It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Grand Tour’s top step be decided on the penultimate stage but we saw it today. With a short (134km) stage that was climbing and descending from the very start and the top 4 spots of the GC so close, it was a day of reckoning. In the end, Rein Taaramae (Katusha) took a solo stage win and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took the maglia rosa and this year’s Giro.
Rider of the Race
There are so many great performances in this stage, it’s hard to pick a rider of the race but it’s impossible not to pick that rider to be Vincenzo Nibali. From blowing on the final climb of Stage 16 and losing a minute to be down 4.43 on the GC to riding an imperious race yesterday to make up all but 44sec of that time, His Nibs has had the full spectrum of performance this week. Today, a combination of super team tactics and still strong legs meant that he could drop race leader Esteban Chaves and effectively win the Giro today. Bar anything untoward happening, he will be showered with pink confetti while holding the Giro trophy tomorrow afternoon in Torino.
This one’s for Zaka
Rein Taaramae took a fine solo stage victory today, in honour of his Katusha teammate Ilnur Zakarin, who had that terrible crash yesterday and had to leave the race. Taaramae had been in the break for most of the day, yo-yoing between the front and chasing groups along the mountains, until he finally made his break 3km from the summit of Colle della Lombarda, freeing himself from the ever-present, ever-tenacious Darwin Atapuma (BMC) and Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale).
Get some men in that break
Astana deployed their riders incredibly well, both yesterday and today, with Michele Scarponi in particular playing an excellent support role for Nibali when he needed it. With Tanel Kangert in the break today, he could just fall back to help His Nibs gain time once Chaves was broken. Orica-GreenEDGE unfortunately hadn’t put a man in the break to do that for Chaves and just didn’t have the manpower to be with their diminutive rider at the sharp end of the race. It wasn’t that the OGE boys didn’t ride with heart – they did everything they could to protect and support Chaves today. But like Giant-Alpecin with Tom Dumoulin in the Vuelta last year, the team as a whole isn’t quite built for a full-on GC campaign and that is going to tell when you’re riding in the pink against teams like Tinkoff, Astana and Movistar. A reminder that you can’t win a Grand Tour without a team. (Well, unless you’re Alberto Contador …)
Spare a thought …
Steven Kruijswijk rode today with a broken rib and he still finished fourth overall, although he did lose his place on the podium to Alejandro Valverde. Do you know how hard it is to breathe properly with a broken rib? Chapeau.
Esteban Chaves’ parents travelled from Colombia to be at the finish line of today’s stage. When Vincenzo Nibali crossed the line, sealing the fate of her son’s loss of the maglia rosa, Chaves’ mother went over to congratulate Nibali. That is pure class.
As Chaves was crossing the finish line with Scarponi, knowing he had lost the maglia rosa, Scarponi punched the air in victory. Seriously, dude, you could have waited a few minutes – gloating is utterly #unclass.
Another one under his belt
Tomorrow, Adam Hansen will most likely finish his 14th consecutive grand tour. And he had some fun today.
1 Rein Taaramae (Katusha) 4:22:43
2 Darwin Atapuma (BMC) +0:52
3 Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) +1:17
4 Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) +4:12
5 Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) +4:36
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 82:44:31
2 Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:52
3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1.17
4 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +1:50
5 Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) +4:37
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Point’s jersey: Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo)
KOM jersey: Mikel Nieve (Team Sky)
Best young rider: Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick Step)
For full review of the stage, go to Cycling News
Header image: Rein Taaramae ©Getty Images/Corbis/Tim de Waele