2013 Giro d'Italia race wrap-up


The Shark gets his prey

On May 4th under sunny Neapolitan skies, 23 teams of nine riders each lined up for the start of the 96th Giro d’Italia. Three weeks and multiple route modifications later, all but 39 riders crossed the finish line today in Brescia. Vincenzo Nibali of Team Astana, won the overall after holding the Pink Jersey for the last 13 stages. Team Omega Pharma Quickstep’s Mark Cavendish won his fifth stage of the race, and claimed rights to the Maglia Rosso, or Points Jersey. 

Horrendous weather conditions throughout much of the race led to a final total of about 3200 kilometers ridden. That’s about 250 kms shorter than the original planned route.

Snow in the Alps altered the route

Fans were denied the thrill of the two most challenging mountain stages that would have defined this race because of heavy snowfall in the Dolomites. Instead the defining character of this year’s race would have to be the weather. The race organizers had their backs against the wall with the relentless weather, and made the appropriate decision to cut stage 19 and most of stage 20 for the riders’ and fans’ safety. 

The peloton endured a cold, rainy and snowy tour, for the most part. Many fell ill from the efforts expended in the foul weather. 168 riders out of the 207 who started the race in Naples survived to the finish. That number is about average, so it’s actually impressive considering the conditions.

One champion emerged from the pack however, to claim victory for his team and country: 28-year-old Italian Astana Team leader, Vincenzo Nibali. The Sicilian “Shark” held the race lead over the entire final two weeks, earning thirteen Pink Jerseys and two stage wins along the way. From the stage 8 individual time trial in Saltara until the finish in Brescia, not a single rival could match Nibali’s performance. He bathed his homeland in glory, and gave Italy its third home Grand Tour win in the last four years.

An ecstatic Nibali and his team celebrate victory
Nibali’s stage 18 time trial win and subsequent summit finish win, atop the de facto Cima Coppi, the 2300-meter high Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Saturday, silenced the critics who wanted individual stage wins to go with his overall title. He gave them everything and more, and now adds the 2013 Giro d’Italia championship--his first--to his impressive and growing palmares. His lieutenants in the mountains, particularly Tanel Kangert and the young Fabio Aru were there for him through all the challenges in the snow and cold.

Mark Cavendish secured the Points Jersey on the final stage, collecting both intermediate sprints along the way. That gave the great Manx sprinter enough points to reclaim the lead in that competition. The stage win at the finish padded his lead comfortably. After losing the 2012 Points Competition to Joaquin Rodriguez by one single point, Cavendish diligently fought for many of the intermediate sprints throughout this year’s race. Along with the five stages he won, he earned, and authoritatively commanded the 2013 Maglia Rosso.
Stefano Pirazzi of Team Bardiani Valvole led a relentless pursuit of the Mountains Jersey throughout the entire race. The 26-year-old pro-continental rider climbed away to the best result of his career so far, claiming the Maglia Azzurra for his own before the final mountain stage on Saturday.

The four jersey winners
Carlos Betancur of Ag2R was the victor in a two-man duel for the Best Young Rider’s Jersey. He and Rafal Majka of Team Saxo Tinkoff, exchanged impressive mountain performances, with Betancur eventually proving the stronger. The 23-year-old Colombian talent should have a long and successful career ahead of him.

Despite losing their advertised leader, Wiggins, to illness and fatigue, Team Sky’s remaining contingent were strong. Rigoberto Uran, the 26-year-old Colombian climber, finished the Giro in second place overall. The whole team performed exceptionally well, including a standout performance from the reliable Sergio Henao. Their collective efforts won them the Team Competition.

2011 Giro d’Italia winner, Michele Scarponi of Lampre tried to claw his way onto a podium spot, but was held off by 2010 Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans. Team BMC’s veteran leader came to the Giro primarily to put racing miles in his legs in preparation for the Tour de France in July. The experienced Aussie honored his team with a 3rd place finish. That’s pretty respectable for a training ride. Scarponi’s mountain aide, Przemyslaw Niemiec, did very well to finish the three-week tour in 6th place, just two spots behind his captain. The 33-year-old Pole logged a personal career-high Grand Tour result for his Italian based team.

Several top competitors did not reach the final stage. Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky was many people’s overall favorite going into the tour; he retired from the race after stage 12 in the second week. The same day, another top favorite, last year’s winner Ryder Hesjedal of Team Garmin Sharp, also abandoned the race. Both riders had been losing time and pointed to illness as the reason for their going home.

Di Luca and Georges were dismissed for failed doping controls
Two riders were disqualified from the race as a result of returning positive doping controls—perhaps the ultimate insult to this proud and historied sport. Sylvain Georges of Ag2R and Danilo Di Luca of Vini Fantini-Selle Italia both left the race in disgrace. The 37-year-old Di Luca had been riding surprisingly well until the 18th stage, before the revelation of a positive result for EPO from a test conducted a week before the start of the Giro.

The Killer” had been clinging to the tattered remains of what was once a promising and productive career that included the overall win at the 2007 Giro d’Italia, and eight Giro stage wins total.  He won several important races and Classics in his prime, including the 2001 Giro di Lombardia, 2005 Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone and the 2007 Liege-Bastogne-Liege. His small collection of previous doping offenses, suspected doping offenses, and questionable relationships did little to dissuade him from trying to get away with “enhancing” his performance this year. If Di Luca’s B sample comes up positive, don’t count on seeing “the Killer” competing anymore at the Pro Tour level, or probably any level of professional cycling; he will likely face a lifetime ban.

All things considered the 2013 Tour of Italy was an exciting and hard-fought race. It will be remembered for the snow and the loss of the queen stages, but perhaps more importantly, for the welcomed coronation of another great Italian tour champion.

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