed this, but Enrico Battaglin has managed to get into the chase group, but with Bahrain McLaren team-mate Jan Tratnik leading the stage by around 40sec he will not be helping out on the front.
27km to go
Manuele Boaro is caught and almost immediately drops to the rear of the six-man group. Stage leader Jan Tratnik is looking relatively comfortable as he passes the bell, one lap of this circuit to go.
28km to go
Manuele Boaro is about to be caught by the Ben Swift group. The peloton is almost a quarter-of-an-hour down the road.
31.5km to go
Manuele Boaro is losing time on Jan Tratnik, though the Ben Swift group has gained around 10sec on the Bahrain-McLaren rider.
35km to go
Manuele Boaro is just 11sec behind stage leader Jan Tratnik, but the Ben Swift group has not made any gains on the flying Slovenian.
37km to go
The Ben Swift swift group has been joined by Kamil Gradek (CCC). Along with Geoffrey Bouchard, Ben O'Connor and Alessandro Tonelli the five-man group trails stage leader Jan Tratnik by 38sec. Manuele Boaro is trapped in no man's land, around 15sec behind the Slovenian.
40km to go
Manuele Boaro is struggling and has fallen off the wheel of Jan Tratnik. The Slovenian who last won a race at the 2019 edition of the Tour of Romandie, is pushing on.
41km to go
The Deceuninck-Quick Step-powered peloton has seen its deficit on the stage leaders increase to over 12 minutes.
41.5km to go
As the road pitches up on this steep climb, Valerio Conti is dropped as Ben Swift sets a strong pace. As mentioned earlier, the British sprinter is climbing really well at this year's Giro.
42.5km to go
Ben O'Connor (NTT) is attempting to bridge over to the Ben Swift group which now trails Manuele Boaro and Jan Tratnik by almost 40sec.
45km to go
The peloton hits the loop around San Daniele del Friuli, two laps of the 27km circuit to come for these boys. Deceuninck-Quick Step remain on the front ahead of Sunweb. Just spotted Tao Geoghegan Hart, who started the day fourth overall 1sec adrift of Jai Hindley (Sunweb) in third. Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) are now off in pursuit of stage leaders Manuele Boaro and Jan Tratnik.
48km to go
Manuele Boaro and Jan Tratnik working well together, riding through-and-off, each doing their turn on the front as they look to rein in stage leader Ruben Guerreiro. By contrast, the third group on the road is looking a little ragged. The entire breakaway has been blown to piece now, three or four groups are littering this run-in to the line. By the way, the road surface looks quite nice, the short steep inclines appear a little less welcoming.
55km to go
Ruben Guerreiro is holding on to his lead of around 17sec, Manuele Boaro and Alessandro Tonelli lead the chase ahead of the remainder of the breakaway which has Ben Swift up near the front. Having crested the below climb once already, these riders will know what is the follow on the following circuit. With the road pitching up top over 20 per cent in gradient lose contact here and the riders could be saying arrivederci to any chance of a stage win.
61.5km to go
Manuele Boaro (Astana) and Alessandro Tonelli set off in pursuit of stage leader Ruben Guerreiro a couple of minutes ago, before the Bardiani-CSF-Faizane rider was replaced by Jan Tratnik (Bahrain McLaren). The peloton could not look more relaxed, Deceuninck-Quick Step are sat on the front and are tapping away at a gentle pace.
62.5km to go
Ruben Guerreiro leads Giovanni Visconti et al by 24sec; the peloton appears to be in no hurry around another 10min 30sec down the road.
63km to go
I may have spoken too soon. Ruben Guerreiro is using the full width of the very narrow road to gain as much time as possible on Giovanni Visconti and the other chasers. Guerreiro is on the radio back to his team car, presumably wanting to know the time gap he has. Glad he's not calling me, as I have no idea what his lead over Visconti is right now.
65km to go
It will surprise nobody to discover that Giovanni Visconti was second over the top. Ruben Guerreiro is pushing on on the descent, though he's not quite riding at full gas. Not yet, anyway.
67.5km to go
Ruben Guerreiro clips off the front of the breakaway, off up the road in pursuit of a handful of points in the race for the mountains classification atop the Monte di Ragogna. It will be interesting to see if he sits up and waits for the group, or pushes on and goes for a long solo attack for a second stage win at this year's Giro.
70km to go
With the breakaway's lead continuing to grow — it is over 11 minutes now — I think we can safely assume the stage winner will be coming from that 28-man group. The peloton still looks relatively relaxed, though those thinking about the general classification will be watching their rvals closely on the run-in to the line. While the big battles are expected to com in the high mountains later this week, nobody can afford to lose any vital seconds today.
75km to go
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is working his way up through the cars at the back of the race. Not too sure what the issue was with the three-time world champion, but it really shouldn't impact his day too much. The breakaway's lead has grown to over 10 minutes now as it nears the Monte di Ragogna which will be climbed three times today over two 27km circuit laps.
80km to go
All very relaxed back in the peloton and Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers) is hunched over his bars chatting with Rick Zabel (Israel Start-up Nation). Obviously today is a long day in the saddle for these riders and so they are making the most of a quiet spell. I'm fairly certain they will not be chatting once the stage reaches the business end of proceedings. The breakaway's advantage has increased to 9min 30sec.
85km to go
The breakaway is ripping along at a decent pace, its advantage on the peloton having increased slightly to 8min 15sec.
90km to go
Ruben Guerreiro is back safely in the breakaway after having dropped back to his team car where he, presumably, took a new bike. Along with Enrico Battaglin and Giovanni Visconti , Guerreiro is the only other rider in this sizeable group that has previously won a stage at the Giro. There area number of teams with multiple riders in this breakaway, however, and so it is not a forgone conclusion that one of that trio will be taking the honours today.
Matteo Fabbro is riding on his home roads today, while Ben Swift, the British national road champion, has been looking strong at this year's race and for a sprinter has been climbing well. Swift could, perhaps, make in three stages in a row for Ineos Grenadiers today with three different riders.
105km to go
Just as things were warming up nicely in the battle for the points in the mountains classification, Ruben Guerreiro has a mechanical issue at the worst possible time. As the break was nearing the summit of the Monteaperta the Portuguese appeared to have an issue with his front derailleur and stuck in his big ring was unable to challenge for the points. As result, Giovanni Visconti floated off the front unchallenged to add another nine points to his tally. The Italian now leads the mountains classification by 35 points and so, by my calculations, should Visconti finish the stage then he will be keeping hold of that blue jersey today.
Meanwhile, in Spain . . .
The Vuelta a España has started and there's a five-man breakaway up the road on the 171km run from Irún to Arrate.
Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Quentin Jaurégui (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jasha Sütterlin (Sunweb) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) lead the peloton by over three minutes, while Aritz Bagües (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) is trapped in no man's land, around a minute off the front.
110km to go
Deceuninck-Quick Step who have race leader Joao Almeida within their ranks, are riding on the front of the peloton. There is just under 1,000 kilometres still to race in this year's Giro and over 20,000 metres of vertical elevation to tackle. While the young Portuguese and his compatriots may be starting to dream of taking home the maglia rosa, most are expecting a big shake-up in the general classification over the next few days.
As it stands . . .
As the second longest stage in this year's race, today was an early start and after a relatively leisurely opening 15kms, Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) attacked on the lower slopes of the the first climb of the day, the Madonnina del Domm. The move caused a huge posse of riders to chase him down, resulting in a 28-man breakaway forming on the 10km-long category two climb.
Here's that breakaway in full . . .
Enrico Battaglin (Bahrain McLaren), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), François Bidard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alessandro Bisolti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jefferson Cepeda (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Fabbro (Bora-Hansgrohe), Fabio Felline (Astana), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling), Kamil Malecki (CCC), Ben O'Connor (NTT), Stefano Oldani (Lotto-Soudal), Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe), Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers), Joey Rosskopf (CCC), Lorenzo Rota (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM), Einer Rubio (Movistar), Sergio Samitier (Movistar), Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain McLaren), Andrea Vendrae (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM), Larry Warbasse (Ag2r-La Mondiale), James Whelan (EF Pro Cycling) and Filippo Zana (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane). With just under 120km of the stage remaining, they lead the peloton by 7min 55sec.
Incidentally, Guerreiro was first over the Madonnina del Domm to add 18 points to his tally in the mountains classification ahead of Giovanni Visconti, the leader in that particular competition. Visconti, however, got the better of Guerreiro on the second climb. Could be a decent battle between these two today atop the next four classified climbs.
And welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 16 at the Giro d'Italia, the 228-kilometre run from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli. As you can see from the below profile today's stage is a punchy little introduction to the third and final week of the race.
Here are the leaders in the four main classifications — those awarded jerseys — the maglia rosa (pink), maglia ciclamino (cyclamen), maglia azzurra (blue) and maglia bianca (white).
The only non-starter today was Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) who was forced to abandon after testing for Covid-19 during the rest day and so 137 riders rolled through KMO at 9.26am (BST). As it stands, there is a massive 28-man breakaway leading the stage. Our liveblog will get under way in earnest at 12.30pm.