Stage 20: Silandro to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, 210km
Vincenzo Nibali provided the final exclamation mark on this weather-ravaged Giro, stamping his authority on the final mountain stage to record his second straight win. The red-hot Sicilian did not need to attack, but attack he did with hunger and purpose to burn off each of his rivals and emerge as a worthy champion. The formality of his coronation in Brescia awaits tomorrow.
Following yesterday’s cancellation, today’s stage underwent essential modifications brought about by the harsh weather conditions, with just the climactic ascent of Tre Cime di Lavaredo remaining. With Nibali’s four-minute lead over Cadel Evans (BMC) and the chasing pack looking insurmountable, the main focus was on the other podium places and the battles for the white young riders’ jersey (where Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka led Ag2r La Mondiale’s Carlos ‘The Hair’ Betancur by a miserly two seconds) and the red points jersey.
A four-man breakaway consisting of stage seven winner Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha) opened up a healthy lead on the main field but were reeled in over the closing 50km. Meanwhile Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) picked up the remaining sprint points to extend his lead in the points contest.
The final climb to Tre Cime di Lavaredo was the main battleground of the day. As the break was reeled in, the attacks came and the front of the race fragmented. In the final 5km Nibali made his move, taking a select few with him before eventually riding everybody off his wheel with around 2km to go and soloing to victory, 17 seconds ahead of Fabio Duarte (Colombia).
Behind the front two, Colombia’s favourite Mick Jagger lookalike, Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Betancur clung on to improve their own positions. Uran leapfrogged a haunted-looking Evans to move up to second overall. Meanwhile Betancur overcame a rear wheel change which lost him a minute before catching and then distancing Majka to regain the white jersey and jump from seventh to fifth. Evans dragged himself across the line 1:30 down on Nibali, but more importantly just 14 seconds after Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) to at least preserve a podium place.
VeloVoices rider of the day
This can only really go to Vincenzo Nibali. I have great admiration for his determination to underline his now almost definite overall victory with a stage win today. Adding to Thursday’s time trial win seemed extremely important to him, and although his intention seemed clear on the approach to the final climb, nobody could do anything about it and his dominance of the race was sealed with more than a little panache.
Opinion & analysis
Conditions in the final 15km resembled the Ice Planet Hoth [one for Star Wars fans there – Ed], with snow-covered ascents, at times blizzard-like snowfall, poor visibility and treacherous descents. Carlos Betancur‘s mechanical problems necessitated a bike change and put him under immense pressure to get back to the bunch as the Saxoffonists hit the front and hit the power to try to take advantage for their rider Rafal Majka in his defence of the white jersey. Ruthless tactics, maybe, but nothing unfair or unsporting. Even so, strong riding, a touch of drafting behind the Sky team car and a friendly shove from a fellow Colombian brought Betancur back into contention as he went on retake the jersey.
The front of the race was extremely fragmented at the foot of Tre Cime. Breakaway riders had been swept up and an attack from Movistar’s Eros Capecchi (Movistar) left the maglia rosa group around a minute behind. The race really came to life when Nibali attacked the bunch and only Betancur and Uran were able to follow. One by one, Nibali picked off the riders up the road, dropped everybody else off his wheel and soloed serenely to victory. He didn’t need to win today, but the fact he wanted to win underlined both his panache and his worthiness as champion.
Nibali’s victory also gave him sufficient points to steal the red jersey from Mark Cavendish. The Manxman now needs to pick up 11 more points than Nibali in tomorrow’s final stage to Brescia to take the jersey back. With Nibali unlikely to compete in earnest, a fifth-place finish (less if he picks up intermediate sprint points) should see Cavendish complete his hat-trick of grand tour points jerseys a year after missing out at the Giro by a single point.
Colombia (the nation not the team) also had great reason to celebrate, with second, third and fourth places on the day (Duarte, Uran and Betancur) and now two of the top five overall. Betancur’s final victory in his back-and-forth duel with Majka should also confirm him as this year’s best young rider.
Stage 20 result
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 5:27:41
2. Fabio Duarte (Colombia) +0:17
3. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +0:19
4. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:21
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:44
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 79:23:19
2. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +4:43
3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +5:52
4. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) +6:48
5. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) +7:28
6. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +7:43
7. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +8:09
8. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) +10:26
9. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini) +10:32
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +10:59
Link: Official website