Nairo Quintana sealed the Giro d’Italia 2014 title on Sunday with a comfortable ride in Stage 21, as Slovenian Luka Mezgec took the stage victory.
Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) wins stage 21 of the #Giro. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) completes overall victory— Sky Sports Cycling (@SkyCycling) June 1, 2014
Quintana became the first Colombian ever to win the race, and at just 24 years of age he’s the youngest to claim the title since Damiano Cunego won it in 2004 aged 22, per Infostrada Sports:
Quintana is 24y-117d old today. This century, only 1 rider was younger when he won a Grand Tour: Damiano Cunego, 2004 Giro (22-254). #Giro— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) June 1, 2014
The Movistar rider kept up toward the forward bunch until he was inside the final three kilometres, where he eased off and let the celebrations commence.
The stage celebrations belonged to Mezgec, though, with his victory on the 167-kilometre stage from Gemona di Friuli to Trieste Giant-Shimano’s third win of 2014’s race.
Giacomo Nizzolo and Tyler Farrar joined Mezgec on the podium:
|2||Giacomo Nizzolo||Italian||Trek Factory Racing||SAME TIME|
|3||Tyler Farrar||American||Garmin-Sharp||SAME TIME|
|4||Nacer Bouhanni||French||FDJ||SAME TIME|
|5||Roberto Ferrari||Italian||Lampre-Merida||SAME TIME|
|6||Leonardo Duque||Colombian||Colombia||SAME TIME|
|7||Luca Paolini||Italian||Katusha||SAME TIME|
|8||Tosh van der Sande||Belgian||Lotto Belisol||SAME TIME|
|9||Borut Bozic||Slovenian||Astana||SAME TIME|
|10||Iljo Keisse||Belgian||Omega Pharma - Quick-Step||SAME TIME|
Following his excellent ride that saw him record a time of 4 hours, 23 minutes and 58 seconds, Mezgec spoke of his overwhelming joy at winning Stage 21, as Cycling News reported:
It couldn't get any better than this. I'm close to home and Slovenia. There are lots of friends here. I'm the happiest man in the world today. It was a great three weeks for Giant-Shimano. I'm really proud to be part of the Giro and I'm happy for the team.
In a four-horse race at the stage’s climax with Farrar, Nizzolo and Nacer Bouhanni, Mezgec came through on the right-hand barriers to cross the line first and record a priceless victory.
However, Sunday’s moment was Quintana’s, winning by a 2:58 margin just one year after being a runner-up in the Tour de France.
The Colombian is somewhat of a climbing specialist, and his two stage wins and consistent brilliance meant that Rigoberto Uran and Fabio Aru stood very little chance of catching him at the top of the general classification standings.
|2||Rigoberto Uran||Colombian||Omega Pharma - Quick-Step||+2:58|
|5||Domenico Pozzovivo||Italian||Ag2r-LA Mondiale||+6:32|
|10||Robert Kiserlovski||Croatian||Trek Factory Racing||+15:49|
Finishing in the middle of the pack, Quintana pumped his fist as he crossed the line in Trieste and was quick to be congratulated by his teammates.
The 24-year-old thoroughly deserved his Giro d’Italia victory, and was thrilled to call himself the champion after the race—per Sky Sports:
It is very difficult to explain how much happiness is inside me. It’s one of the happiest days of my life. Thanks to my family, thanks to my team and thanks to all the Colombians. It is fantastic that this dream has come true.
Joining his countryman Uran on the podium, it was a fantastic race for Colombian cycling, with president Juan Manuel Santos reportedly calling to congratulate Quintana after he all but secured the title following Stage 20 on Saturday.
It was the cruise to victory that was envisioned pre-race, though the way that he worked his way into the position to do so was fantastic.
Though Quintana doesn’t have plans to enter this year’s Tour de France, he has outlined his desire to win the big competition during his career—per The Independent:
"My next goal will be to win the Tour de France one day."
While he rode fantastically well in last year’s Tour, where he finished second, his success at the Giro d’Italia 2014 suggests that he’s ready to swap the pink jersey for yellow very soon.
The sky’s the limit for the Colombian, who, at such a young age, has all the credentials to be a dominant force in cycling for many years to come.