Yesterday I finished the stages report by saying that Nairo Quintana would amble over the line today into Trieste and win his first, but surely not his last grand tour. And he did just that on a stage won in a bunch sprint by Luka Mezgec, but what I should have said, was that Quintana would win his first but probably not his last grand tour — this season.
Quintana has lit up this Giro with his talent. Falling behind the leaders in the first week, he turned on the style come the high mountains clawing his lead back on a controversial stage over the Stelvio but then cementing his domination over the rest on stage 19. Quintana is 24 years of age and so much lies ahead of him. He isn’t slated to ride this years Tour de France, but a run at the Vuelta is likely and who would bet against him winning it? Indeed, should his team change their minds and put him into the Tour, Quintana looks like one of those rare birds who might have a shot at doing that famous Giro-Tour double. We’ll see.
And what in particular reminds us of Quintana’s youth is the fact he was still eligible for the young riders competition which, of course, he won. And it’s the youth — this new generation of talent — that this Giro will truely be remembered for.
Quintana, Aru, Majka, Kelderman … all under 24 … the top four in the young riders competition, and all four in the top ten over the general classification. All four sure to contend grand tours in the years that follow and who could rule out all four of them winning at least one along the way?
Cadel Evans came in looking to win the Giro aged 37, believing it possible after what the 41 year old Chris Horner had done the year before at the Vuelta. Evans took the Pink jersey for a while and things looked good, but aging legs eventually caught up with him when this collection of young riders turned on the jets in the high mountains. Ryder Hesjedal, now 33, won the Giro two years ago and while we seen shades of his best stuff on stage 16 when he finished second just behind Quintana, he too often struggled against the young ones. In the end Evans and Hesjedal finished 8th and 9th respectively, but behind Quintana, Aru, Majaka and Kelderman.
In all five men wore the race leaders pink jersey. The Canadian Svein Tuft following the team-time-trial in Belfast, his Orica Green Edge team-mate Michael Matthews a day later and for six days, his fellow countryman, Cadel Evans for four stages, Colombian Rigoberto Uran for four more stages, and finally another Colombian, Nairo Quintana for the final six stages. Quintana of course wore it when it truly mattered — on stage 21 — while Uran finished second to him. Evans settled for 8th while Matthews, injured, failed to finish. Tuft on the other hand slid right down to the opposite end of the standings finishing second last in 155th, over 5 hours behind Quintana and 10 minutes ahead of the Lanterne Rouge of Jetse Bol, but finish it he did. 42 did not make it the full 3,445.5 kilometres from Belfast to Trieste.
It seems a long time ago now since that start in Belfast, but it has been an epic journey. A saga of many twists and turns from Australian dominance in the first week, to a neutralized/non-neutralized stage, to attacks from all comers looking to grab the title in what quickly became the most wide open Grand Tour in years, in a race that started in the rain, traveled through the snow and came out bathed in sunshine by the finish. A true passageway into the summer season of cycling.
1. Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) in 4-23-58
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) + s.t.
3. Tyler Farrar (Garmin Sharp) + s.t.
4. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) + s.t.
5. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre) + s.t.
6. Leonardo Duque (Colombia) + s.t.
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 88-14-32
2. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + 2-58
3. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 4-04
4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + 5-46
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) + 6-32
6. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 7-04
7. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) + 11-00
8. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 11-51
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) + 13-35
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) + 15-49
156. Jetse Bol (Belkin) + 5-15-19
1. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) 391 pts
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) 265 pts
3. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre) 186 pts
1. Julian Arredondo (Trek) 173 pts
2. Dario Cataldo (Sky) 132 pts
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 88 pts
Young rider classification:
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 88-14-32
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 4-04
3. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +7-04
1. AG2R La Mondiale in 264-30-55
2. Omega Pharma Quick-Step + 19-32
3. Tinkoff-Saxo + 27-12