Just because it was the last day didn't stop some drama at the Giro d'Italia
Nizzolo denied first Giro victory
For about half an hour Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) believed that he’d finally landed the Giro d’Italia stage win he’s spent the last few years coming so close to. But despite finishing the line in first, the jury later disqualified him from deviating from his sprinting line, handing the win to Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) instead.
Nizzolo was understandably devastated, but replays made it clear that a sudden lurch to the left blocked Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) – who gesticulated his grievance when crossing the line – from continuing his sprint.
Despite the disappointment, Nizzolo still ends this race as winner of the points classification, becoming the first rider to retain that title since Paolo Bettini in 2006.
Arndt handed victory instead
One man’s loss is another’s gain, and Arndt will be delighted with the biggest victory of his career.
The 24-year old German has been Giant-Alpecin’s chosen sprinter this race, quietly posting a third and a fifth place finish on stages seventeen and eighteen earlier this week.
Following the likes of Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb and Luka Mezgec (who similarly won the final stage of the 2014 Giro), Arndt becomes the latest impressive sprinter to emerge from Giant-Alpecin, and looks like to win more Grand Tour sprints in future.
Watch: What riders and managers made of the 2016 Giro d’Italia
Heartbreak for some
It’s often said that the final stage of a Grand Tour is processional, a relaxed wind-down the riders can enjoy after all the serious racing is over and the GC decided.
But the race isn’t over until every single kilometre has been completed, as three riders found out today. Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Johann Van Zyl (Dimension Data) and Jasha Sutterlin (Movistar) were all forced to abandon today after suffering crashes, on a technical finishing circuit rendered dangerous by wet roads from rain earlier in the day.
Having battled over three weeks over some of the toughest mountains in the Alps and the Dolomites, to fall at the last hurdle and fail to complete the Giro must be heart-breaking.
As scare for Chaves
Another victim of a crash was Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), who came down in one incident towards the middle that also involved Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale).
For a fleeting moment it looked as though his second overall might be under threat, but thankfully the Colombian was unharmed and managed to pick himself up and get back on his bike.
The incident prompted the race jury to stop the clock and neutralise the race for GC on the finishing circuit, meaning that Chaves and the other riders holding places in the top ten were able to take the rest of stage easy and arrived at the finish line in small, relaxed groups adrift from the hectic rush for the sprint.
A sprint wasn’t a foregone conclusion
Despite a bunch finish being widely expected, there was plenty of attacks throughout the stage to disrupt the sprinters’ plans. The route was not as flat as we’ve come to expect from the final stage of a Grand Tour, with a short hill on the finishing circuit enough to suggest a break might be able to succeed.
LottoNL-Jumbo’s Jos Van Emden came closest to succeeding. The Dutchman went away with teammate Maarten Tjallingii (on his last racing day before retiring) and attacked solo with 12km to go, using his time-trialing ability to hold off the bunch.
Though he was caught on the final climb of the circuit’s hill, there still plenty more hopeful attacks to come out of the diminished peloton, but all were in vain as the peloton brought things back for a sprint.