Luka Mezgec turned up the speed and pipped everyone at the post to win the final stage in Trieste. Meanwhile, Nairo Quintana exchanged his poker face for a smile and gave high-fives to his teammates as he rolled across the finish line as the 2014 Giro d’Italia champion.
The last day of a grand tour frequently comes down to a bunch sprint – the fast men’s reward for enduring individual time trials and summit finishes. A day to showcase their sprint skills and then let the champagne flow. Today was no different. With eight laps around the city of Trieste on a beautiful day, it was only ever going to come down to the last kilometre.
Almost everyone thought that this was a day for Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ). The sprint was his to lose. Well, he lost it. With a blistering pace and sprint trains forming and uncoupling (consciously and unconsciously), it was a frantic finish won by Giant-Shimano’s Luka Mezgec in a sprint reminiscent of his teammate Marcel Kittel in Dublin three weeks prior. With Kittel’s win in the first sprint of the Giro and Mezgec’s win in the last, it makes for some nice symmetry.
It gave the small army of Slovenian fans something to celebrate about. Trieste is just across the border between the two countries, making this as close to a ‘home’ stage for Mezgec as is possible at the Giro.
With Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) taking the number one and two spots (with Italian revelation Fabio Aru completing the final podium) and young Julian Arredondo (Trek) stepping up to take the mountains jersey, we can safely say that the Colombians are back as a force in cycling. And, at 24, Quintana has many, many years of grand tours ahead of him. It was mooted today on Twitter that we are, in fact, entering the Nairo Era.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Although we only had glimpses of him today – including some hard riding at the front of the peloton in the final few kilometres of the stage – Adam Hansen is my rider of the day. Why? Because he has just completed his eighth consecutive grand tour.
Stage 21 result
1. Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) 4:23:58
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) same time
3. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
4. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) s/t
5. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) s/t
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 88:14:32
2. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +2.58
3. Fabio Aru (Astana) +4:04
4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) +5:46
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +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
Points winner: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
Mountains winner: Julian Arredondo (Trek).
Best young rider: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team winner: Ag2r La Mondiale.