Giro stage 18: Nibbles rains on Evans’ parade

Stage 18: Mori to Polsa, 20.6km individual time trial

The sharp end of this technical, uphill time trial was always going to be when the top ten riders took off, as most of the other riders were just hoping to get their tired legs to the finish line. The top position changed hands a few times – from Steve Cummings (BMC) to Stef Clement (Blanco) to Cannondale’s Damiano Caruso – until Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) blazed through the course to set an excellent time that was only bested when the last rider came over the finish line. And that was Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who beat Samu’s time by a jaw-dropping 58 seconds.

The fact that it started to rain in the last 20 minutes didn’t help Cadel Evans (BMC) in his quest to put time into Nibali. In fact, it was the opposite, with Evans losing time hand over fist and finishing in the pouring rain in 25th position. He lost a whopping 2:36 to Nibali, who very nearly caught him at the finish line. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) has now pulled to within ten seconds of Evans with two high mountain stages to come and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) is also breathing down his neck. The question now is: will Evans even be on the podium on Sunday?

VeloVoices rider of the day

Nibali with confetti

Nibali looks unassailable after today’s TT (Image: Davide Calabresi)

There’s a point in every Grand Tour where the hammer goes down and whoever isn’t smashed to smithereens by it emerges the winner of the whole kit and caboodle. Today was that day. Vincenzo Nibali came into this time trial with 1:36 in hand over Cadel Evans. Word on the street was that these two would finish within seconds of one another. So Nibali could have ridden conservatively, with just enough to make sure he didn’t lose the Giro d’Italia. Instead he rode it to make sure the door was well and truly slammed shut on his nearest rivals. He rode this time trial to win the Giro. I love that in a rider.

Opinion & analysis

Vincenzo Nibali did what he had to do in this time trial – and then some. In fact, he did what he had to do to win this race in the winter, when he worked with his team and Specialized on his time-trialling and this has obviously paid off. (Andy Schleck, have you taken note of this?) Today, Nibali didn’t just consolidate his position at the top, he set it in concrete. He would need to crash out or virtually implode over the next two days for anyone to take that maglia rosa off his shoulders now.

The rider who lost the most today? Cadel Evans. Now only ten seconds ahead of Uran, he can expect the Skytrain to be working against him in the next two days to knock him off that second step. Add to that, Michele Scarponi, who will be looking to make up the 1:12 between him, and the Australian has a titanic battle on his hands for any step on the podium.

Evans could, however, still come away with the points jersey, if Nibali doesn’t take that too. At the moment, it is on the shoulders of Mark Cavendish (OPQS) but only by four points from Evans and ten from Nibali. Cavendish will no doubt try to mop up intermediate points in the remaining stages before he joins the gruppetto but Evans and Nibali could counter that by picking up some big points in the stage finishes. There’s not much in it so this could be an interesting side battle.

Another battle that will be intriguing to watch over the next few days is for the best young rider’s white jersey. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) lost it today by two seconds to Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka, which means they will be fighting it out tooth and nail over the next few days to decide who is awarded the jersey on Sunday.

Stage 18 result

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 44:29

2. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:58

3. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) +1:20

4. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) +1:21

5. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +1:25

General classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 73:55:58

2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +4:02

3. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +4:12

4. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) +5:14

5. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +6:09

6. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +6:45

7. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) +6:47

8. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini) +7:30

9. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) +8:36

10. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) +9:34

Link: Official website

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