The relief was palpable as Giacomo Nizzolo sunk to the ground, having caught Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) after the Italian jumped from the bunch in the final straight, to cross the line first and take his first-ever Giro d'Italia victory on stage 13.
The Qhubeka-Assos sprinter was the only one able to catch and pass Affini as the Jumbo-Visma man riding on home roads had to settle for second place, followed by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation), in third and fourth respectively.
Nizzolo celebrated with his fan club after taking the win, who thankfully turned up on exactly the right day after his many podiums, with Qhubeka-Assos also achieving their second stage victory in three days after Mauro Schmid's heroics on stage 11.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) retains the maglia rosa after a day off ahead of tomorrow's GC test up the Monte Zoncolan.
How it happened
A welcome day off for the GC riders ahead of the Zoncolan tomorrow, the 198km-route of stage 13 from Ravenna to Verona was essentially pan-flat.
The biggest news to kick off the day was Segafredo re-upping with Trek to continue their sponsorship for a further two years, which to be honest only highlighted the complete dearth of action out on the road.
As we passed through the land of Dante, you'd have been forgiven for thinking boredom was a missing circle of hell, but the peloton was happy enough to tap along on a rare day off with pleasant enough weather ahead of sterner tests to come, so there wasn't too much to complain about from either competitor or spectator.
Samuele Rivi (Eolo-Kometa), Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF) and, of course, Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli) soon fulfilled their duty of getting up the road after the flag drop, Pellaud leading the breakaway competition by 30km over Marengo and keen to maintain that margin.
Soon they had a gap of five minutes, the peloton taking it easy behind, Ineos first leading the bunch before Cofidis took over for Elia Viviani, while Jumbo-Visma soon also offered up a domestique as the break’s advantage crept up to above the seven-minute mark.
Giacomo Nizzolo’s Qhubeka-Assos then also offered up a rider, Rivi taking the intermediate sprint up ahead before Pellaud went clear for a bit before he was eventually brought back by the other two and forced to spend more time on the front to pay for his insolence.
At the halfway stage and the gap was back to around the five-and-a-half-minute mark, soon bringing it down to four minutes as the chase began.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) could then be spotted clutching his nose, then swiftly making his way to the team car to get some cotton wool to bung up his nostril, appearing to have suffered from a sudden and random nosebleed - better on the open roads of Italy rather than a packed tube train.
Cofidis moved Viviani up to behind the Ineos train as they moved into the last third of the race, the gap now at three and a half minutes.
Rivi then attacked his breakaway companions, looking to win the next intermediate sprint, which he did, the trio re-forming once more as they found themselves less than two-and-a-half minutes ahead of the bunch with 50km remaining.
Finally, action. A counter-attack from behind as the likes of Paul Martens (Jumbo-Visma), Natneal Berhane (Cofidis) and Kilian Frankiny (Qhubeka-Assos) took off, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Pieter Serry (Deceuninck - Quick-Step).
That move was shut down before more moves erupted, Deceuninck - Quick-Step’s Remi Cavagna then taking it up on the front as the TGV stretched out.
It took Cofidis to bring order back to the peloton, as the break’s gap came under the two-minute mark, while around a big roundabout made a late call on which was the path of least resistance, making an abrupt turn and getting out of his saddle to chase back on over the shorter distance.
Jumbo-Visma’s Edoardo Affini soaked up the applause from his local roads in Mantova as he went to the front and gee’d up the crowd with 40km to the finish line.
Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) also briefly headed back to the doctor’s car.
The catch was coming quickly, as the peloton brought the escapees to within one minute, trying to ease off, but the GC team’s movements meaning this was easier said than done.
20km to go and thirty seconds was the advantage, the pace rising all the time now, riders dodging road furniture into the final 10km.
Rivi made one last attack just before the catch, as Nizzolo was placed near the front by Qhubeka-Assos, DSM on his wheel before Bora-Hansgrohe moved Sagan up with 5km to go.
DSM took it up for Max Kanter a kilometre later, and as the GC riders eased off after passing under 3km to go, Jumbo-Visma brought Dylan Groenewegen into the picture with 2km to the line, as UAE Team Emirates had positioned Gaviria on the front with two lead-out men.
Under the flamme rouge and Cofidis came through, before Edoardo Affini attacked, and it looked like the Jumbo-Visma rider was about to pull off the most remarkable of victories before Nizzolo jumped across and beat his compatriot on the line, finally converting his podium place into a victory.
Giro d'Italia 2021, stage 13: Ravenna to Verona (198km)
1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Qhubeka-Assos, in 4-42-19
2. Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-Up Nation
5. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
6. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto-Soudal
7. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
8. Max Kanter (Ger) DSM
9. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
10. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
General classification after stage 13
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers. in 53-11-42
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 45s
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-12
4. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-17
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 1-22
6. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-50
7. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 2-22
8. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-24
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 2-49
10. Daniel Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 3-15
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