Vincenzo Nibali rode the race of his life in the final two mountain stages to win the 2016 Giro d’Italia and cement his place among cycling’s great riders with four grand tour victories.

Nibali battled illness and mechanical problems during the first two weeks of the Giro but came right in time for the final two decisive mountain stages to put pressure on race leader Steven Kruijswijk who crashed out of the lead and then overtake Esteban Chaves for the maglia rosa on the penultimate stage.

If Vincenzo Nibali’s 2013 Giro d’Italia win was text book this one was anything but as things started going badly for Nibali during the Monti Pallidi queen stage dropping time to Chaves and Kruijswijk before things really fell apart on the stage 15 Alpe di Siusi time trial where Nibali lost over two minutes due to mechanical problems and sickness leaving him 2 minutes 51 seconds behind new race leader Steven Kruijswijk.

Stage 16 was another disaster for Nibali dropping time again to stage winner Alejandro Valverde, Kruijswijk and Chaves leaving him 4 minutes 43 seconds off the race lead leading into the final two mountain stages in two days time after the easier stages 17 and 18.

The climb of the Agnello was the Cima Coppi of this years race and Nibali sensed Kruijswijk was in trouble in the final kilometres of the 2,744 mountain as he attacked. Nibali forced the pace on the descent and Kruijswijk came unstuck crashing into a snow bank damaging his bike and his ribs.

“The descent is a place to attack for me, just like a climb. If I hadn’t put him under pressure on the descent, nothing would have happened and maybe Chaves would have tried something on Risoul. But at the top of the Agnello, I realised I could turn it all around.” – Vincenzo Nibali

Nibali went on to win the stage by 53 seconds from Chaves after attacking on the final climb and while Esteban Chaves moved into the maglia rosa it was Nibali in second place at 44 seconds that was the race favourite if he repeated his attack on the penultimate climb of the Giro d’Italia.

The penultimate stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia featured three category 1 climbs before finishing on the category 3 Sant’Anna di Vinadio climb after 134km. Orica-GreenEdge were content to let the break blow out to 10 minutes on the Col de Vars while Valverde, who was was chasing a podium spot, and Nibali were content to wait. The leaders all stayed together on the 2,715m Col de la Bonette before descending to the start of the Colle della Lombarda where Astana started setting things up for Nibali to attack, and attack he did. Nibali opened a significant gap on Esteban Chaves over the remainder of the climb moving into the virtual lead of the race and then extended his lead on the descent.

The final climb to Sant’Anna di Vinadio crowned one of the greatest Giro comebacks as Vincenzo Nibali crossed the line to win the maglia rosa by 52 seconds from Esteban Chaves with Alejandro Valverde putting enough time into Steven Kruijswijk to take third place in his first Giro d’Italia.

Esteban Chaves rode a brilliant race and his time will come to win a Grand Tour, the 26 year old Colombian was fifth at last years Vuelta a España and now has a runner up podium position to take away from the Giro. I’m not sure if Chaves is racing the Tour de France or not but I would think if he rested instead and then rode the Vuelta he would be a favourite to win.

Vincenzo Nibali now joins Roberto Heras and Tony Rominger on four grand tour wins but Nibali has wins in all three grand tours whereas Heras won his four all at the Vuelta and Rominger did not win the Tour de France. Nibali also had four other grand tour podium places, three other top ten results and in fifteen grand tours has never finished outside the top 20. At 31 years old another grand tour win for Nibali wouldn’t be unexpected but his attention turns now to assisting Fabio Aru at the Tour de France and then winning an Olympic gold medal.

Vincenzo Nibali crossing the finish at Sant’Anna di Vinadio
Vincenzo Nibali crossing the finish at Sant’Anna di Vinadio
2016 Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali and the Astana team
2016 Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali and the Astana team

Results: Final General Classification of the 2016 Giro d’Italia

PlaceRider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team86:32:49
2Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge0:00:52
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:17
4Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:01:50
5Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team0:04:37
6Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx – Quick-Step0:08:31
7Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling0:11:47
8Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team0:13:21
9Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC Racing Team0:14:09
10Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data0:16:20
11Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:24:33
12Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team0:24:59
13Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team0:31:38
14Andre Cardoso (Por) Cannondale Pro Cycling0:34:12
15Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:34:34
16Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:38:09
17Sebastian Henao (Col) Team Sky
18Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:41:00
19Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:43:49
20Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:51:49

Race report – TBL – The Bike Lane

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