Sam Bennett wins the final stage of the Giro d'Italia as GC is neutralised
Chris Froome (Team Sky) has won the 2018 Giro d’Italia after finishing safely on the final stage in Rome, which was won by Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe after being neutralised for the general classification after just three of 10 laps due to riders’ concerns about the course.
Already with four Tours de France and one Vuelta a España to his name, Froome is the first British rider to win the Giro d’Italia. He also becomes just second active rider to have won all three Grand Tours and just the third rider, after Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.
With the time gaps being taken after just three laps of the city centre circuit, Froome’s victory was confirmed early in the day, but there was still a lot to play for for the sprinters.
In the end it was Sam Bennett who took victory on the final stage, coming off the wheel of Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors in the final 200m to take his third stage win of the race.
How it happened
The final stage of the Giro d’Italia saw the riders take on 10 laps of a circuit around the centre of Rome and unsurprisingly there was little action in the early stages after three tough weeks of racing.
In fact the early stages were dominated with intense discussions between riders and commissaires with Elia Viviani and Chris Froome dropping back to the cars to talk to race organisers as they were seemingly unhappy with the safety of the course, in particular the road surface.
As riders promenaded around the circuit, Froome agreed with the commissaires that the time for the stage would be taken after just three laps, meaning that the general classification contenders would not be forced to vie for position with the sprinters in the final kilometres.
When racing finally got underway with 78km to go it was no surprise to see Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), representing two teams yet to get a stage win in this year’s Giro, go off the front.
With Chris Froome’s victory already confirmed, Team Sky were understandably not going to chase anything down, which allowed a large number of other riders to escape before Quick-Step Floors got their act together and started to control the race.
However before they were able to do that 16 riders joined Schmidt and Lutsenko at the front. They were Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale), Davide Ballerini (Androni-Sidermec), Manuele Boaro (Bahrain-Merida), Francisco Ventoso (BMC Racing), Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy), Christoper Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott), Florian Senechal (Quick-Step Floors), Ben King (Dimension Data) Viacheslax Kutnesov (Katusha-Alpecin), Gijs Van Hoecke and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), and Giuseppe Fonzi and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia).
That group remained together until Krists Neilands attacked with 58km to go which kicked off a flurry of further attacks to trim the group down as Quick-Step Floors and EF Education First-Drapac chased in the peloton.
Eventually Juul Jensen and Kuznetsov were able to extricate themselves from the break but were never allowed to get more than 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.
With such a slender gap the break was never going to succeed, and Juul Jensen and Kuznetsov were duly caught with 12km remaining having spent a number of the previous kilometres locked in Quick-Step’s view just a few seconds off the front.
From there Quick-Step would have hoped for a simple lead-out, but Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) thwarted that with a big attack with 10km to go that quickly opened a gap. The good news for Quick-Step was that Florian Sénéchal was one of the riders to follow Mullen, with Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) and sprinter Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) also following to form a powerful foursome out front.
Although he wasn’t contributing to the pace-setting, Sénéchal’s presence in the break meant that it was up to Bora-Hansgrohe to do the chasing, while Mattia Cattaneo (Androni-Sidermec) put in a gargantuan effort to bridge across.
The bad news for Cattaneo was that the gap to the leaders was only seven seconds with five kilometres to go as Bora-Hansgrohe slowly but surely pulled the move back, but with Quick-Step Floors and Viviani positioned further back in the group.
Watch: Giro d’Italia stage 21 highlights
The junction was made with just under four kilometres to go and from there the pace got even higher as Manuele Boaro (Bahrain-Merida) hit the front hard before Quick-Step Floors moved to the front with 1.5km to go.
Zdenek Stybar led the peloton into the final kilometre, but as he swung off Bahrain-Merida hit the front in an attempt to set up Niccolo Bonifazio.
Bonifazio looked to be getting into the perfect position but was barged off the wheel of Viviani by Bennett who, after making mistakes with positioning in previous stages, was determined to get himself into the perfect position.
Viviani was the first to open his sprint on the cobbles with 200m to go, but had Bennett accelerating from behind. And the Irishman duly came around his Italian rival to take his third stage win of the race as Viviani sat up and was forced to settle for second.
More than 16 minutes after Bennett had won the stage, Chris Froome crossed the line alongside his six remaining team-mates, riding in formation across the finish to confirm his victory in the 2018 Giro d’Italia.
Giro d’Italia 2018, stage 21: Rome to Rome, 115km
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 2-50-49
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing
4 Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
5 Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
6 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac
7 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8 Clement Venturini (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
9 Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani CSF
10 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 46s
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana, at 4-57
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar, at 5-44
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 8-03
6. Pello Bilboa (Esp) Astana, at 11-50
7. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 13-01
8. George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 13-17
9. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 14-18
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 15-16