Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali attacks through the stage 20 blizzard to win on the Tre Cime
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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali attacks through the stage 20 blizzard to win on the Tre Cime

by Ben Atkins at 11:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
 
Tappa e Giro for Astana captain with devastating final climb attack

vincenzo nibaliVincenzo Nibali (Astana) once again underlined his overall superiority over the rest of the 2013 Giro d’Italia peloton with a stunning victory on the 20th and penultimate stage, between Silandro and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The Astana leader, wearing the Maglia Rosa that he had held since stage eight, attacked with just over three kilometres of the steep final climb to go and managed to drop all of his rivals. Riding alone through the blizzard that had seen the stage miss out its first three scheduled climbs, Nibali crossed the line to take his second straight stage victory in the race, and secure his final victory.

The three-man all-Colombian group of Rigoberto Urán (Team Sky), Carlos Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale) and Fabio Duarte (Colombia) managed to follow Nibali’s initial acceleration, but not his second and were 17 seconds behind the Italian as Duarte took the sprint for second place, with Urán and Betancur following him over at two second intervals.

The rest of the overall contenders finished in ones and twos behind the winner, with overnight second place Cadel Evens (BMC Racing) lost another 1’30” to Nibali, which meant - with time bonuses - the Australian conceded 1’19” to Urán, meaning that the Team Sky rider moved ahead in the general classification. With Rafal Majka (Saxo Tinkoff) finishing in tenth place, 1’04” behind Nibali, the young Polish rider conceded 43 seconds to Betancur and lost his white jersey to the Colombian.

“I knew that the final kilometres were very hard, but perhaps I didn’t remember quite how hard they were,” said Nibali at the finish. “There were riders ahead of me with a big advantage, but I was pretty calm. In fact, my team-mate [Valerio] Agnoli was probably more nervous than I was. He was impatient to start the chase, but I told him to wait until after the descent because of the cold, which stiffens you up and makes it hard to descend.

“Even so, I probably attacked too early,’ Nibali admitted. “The signs saying how far there was to go started 1800 metres from the finish, but it seemed endless.

“We only really felt the snow today in the final 5km,” he added. “Thankfully the road was pretty clean, and the stage turned into a real epic, with an uphill finish in thick snow fall.

“The manner of my win today leaves me with feelings of immense joy. And when have you ever seen riders finish the Giro d’Italia with no sun tan, and wearing arm and leg warmers? In the cold, you have to limit yourself, with or without climbs. Not to be pretentious, but in this Giro, I’ve had something more than my rivals on the all the uphill finishes. If there had been more climbing, I’d have managed the finishes the way I did today.”

The 210km saw the long break of the day come from stage seven winner Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha), who escaped after 25km and managed to open a lead of more than eight minutes in the first half of the stage.

Steadily the quartet was closed down on the approach to the final climb, however, and Brutt left the rest behind as he struck off for the finish alone. The Russian rider was caught and passed by a counter attack from Pieter Weening (Orica-AIS) before he could reach the top of the Passo Tre Croci, however. The Dutchman was joined by Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Eros Capecchi (Movistar), who left the other two behind as the steep final climb began.

The Maglia Rosa group was never far behind the leaders though, and, as it hit the steepest part of the final climb to the Tre Cime, Nibali made his move. He was initially followed by Urán and Betancur but, as he passed Capecchi, the Astana rider jumped again and got away this time and soloed his way to the finish.

Four escape as the race skirts the snow-covered passes

After its unscheduled rest day the Giro d’Italia peloton was heading back into the mountains for the penultimate stage. With snow continuing to fall in the region, however, the stage was to miss the scheduled climbs of the Passo Costalunga, Passo di San Pellegrino and Passo Giau, and follow the valley road to Cortina d’Ampezzo and the foot of the climb to the Tre Cime.

Heavy snow was falling at the finish of the stage throughout most of the day, but thankfully was not settling on the road surface despite temperatures below freezing.

Hansen, Ermeti, Popovych and Brutt managed to escape after 25km, and covered 52.2km in the first hour as the course followed a gradually downhill route. After 63km the quartet was 8’16” ahead before the peloton began to speed up behind it, under the impetus of Euskaltel-Euskadi, and the gap began to close.

Brutt was on the front as the breakaway group arrived at the first Traguardo Volante sprint, in Dobbiaco/Toblach with 54km to go, and the Russian rolled unchallenged across the line. As the peloton arrived - now also led by Colombia and Vini Fantini-Selle Italia - Omega Pharma-Quick Step manoeuvred Mark Cavendish to the front and, despite a challenge from Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s Rafael Andriato, the Manxman took the sprint for fifth place, 5’11” behind the break.

Cavendish and teammate Matteo Trentin then remonstrated with Andriato as the riders drifted back into the peloton. The Brazilian was placed just 25th in the points classification, but led the Traguardo Volante competition and had been keen to increase his lead.

Into the final 40km snow was beginning to appear at the sides of the roads and riders began to don arm warmers and jackets as the temperature began to drop. Euskaltel-Euskadi and Colombia were still leading the peloton, but other teams were beginning to mass forward as the decisive part of the stage approached.

Over the unclassified Cimabanche the leaders were still 3’30” ahead, as they began the short descent into Cortina d’Ampezzo. As the peloton began the descent the Cannondale team moved to the front in force, taking the gap down to three minutes as they passed under the 35km banner.

The break splits up as the final climb arrives, but the counterattacks begin

On the wet roads on the outskirts of Cortina d'Ampezzo Popovych escaped, and was a few seconds clear of Brutt, Hansen and Ermeti through the second Traguardo Volante, with 22.1km to go, as the climb to the 2nd category Passo Tre Croci began.

Meanwhile, at the back of the peloton, Betancur was being paced back up by his teammates after having suffered a puncture. Cannondale was still leading the peloton at speed, however, although the green team allowed Cavendish to jump ahead to take fifth place at the sprint, just 2’25” behind Popovych.

Betancur and his teammates were now exactly a minute behind the bunch as the climb began.

Brutt and Hansen caught and passed Popovych shortly into the climb and, with just over 20km to go, the Katusha rider pressed on alone. Cannondale was now back to the front of the peloton, but Evans was in amongst them with Nibali also close at hand.

Wet snow was now falling heavily on the peloton as Weening attacked. The Dutchman was initially followed by compatriot Steven Kruijswijk (Blanco), but Weening soon struck out alone in pursuit of the break.

Brutt was two minutes clear of the Dutchman with 18.5km to go, with Hansen, Popovych and Ermeti between. Betancur was still making his way up through the team cars, now without his teammates, but eventually joined the rear of the Maglia Rosa group.

With 18km to go mountains leader Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) attacked, with Darwin Atapuma (Colombia) on his wheel and, as Weening passed Ermiti up ahead shortly afterwards, Atapuma jumped clear of Pirazzi. The Colombia rider sprinted up the climb, soon passing Ermeti, and then Popovych, himself.

Weening soon caught Hansen, who latched onto his wheel for a moment, leaving just Brutt up the road, just a minute ahead of him. The peloton caught up with Atapuma shortly after the 15km banner as Rafal Majka (Saxo Tinkoff) himself led, and Pirazzi attacked again. The group now had Weening in sight as Astana took over again, but the Dutchman was still holding it off.

Over the top of the climb with 13.5km to go Brutt was just 26 seconds ahead of Weening, with Pirazzi at 34 seconds, while the Maglia Rosa group was at 48 seconds behind as the riders zipped up their jackets into the short, technical descent. Brambilla then jumped clear and made his way across to Weening and Pirazzi.

On a short rise Brambilla began to push on, which left Pirazzi behind, just as Capecchi became the next rider to attack from the peloton. He was quickly up with Weening and Brambilla, with Brutt now just 24 seconds ahead as he passed under the ten kilometre banner.

With just under nine kilometres to go Brambilla led the chasers up to Brutt, and the Russian was almost immediately dropped as Capecchi tried to escape the others.

As Pirazzi was being reeled in by the Maglia Rosa group - where Nibali still had three teammates with him - Atapuma attacked again and caught up with the Bardiani-CSF rider. On the flat section beside the Lago di Misurina, with just under seven kilometres to go, the leading trio was 42 seconds ahead of the two chasers, with the Maglia Rosa group now at 1’10”.

The sun began to shine on the three leaders as the final climb began and Capecchi left the other two behind. Behind them Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) jumped clear of the peloton and joined up with Pirazzi and Atapuma.

The going gets steep and Nibali gets going

With four kilometres to go Capecchi was 13 seconds ahead of Weening and Brambilla, and 32 seconds ahead of the Astana-led peloton, with Kiserlovski and Atapuma in between. Shortly before the final three kilometres, however, Nibali himself jumped away from the front of the peloton; the Maglia Rosa was joined by teammate Tanel Kangert, who began to pull his team leader away from his rivals.

One by one the general classification riders made their way up to Nibali’s wheel. Majka, Betancur and Urán were among the first to make it, but Evans was struggling to close the gap as Nibali attacked again past Weening.

Urán and Betancur followed the Maglia Rosa for a second time but, as he caught up with Capecchi, Nibali kicked again and left them behind.

The two Colombians continued to chase and were almost joined with just under two kilometres to go by Evans, Majka and Fabio Duarte (Colombia). Nibali was a long way clear by now, however, and surrounded by crazed fans as he approached the flamme rouge.

Evans and Majka dropped back to the following group, led by Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) and Italian champion Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), while Duarte managed to join Urán and Betancur, making it three Colombians chasing the leader.

At the final kilometre Nibali was 32 seconds clear of the chasers, however, with 1’05” back to the next group, meaning that Urán was moving ahead of Evans overall. Betancur was beginning to struggle as Urán lifted the pace again but, in the blizzard ahead of them, Nibali was approaching the finish line.

Punching the air with his right hand, then raising his left hand in the air, Nibali crossed the line to take his second stage of the race, and was quickly led away by his soigneur. Duarte then outsprinted the other Colombians for second place, XXX behind, with Urán beating Betancur to third.

Result stage 20
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Team Astana
2. Fabio Duarte (Col) Colombia @ 17s
3. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Team Sky @ 19s
4. Carlos Betancur (Col) AG2R La Mondiale @ 21s
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Team Astana @ 44s
6. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela @ 48s
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale @ 45s
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling @ 58s
9. Darwin Atapuma (Col) Colombia @ 1’00”
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 1’04”

Standings after stage 20
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Team Astana
2. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Team Sky @ 4’43”
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team @ 5’52”
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida @ 6’48”
5. Carlos Betancur (Col) AG2R La Mondiale @ 7’28”
6. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida @ 7’43”
7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 8’09”
8. Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar Team @1026
9. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia @ 10’32”
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale @ 10'59"

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