Overshooting a left- hand bend in the mist, Kruijswijk hit the wall of snow that lined the road, his Bianchi somersaulting over him
KRUIJSWIJK’S GIRO GOES DOWNHILL
Maybe Steven Kruijswijk’s weakness was that he was too strong. The Dutchman spent 18 stages of the 2016 Giro riding a textbook race. He laid low for the first 13 stages, never really showing his face, yet going into the final week fourth overall. Then a hat-trick of second places in consecutive mountain stages put him three minutes clear of second-placed Esteban Chaves with three days to go. If Kruijswijk hadn’t been so obviously climbing better than everybody else, by some distance, maybe his rivals wouldn’t have looked so hard elsewhere to find vulnerability.
The 2,774m Colle dell’Agnello was the most fearsome climb remaining in the race, looming midway through stage 19. The pass marks a change in country, from Italy to France, and for Kruijswijk it marked a change in fortune. On the climb, all 21km of it, he remained in control. The pace set by Chaves and Vincenzo Nibali, then fourth overall at 4:43, never troubled him, and the trio crested the peak together. But the descent would prove his undoing.
Matching a descender of Nibali’s renown would be tough for many in the peloton. Kruijswijk managed less than a kilometre before making a mistake – a small error which had huge consequences. Overshooting a lefthand bend in the mist, Kruijswijk hit the wall of snow that lined the road, his Bianchi somersaulting over him. Kruijswijk stopped but the clock kept running. It was a minute before he got up and going, and even then he was riding noticeably hesitantly.
Riding alone against the grouped forces ahead – Nibali and Chaves had team-mates - Kruijswijk limited his losses in the valley but on the finishing climb to Risoul he capitulated and lost nearly five minutes to Nibali. The Italian wasn’t done – the next day he pushed Chaves out of the pink jersey, while Kruijswijk slipped off the podium into fourth.