Vincenzo Nibali celebrates on the podium after winning the Giro d’Italia Tour of Italy cycling race, in Turin, Italy, Sunday, May 29. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP Photo)
Turin, Italy (AP) — Riding a completely pink bicycle and patting his teammates, home favorite Vincenzo Nibali clinched a second Giro d’Italia victory and a fourth Grand Tour title on Sunday but Giacomo Nizzolo’s hopes of a first stage win were again dashed as he was disqualified.
Nibali’s chances of repeating his 2013 feat seemed impossible on Friday — as he started the stage nearly five minutes behind leader Steven Kruijswijk — before a dramatic two days in the 99th edition of the Italian classic saw the Astana cyclist surge into the lead, helped by the Dutch rider’s crash into a snowbank.
“It’s been an extremely difficult Giro but there is great joy now,” Nibali said. “It was a beautiful emotion for the whole route, then coming into this circuit, with this enormous crazy crowd … I’m speechless.
“The hardest day was the time trial, it didn’t go as I wanted, the feelings weren’t great, I wasn’t going well, I had a few stomach problems, then had a bit of a down moment, But in the last week I started to feel better and now I’m at the top of the GC. To be here today with all my family is amazing.”
Sunday’s final leg, a flat 163-kilometer (101-mile) route from Cuneo to Turin, should have been mostly a coronation procession but it was also not short of drama — although this time not in the overall standings.
With several crashes and the rain falling heavily, the race was neutralized and Nibali knew he just had to finish safely to secure the pink jersey.
And a few meters short of the finish line, he acknowledged his achievement, patting his teammates on the back and bumping fists with them before sitting up in his saddle, pulling down the jersey to show it off fully and then lifting his arms into the air.
Nibali finished with a total time of 86 hours, 32 minutes and 49 seconds, 52 seconds ahead of Esteban Chaves.
Alejandro Valverde was third, 1.17 behind Nibali, with Kruijswijk finishing outside the podium, nearly two minutes off the pace.
It appeared to be a double celebration for Italy as Nizzolo, so often the Giro’s nearly man, sprinted to victory but he was declassified after the race jury reviewed the sprint and judged he had veered into the line of Sacha Modolo, impeding his compatriot.
The win was awarded to Nikias Arndt with Matteo Trentin second and Modolo third.
“This is not the way I would have wanted to win a stage at the Giro,” Arndt said. “I wish I had won one before today. I’ve been hunting a win for three weeks. But the jury has made its decision and there’s nothing we, as riders, can do about it. I’m happy that I have a Giro stage win under my belt. I did a good sprint today anyway.”
Nizzolo has finished second nine times at the Giro, and third a further four times.
“Today I had crowned a dream to win a stage and instead that dream has been transformed into a nightmare,” Nizzolo said. “I have to accept the jury’s decision even if in my opinion it is an unjust one.
“Tonight I will go home not happy but with the knowledge that I have won because I’m worth a Giro stage. Modolo wasn’t even second and wasn’t even half a bike length behind.”
His Trek-Segafredo team posted a series of tweets, culminating with: “In our hearts we know who was the fastest in stage 21 at the 2016 #Giro.”