The 2013 Giro d'Italia winner wasn’t officially decided until he crossed the finish line, but Vincenzo Nibali had already built an insurmountable lead after a brilliant performance at Stage 20 in the race’s pre-finale.
On Sunday, he crossed the finish line at Brescia with his head held high and the rest of the group battling for positioning, securing his first Giro d’Italia victory in impressive fashion.
The Sicilian attacked the final sprint of the 20th stage with a pace no other rider could match. Even in blizzard-like conditions on a slippery surface, Nibali left little doubt he would dominate the final flat stage into Brescia without much resistance, as BBC Sport pointed out on Twitter following the stage:
BBC Sport @BBCSport
Giro d’Italia leader Vincenzo Nibali wins a snowy penultimate stage 20 in the Dolomites to cement his position. http://t.co/PSz14LRt0c5/25/2013, 2:59:36 PM
It was only fitting Nibali’s memorable finish would conclude in Brescia, the home of the finish line for the first time in the event’s 96-year history. While the Giro d’Italia has a rich history and tradition, the finale in Brescia was worth the change.
With a final race time of 84 hours, 53 minutes and 28 seconds, Nibali turned in a tremendous performance of pure speed and endurance. It was the 28-year-old’s third victory of 2013, adding to his triumphs in the Giro del Trentino and Tirenno-Adriatico (via Giro d'Italia Twitter account):
Giro d'Italia @giroditalia
Vincenzo Nibali wins Giro d'Italia 2013 / Vincenzo Nibali vince il Giro d'Italia 2013 #giro5/26/2013, 3:07:35 PM
Results via CyclingNews.com
The stage victory that set up his final push was Nibali’s second of the race. Apart from his tremendous performance in the 20th leg (5:27:41 seconds), the Sicilian also bested the competition in the 18th stage—officially the third-to-last stage with the 19th leg having been canceled due to blistering cold and low visibility from snowy conditions, as noted by Sky Sports:
Sky Sports 📺 @SkySports
Stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia has been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. http://t.co/fUUl2wwx0s5/24/2013, 8:18:16 AM
But in the 20th stage, it was the final three kilometers in similar conditions that determined his fate in the Giro d'Italia.
With a final ascent to the summit that left Fabio Duarte, Rigoberto Uran and Carlos Betancur in his wake, Nibali was left to focus on simply doing what he had done in the previous two stages. Barring a minor miracle, there was little chance he would be overtaken by the Colombian trio (via UCI Cycling):
Vincenzo #Nibali wins stage twenty of the #Giro13 under the snow http://t.co/MvtIsc5OfG5/25/2013, 5:11:44 PM
The blizzard-like conditions of the 20th stage gave way to sunshine and clear skies, however, and the slippery surface of the previous legs didn’t prove to be an issue on the flat track into Brescia. The determining kilometers in the race were simply victory laps for the man in the pink jersey.
As well as Nibali raced in the final stages, however, it wasn’t enough to hold onto the red jersey of the overall points leader. Mark Cavendish was determined to sprint hard to a top-five finish in the 21st stage to maintain the points lead he has built with a 2013 campaign packed with impressive wins, securing a victory in the final stage to retain his standing, as noted by BBC Radio:
BBC Radio 5 live @bbc5live
#bbc5live @MarkCavendish wins the final stage of the Giro d'Italia and claims the red points jersey5/26/2013, 3:12:21 PM
But Nibali can’t be too upset with the outcome and his first Giro d’Italia victory, even if the red jersey would not remain in his possession. He seemed ecstatic with the pink jersey, donned in all pink attire for the final stage (via Giro d’Italia’s Twitter account):
Giro d'Italia @giroditalia
The Maglia Rosa @vincenzonibali is totally "in pink" for the last stage! #giro http://t.co/lQtuHKVUQf5/26/2013, 9:02:59 AM
With the victory all but secured, Nibali was able to stay away from trouble in the final stage by avoiding the furious sprint to end the race. Even with a casual finish in the 21st stage, the Sicilian cruised into the final lap of the circuit with the win in his sights.
Uran finished four minutes and 43 seconds behind the champion in the general classification, while Cavendish turned in a Stage 21 time of 5:30:09 to retain his points lead.