Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali secured his second Giro d’Italia triumph on Sunday after topping a dramatic 99th edition that saw key rival Steven Kruijswijk agonisingly crash during the final stages.
Germany’s Nikias Arndt, of the Giant team, celebrated winning the final stage into Turin although it came only after Giacomo Nizzolo, of the Trek team, was stripped of the victory by race judges who ruled the Italian had hampered other riders by deviating from his sprint line.
Nibali, who won the race for the first time in 2013, becomes the 69th Italian in 99 editions to win the race for the pink jersey and celebrated by riding into Turin on a metallic-pink bike surrounded by his Astana teammates.
“It’s an amazing feeling to ride into Turin with all my teammates like this,” said Nibali. “It’s really indescribable.”
Nibali finished the race with a 52 second lead on Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica), with Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) completing the podium at 1 minute 17 seconds behind on his maiden participation at 36 years old.
“It’s a great race, and the public were brilliant,” said Valverde, who won the Tour of Spain in 2009, but failed several times to win the Tour de France.
“To finish on the podium for my first participation is a huge honour for me.”
Kruijswijk, for whom this edition is likely to be unforgettable, finished in fourth place overall and has plenty of reason for regret.
He held a huge lead of 4min 43sec on Nibali going into the final mountain stages on Friday and Saturday, and was on course to make history by becoming the first Dutchman to win the race’s fabled pink jersey.
But when the Lotto team leader crashed into a snowbank on the descent of the Col d’Agnello – whose summit sits on the French/Italian border – on Friday, it was enough to awaken Nibali from his slumber.
Nibali, known as “Lo Squalo” (The Shark), seized on the setback and rose up from the depths to grab the race by the scruff of the neck.
With an overnight deficit of nearly five minutes, Nibali raced to the stage win in Risoul – the same place where he won a stage on his way to Tour de France glory in 2014 – to leave Kruijswijk bloodied, battered and virtually out of contention at over 20secs behind him.
It left Chaves with the pink jersey, but Nibali was only 44sec behind and put his team to work on the final day in the mountains on Saturday.
He finished sixth on the final stage in the mountains, but far enough ahead of a tiring Chaves to seize the race lead, and the pink jersey, on Saturday night.
Sunday’s final stage – a 134km ride from Cuneo – was set aside for a sprint finish on the damp roads of Turin. But, in keeping with the drama of the past few days, it finished in controversy. In his desperation for a maiden Giro stage win, Nizzolo deviated from his line as he began his final dash on a damp, uphill section of road leading to the finish.
His questionable manoeuvre – sprinters are supposed to keep their line – ended the hopes of Sacha Modolo as the Lampre rider fought to get up inside the barriers, and his angry hand gesture was testament to his frustration.