Nibali completes astonishing comeback
Yesterday’s stage victory was only the start of Vincenzo Nibali’s against the odds comeback. Today he attacked around 5km from the summit of the Colle della Lombardia, the final climb of the day, and immediately dropped the pink jersey Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge).
For a little while it was touch and go whether Nibali would gain the 44 seconds he needed to take the overall lead, with the Colombian still keeping him in sight only a handful of seconds behind.
But soon Chaves cracked and the gap between them ballooned, so that by the time both had crossed the finish line Nibali had won the Giro by a relatively large 52 seconds.
This is the Italian’s fourth overall victory in a Grand Tour and second at the Giro d’Italia, and arguably the most impressive yet. In his previous victories he has got into the leader’s jersey early and therefore been able to ride defensively, but this time the onus was on him to gain time in the final week.
That he did, and to an extraordinary extent, overturning a deficit to the pink jersey of 4-43 in just two days, and gaining ownership of the jersey with just one day left of racing.
He may only have had the maglia rosa for just one day, but Chaves was still visibly heartbroken to lose it so close to the Giro’s finish.
The Colombian ended up losing over one and a half minutes to Nibali and looked exhausted come the finish line. Even a generous turn from compatriot Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) was not enough to save him, and he was in tears over the finish line.
The bike that almost took Chaves to overall glory
Once over the initial disappointment of missing out on overall victory, however, Chaves will no doubt reflect on the race as a success.
He still managed to finish second overall (his best performance at a Grand Tour to date), won a stage, and, aged just 26, will have plenty more chances to win Grand Tours.
Kruijswijk battles on but slips off podium
For all his brilliant performances prior to yesterday’s crash, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) ultimately has no podium finish or stage win to show for it.
Things could have been much worse for the Dutchman, however. At the start of the day, Kruijswijk confirmed that the doctors had declared him fit to start the day, but added the ominous qualifier: ‘we’ll see how far I can get”.
All things considered the Dutchman’s day went quite well, as he managed to stay with the group of favourites over the first couple of climbs. But the effect of the injuries sustained in yesterday’s crash, among them a fractured rib, were clear when Nibali attacked and he was dropped off the back.
As a result, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) leapfrogs him into third, meaning the Spaniard has now made the podium in all three Grand Tours.
Taaramäe wins the stage
With all the GC action going on behind it was easy to lose sight of how impressive a ride Rein Taaramäe (Katusha) put in to win the stage.
But Taaramäe dragged himself back up to the lead group on the final climb and even put an attack in himself, dropping the others and soloing to victory.
The win comes as great news for Katusha, who endured a horrible day yesterday as their leader Ilnur Zakarin abandoned following a horrific looking crash.
Mikel Nieve wins the mountains classification
Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) went into today’s stage with what looked like a huge lead in the mountains classification, but in reality the competition remained wide open with so many points on offer on today’s four summits.
Ultimately it was Nieve who triumphed, reaching the summit of the Col de Vars in third position, and then going off the front alone to take maximum points on the Col de la Bonette.
Given how impressive the Spaniard had been in the high mountains, he feels like a worthy winner of a competition often snapped up by riders who instead stockpile points on smaller climbs.