Sunday was a victory lap for Vincenzo Nibali. He coasted into Brescia with the Pink jersey over his shoulders and over the line to seal his victory in this years Giro d’Italia. The only thing that really stood in his way today was a crash that wouldn’t allow him to finish; his two consecutive wins on Thursday and Saturday gave him a commanding lead that was never going to be in doubt today.
Not that an uncommanding lead would have been challenged on the final day. So long as the last day of a Grand Tour is a road race it’ll tend to go uncontested by the big favorites. The only way we might have seen Nibali in the mix was if he were to dare to take on Mark Cavendish for the Red jersey points prize which Nibali was in the lead of going into Sunday’s stage.
Of course he would never have stood a chance against Cav in a bunch sprint … not even the other sprinters can hold a candle to the man from the Isle of Man, and so Nibali didn’t risk it. He respected Cav’s sprinting enough through these three weeks that seen Cav win five stages (including Sunday’s) to understand that Cav was the more deserving winner of that prize. Pink is more Nibali’s style.
This race itself will go into the history books as one competed for in some of the worst weather conditions in the history of the Giro. Those conditions ended the hopes of pre-race favorite Bradley Wiggins — first the rain rendered him inable to descend and then he took ill — while defending champion Ryder Hesjedal also went home early. The lasting image will be Nibali on Tre Cime di Lavaredo riding away from the opposition to win the stage solo in the driving snow, but all in all I wouldn’t say it was an epic Giro from top to bottom.
Sure Nibali and Cavendish were the men of the race, winning seven of the 21 stages between them and splitting the GC and points jersey, but the loss of Wiggins and Hesjedal took a bit of the fight away (despite what I’ve already said before that I think Nibali would still have won on this form) and the weather robbing us of some big mountain climbs and an entire stage on the final Friday. Not to mention it came on the heels of last years Giro in which Ryder Hesjedal overcame Joaquim Rodriguez on the final days time-trial to win the race by a mere 16 seconds.
Still, the Giro continues to stand up against the Tour de France as an example of how great a race can be with aggressive riding. The prestige of the Tour often lends to defensive, cautions riding by its favorites, not willing to risk too much in case they lose it all and it becomes about marginal gains. It’s one reason why I hope Nibali changes his mind and decides to ride the Tour.
And one final thing abou the Giro. It’s a tour for the hardest of men. They may have been given a day off on Friday but you’d have been a maniac to think they should have raced on that day. Given the conditions they did race in from driving rain to driving snow, over some of the toughest climbs you’ll see in any cycling race, it’s a testiment to the toughness of cyclists that 168 of the 207 completed it. Good weather is a luxury here and you can see why many think it has become the toughest stage race of the lot.
2013 Giro d’Italia Final General Classification
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 84-53-28
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 4-43
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 5-52
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 6-48
5. Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r La Mondiale at 7-28
6. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 7-43
7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff at 8-09
8. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 10-26
9. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini at 10-32
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 10-59
Points classification: Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
Mountains classification: Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox)
Best young rider: Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale)