The story of the Giro - Nizzolo wins in his home Grand Tour
One of the enduring storylines from the 2021 Giro d’Italia has been the ongoing heart-break for Giacomo Nizzolo.
The Italian sprinter from Qhubeka-Assos has finished second on 11 occasions at the Giro, as he just could not break through to take victory in his home Grand Tour.
Despite his ever-growing collection of prestigious wins, most notably the European Championships road race and the Italian National Championships, Nizzolo has never take a stage in the biggest races, having raced the Giro eight times, the Tour de France twice, and the Vuelta a España once.
But stage 13 of the Giro was finally the opportunity for the 32-year-old to take the win he dreamed of and he couldn’t have won in better style.
Nizzolo was in perfect position onto the wide final straight into Verona, as he followed Fernando Gaviria’s wheel into the final few hundred metres,
It wasn’t plain sailing though as Edoardo Affini shot clear of the bunch in the final and threatened to win the day, forcing Nizzolo to launch his sprint early to chase down his compatriot.
Fortunately Nizzolo’s power won out, as he took his first Grand Tour victory, having made his debut back in 2012.
Nizzolo’s reputation as a bridesmaid now comes to an end in memorable fashion, as we have an extremely popular stage 13 winner.
Edoardo Affini almost steals the day in front of local crowds
Aside from the winner, the unofficial ‘rider of the day’ title has to go to Edoardo Affini from Jumbo-Visma.
The 24-year-old Italian already has reason to celebrate on the day, as the race passed through his home city of Mantova in the Lombardy region.
Affini was allowed to hang off the front of the bunch to be welcomed back home by local fans, as the race passed through Mantova 40km from the finish.
But that wasn’t the only time Affini would be out front, as the time trial specialist fired an ambitious attack from the front of the Jumbo-Visma lead-out train inside the final 500 metres of the stage.
Affini pulled out a considerable gap into the final, as Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirate) was forced to chase him down.
Nizzolo then launched his sprint from Gaviria’s wheel and only caught Affini around 20 metres from the finish.
Speaking after the stage, Affini said he had been laying down the power at the front of the bunch to set up his team’s sprinter Dylan Groenewegen, but said he accidentally found himself breaking free.
While he admitted he was slightly disappointed not to win the stage, he also seemed to be delighted with his moment in the spotlight as he finished second on the day, and he helped bring an otherwise ambling day to an exciting finish.
Peter Sagan misses the stage but still scores points
Stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia was clearly not suited to a lighter sprinter like Peter Sagan, but after 12 previous days of hard racing the scales were tipped slightly further back in Sagan’s direction.
Bora-Hansgrohe were clearly motivated to put their fast man at the front of the bunch for the sprint, even without splitting the race to pieces like they did on day 10 (which Sagan won).
As the rapid finish unfolded, Sagan didn’t have the pure speed to match a rider like Nizzolo, but the real notable point is that Sagan still racked up another podium finish in his defence of the maglia ciclamino.
After stage 13, Sagan still leads the points classification albeit with a narrowed advantage to Nizzolo, who was won the jersey on two previous occasions.
Sagan leads with 135 points, while Nizzolo now sits second on 126, setting up a fascinating final week where intermediate sprint opportunities could make all the difference.
Fernando Gaviria is still lacking the speed (and the luck)
Fernando Gaviria is still without a win in this Giro d’Italia, and the Colombian sprinter must be casting an increasingly frustrated figure on the team bus after every opportunity.
After being well out of position on stage two sprint into Novara (finishing 24th), Gaviria opted for a new approach on stage five into Cattolica has he launched a long-range sprint from 400 metres out on the uphill rise, only to be passed by eventual winner Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and slipping back to seventh.
Gaviria looked to be in a strong position to fight for victory on stage 10 to Foligno, as his lead-out man Juan Sebastian Molano fired early on the final right hand turn, only for Gaviria not to follow, with Sagan reaping the benefits and forcing him into second place.
Stage 13 into Verona looked to be a good opportunity for Gaviria, who relies on sustained straight-line power rather than instantaneous kick like Caleb Ewan, but things still didn’t go according to plan.
Gaviria found himself on the front of the bunch too early and was forced to chase down Affini’s solo attack, which set up Nizzolo to fire past at speed.
After the finish, pictures emerged showing tha Gaviria had been forced to sprint without a saddle, which had apparently fallen off in the final, adding to his string of missed opportunities.
Another quiet day in Italy, but the Zoncolan is coming
Stage 13 was a classic Grand Tour transition stage, stretching to 198km of pan-flat racing, with no real action until Affini’s unexpected move.
Fortunately the sprint finish did offer additional excitement with Nizzolo’s victory and Affini nearly holding on, but we should be even for more excitement in the next few days.
The Giro returns to the mountains on Saturday (May 2 22) and this time it’s the big ones - after a flat start to the day, making the breakaway battle a tough ask for the climbers, the stage heads towards the dreaded Zoncolan finish.
At 14.1km with an 8.5 per cent average gradient (hitting 12.1 per cent in the final), the Zoncolan will be a major general classification opportunity for those chasing down maglia rosa Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers).
But Bernal and his team are likely to defend their jersey to the bitter end with their traditional mountain train, which means rivals may have to be ambitious if they want to break their stronghold.
The Zoncolan has been the scene of many great battles in the Giro, last appearing in the race on stage 14 of the 2018 edition, where Chris Froome won the day before his near-impossible overall victory later in the race.
Will the GC riders fight for the stage, or will the breakaway be allowed to reap the rewards again?
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