The Moment The Race Was Won: The Giro

Was there a race-winning moment? Vincenzo Nibali used the first week to put himself in the ideal position and took the race lead after the time trial in Saltara. From this point onwards the cast of potential rivals began to shrink and fade.

But if you had to chose one moment to define the 2013 Giro, what better than the one pictured above? It’s Stage 14 and the final climb of the Jafferau above the town of Bardonnechia. Snow forced a late change to the route and the bad weather even blocked the TV coverage. It’s a scene from winter but in a race defined by bad weather, the only concession to the cold from Nibali is toe covers. He attacks and behind the others think of giving chase but only Mauro Santambrogio and Carlos Betancur will be able to follow.

Nibali above all
This was supposed to be a race defined by three time trials and a series of high altitude finishes where time triallists could take time in one field and climbers in another, a battle of science versus art. But Nibali outrode everyone everywhere, taking time against the clock, winning summit finishes and even sprinting for time bonuses.

Not that he breezed it but who could attack him? Rigoberto Uran rode away on the stage to Montasio but partly because everyone was expecting Wiggins to do something and Uran had some room being ninth overall at the time. Cadel Evans hung on and Michele Scarponi surprised in the time trials but wasn’t launching any mountain raids. We expected the Colombians to shine in the mountains but Team Colombia were collectively overshadowed by compatriots Carlos Betancur who came close to a stage win and Uran who becomes the first Colombian on the podium of the Giro.

If there was a “fight for pink” it was Nibali’s aggressive riding, turning defence of the race lead into attack. Each time Nibali was under pressure he didn’t ride tempo, he upped the tempo.

Winter Sport
Did the cold play a role? Perhaps but it was the persistent rain that got to the riders. Many fell ill and in a sport long defined by the manipulation of red blood cells, maybe it was the white blood cells that made a difference? Certainly Nibali seemed immune to attack, whether viral or from rivals. So if some stages were altered to avoid snow and one was scrapped there’s no doubting the result. More mountains would have meant more time gaps between Nibali and the rest although we could have seen more fighting amongst the top-10 and for the white jersey. Plus the red jersey could probably have been out of Cavendish’s reach had Nibali been given another summit finish. In short the snow was there to be endured but it’d probably didn’t change the result.

Sicilian Progress
Nibali’s a complete rider, able to win one day races and grand tours alike. It’s notable how steady his career progression has been. He picked off one day races first, then started delivering quiet results, for example a top-10 in the final time trial of the Giro in 2007, his first ride in the race. Overall wins in the Giro del Trentino and Tirreno-Adriatico, the Vuelta in 2010 along with third place in the Giro and the Tour de France podium last summer. This begs the question of where next? France of course but in 2014. He’s not going to ride the Tour this year but will target the Vuelta with the aim of winning the Worlds in Florence soon after. He’s also the complete package off the bike too, courteous in interviews and available for fans although his tax-exile status in Italy is a sore point.

The other favourite Bradley Wiggins went home ill, as did defending champion Ryder Hesjedal. The Italian media struggled with their pair at times. Wiggins’s multiple personalities – one day the British gent charming the media, the next his shyness and unwillingness to work with journos – earned him a blasting from some although the toughest words there were aimed at his team’s PR skills and not the rider. Meanwhile if Hesjedal rarely has much to say this time he couldn’t let his legs do the talking and left the race unable to explain what was wrong.

Running counter-factual scenarios is theoretical at best. You can end up like a dog chasing its tale but let’s imagine Wiggins had stayed healthy in the race. Two points stand out, first his descending problems could have continued and second he’d have lacked team support with only Rigoberto Uran in the front group in the mountains so surely Nibali would have won too?


Who else impressed? Well first Mauro Vegni, the race director of the Giro. Michele Acquarone might the boss but Vegni – pictured – is the man who decides the route and other technical elements. His mother died at the start of the race and since returning he’s had to alter two stages and cancel another, all this after the wintry Milan-Sanremo too. The whole team at RCS did a good job. It’s hard enough closing down parts of Italy on a normal day.

Was the race too ambitious with its ski-station visits? No and the race will return in 2014. The Giro’s slot on the calendar has been pushed back a week but regardless the weather has been exceptional, topping TV bulletins in Italy and causing trouble for many outside of the Giro bubble, whether seaside hoteliers, city café owners or farmers with rotting crops. By some measures Northern Italy’s had the coldest and wettest spring since 1987, others say since the 19th century. With this it was impressive to see the riders soldier on but antibiotics, infections and soreness in the tendons and ligaments. Sadly for some if the race is finished the illness and injuries are not.

Mark Cavendish of course. Having seen him dropped in the Tour de Romandie I thought the time cut could be a problem during the Giro but he kept getting better as the race went on. Superlatives run out but he’s surely the greatest sprinter of all time and his career is only at the halfway point. Five stages and the red jersey means he’s one of the few riders to have won the points jersey in all grand tours.

Adam Hansen’s stage win was great to see and over at the Rapha website Herbie Sykes pays him a nice tribute, all whilst hoping Hansen won’t ever win again. I also enjoyed Enrico Battaglin’s win in Serra San Bruno. I’d tipped him to win that day and it was all the better to see the bunch catch Danilo di Luca within sight of the finish line, passed by young hope of Italian cycling. Italian cycling is having a tough time and Di Luca reminds us why but the economy is suffering. Many of the best Italians in this race ride for foreign teams, in this race we’ve seen Nibali with Kazakhstan’s Astana, Giovanni Visconti with Movistar and Luca Paolini with Katusha. Once race won’t turn this around but Nibali’s home win will do plenty of good.

Last but not least, Davide Appollonio of Ag2r is the maglia nera, finishing 168th and 4.28.36 down on Nibali.

The Verdict
The 2013 Giro might have lacked a fight where the overall lead kept changing unpredictably right up until the final below the Tre Cime di Lavaredo but that would have required weakness from Nibali. Instead the Italian was simply stronger than the rest but not crushingly so. Watching his progress was satisfying but would you buy the highlights DVD?

The weather played its part in dampening spirits but Mark Cavendish, Movistar and others took full opportunity to shine whilst the Giro itself seems to have grown in stature thanks to RCS’s superior marketing skills and its work in luring the big names. Viva il Giro!

Final Overall Classification
1 Vincenzo NIBALI ITA AST 84:53:28
2 Rigoberto URAN URAN COL SKY +4:43
3 Cadel EVANS AUS BMC +5:52
4 Michele SCARPONI ITA LAM +6:48
5 Carlos Alberto BETANCUR GOMEZ COL ALM +7:28
6 Przemyslaw NIEMIEC POL LAM +7:43
7 Rafal MAJKA POL TST +8:09
10 Domenico POZZOVIVO ITA ALM +10:59
11 Franco PELLIZOTTI ITA AND +11:35
13 Yury TROFIMOV RUS KAT +12:55
14 Tanel KANGERT EST AST +12:57
15 Robert KISERLOVSKI CRO RLT +14:27
16 Sergio Luis HENAO MONTOYA COL SKY +18:19
17 Wilco KELDERMAN NED BLA +20:18
19 Damiano CARUSO ITA CAN +30:56
20 Francis MOUREY FRA FDJ +32:22…
…168 Davide APPOLLONIO ITA ALM +4:28:36

57 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: The Giro”

  1. Has been an average Giro in my opinion. Flourished in parts , soggy in others, complete wash out in some.

    Some of the performances, the constancy of some athletes, still has me doubtful that we are seeing clean riding. I just can’t believe the level of improvement from Nibali (yes I know he WAS very good). Over a year at that level of cycling it’s a big jump in performance and some of his summit finishes – as those around begged for more oxygen he barely opened his mouth to breathe.

    Perhaps i’m being overly cynical…

    • I don’t really see it as Nibali improving so much (well except the obvious TT improvements he spent the winter desperately trying for). I kind of look at this giro as him being the only contender to hit actual form… an aging scarponi still within 7 minutes… cadel coming in last minute and still under 6 minutes. After bradley folded on descents then walked i expected much bigger gaps in the mountains but nibali seemed to just make sure he did enough then stepped off the gas and let people come back to him in time because there was no threat anywhere. Obviously it’s not his fault he can only beat who shows up but it’s got be a bitter victory when it’s that easy.

    • I think cynicism is natural and at least someone justifiable no matter who wins a GT; for years it was impossible to win without doping, so how can we be sure that nobody is now?

      That said, Nibali performed well but this is neither a particularly unusual level of performance for him (he’s won before, has always TT’d decently, and was the only guy to threaten Sky at all last year) nor was he dominating a particularly impressive group of riders. Yeah, he won a summit finish, but it was by 16 seconds. Yeah, he won a climbing TT, but all the guys you would expect him to lose to are sick or saving their horses for July. He was strong, in good form, consistent, and chipped his way up to a big win. Rigo Uran is a nice rider, but do you really expect him to put Nibali into difficulty for three weeks?

      I’m impressed by Nibali, but there’s nothing here that raises my eyebrows.

    • Dave,

      I think you are being lucid. Everyone is willing to heap scorn on the dopers when they are over the hill, out of competition or small fry. Point out that a current winner of a grand tour is probably doping and watch folks get outraged. Why? Because simply put money is at stake, lots and lots of it: current races, tv rights, bike sales and the credibility of cycling are at issue.
      So people lie to themselves and won’t allow questions about how Nibali crushed the competition or how Wiggins became a gt winner after being a track star….
      Nothing has really changed in cycling; I don’t care if Lance Armstrong and Jonathan Vaughters have kissed and made up on twitter: doping is still ongoing at the highest level. Just make sure you don’t tell this to the “journalists” at velonews!

      • I’m willing to believe that cycling is relatively clean nowadays and I don’t think Nibali’s performance suggests otherwise. He may have crushed the competition but look at who that competition was. Standing on the podium in Brescia today he was flanked by a man who began this Giro as a climbing domestique and another who was riding to find his form for the TdF.

        He handled the short and steep (relative to the Tour) climbs of the Giro well… as you would expect. He uphill TTd well… as you would expect. He descended and cornered very well… as you would expect. He was weak on the flat and straight second half of the Saltara TT… as you would expect.

  2. I didn’t see Nibs as dominant. Above the others in the mountain TT but just consistent on the other stages. Uran lost time to pace Wiggo, Evans had frozen gears and Scarponi was up one day and down the next

    • I saw quote from Evans about a mechanical issue on the 2nd last stage but didn’t catch any detail….is this what happened?

  3. Personally I dont doubt Nibali was the strongest individual, perhaps with full health and a full team supporting him Wiggins could have challenged, but in the absence of Contador and Froome I think its not surprising that Nibali was the most all-round talent there.

    Nice to see Evans still playing a part even though he looks a few yards short of the big wins now, he is a great contender and deserves his fine reputation.

    I think all tours grow in the telling and look more impressive with a few years of nostalgia added. I suspect this one will be remembered for some of the most dramatic weather shots since the days of Hinault. Great summary and nice photo’s!

  4. 4:43 ahead and two of the last three stages seems pretty dominant to me. And, with a 3rd in the 2012 TdF, it’s hard to say Nibali was a mediocre rider who suddenly improved.
    Do you really think Nibali will skip the TdF this year to race the Vuelta? He’s at the top of his form and had a relatively easy ride. Here’s his chance to become one of the few men to win all three Grand Tours.

    • It’s insane to think he would go to the tour. The hardest world champs in years in his home country is a chance he can’t pass up. The tour will always be there

  5. Well deserved win for Nibali, he has improved just like all the previous big tour winners in the past. Shame he is not riding the Tour to stir up things up.

    • It’ll be interesting to see who, big names or domestiques, does the Giro-Tour double this year.

      Talking of stirring things up the Dauphiné starts next weekend and we’ll get to see where Alberto Contador is.

  6. Nibali was a class apart, if they had stayed in the race I don’t think Wiggins or Hesjedal would have beaten him. Really pleased for Cav, apparently he is only the fifth rider to have achieved the triple, I would have thought that this fact alone would have put this above a story about some team changes for the Lions tour on the BBC website…

    Thanks for your brilliant coverage Mr/Mrs Ring!

    • As a fan of cycling and rugby (and until yesterday F1!) you are being rather parochial. A Lions tour is one of the biggest things in rugby and gets worldwide coverage. The fact that Hartley achieved a remarkable first and got red carded in the Premiership final and got thrown off the plane as a result is newsworthy in so many ways. Cav did exceptionally well but there is a world outside cycling.

      • Rugby gets world wide coverage… In the Southern Hemisphere France and Uk and Ireland, like cycling only gets coverage in France and Italy… And a negative story above a positive story. Besides UK media will quickly be back to endless pointless stories about football very soon.

    • To be fair, the BBC have given decent coverage to this years Giro, most likely off the back of Wiggins being involved. It would have been easy for them to cut right back once he abandoned but they continued to do their daily live texts and reports. For a hardcore cycling fan, it’s not always the best reading, but I actually think their live text was pretty good.

  7. Maybe I just haven’t been reading, but @inrng has, in this post, declared Mark Cavendish to “surely” be the greatest sprinter ever.

    It’s not that he isn’t, or that we haven’t all whispered it to ourselves at one time or another, but to see it so boldly declared is surprising. It’s rare to say something so categorical before we’ve even had a chance to evaluate his whole career.

    Exciting, too, since we still have years to watch him perform at this impossible level.

  8. I really enjoyed watching this Giro – a shame with the cancelation of what could have been some epic mountain stages during the weekend.
    I find the route design way more interesting than a typical TDF – a shame the top-topboys are not giving this race priority.
    Saturday’s climb in the show was memorable – olé and the new Colombian generations is promising –
    Thanx for the coverage….

  9. Thanks for your daily stage writeups inrng, they helped me into 3rd place at the PdC stage predictor game, mainly with the Battaglin and Uran stage wins.

  10. The Herbie Sykes article was quite philosophical and a good read, though I find him a bit harsh on Paolo Tiralongo even giving the thesis he was presenting.

    Tiralongo certainly had his loyalties. Just so happens that it was towards Contador the individual not to any particular team. It’s probably not very professional as a cyclist payed by one of the top teams but as an individual that’s only normal.

    Meanwhile, I wonder what drives Bernhard Eisel’s decision to remain with Sky whilst Cav moves onto OPQS. I’m not saying that Bernhard should serve Cav his whole career but they are certainly an interesting pair within the peloton whose bonds with each other transcends professional obligations.

  11. The moment the race was won? That may be, but I know when Wiggins *lost* the race. It’s not a “moment,” exactly, but I’m voting for all the times early on in the race where he ended up off his bike, tossed off due to the the intersection of bad luck, bad weather, and lack of skill (at descending in the rain, yes, not something of which Sky could say “we trained for that”). Falling off a bike, repeatedly, takes it out of you and brings your condition down a notch. Kind of like Contador at the beginning of the tour a few years ago (2011, the Evans tour)… he ate s#$t over and over again and wasn’t the racer we expected to show up after that beating.

    Notably, Nibali stayed upright. And grew in confidence. And attacked. Chapeau… staying on the bike is part of racing.

    • Er, Wiggins fell off once, Nibali twice. Although its true that Wiggins’ fall seemed to have a much greater impact on both his physical and mental condition.

  12. Cav proved one thing. He’s the greatest wheelsucker in the history of the sport. Yawn…
    The revelation of the race for me was the diminutive Francis Mourey in 20th. Chapeau.

    • I don’t really understand all this talk about wheelsuckers. Of course sprinters can’t do it all on their own, but neither can GC guys like Nibali. But we’re fortunate enough to be witnessing an extremely special talent who, while very one dimensional, has that one dimension down to a tee. And that’s exciting. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      • I’ve been following this sport for 45 years. The way in which the specialists “specialize” in their type of racing has gone to the point of ridiculous. Maertens, Guimard and even Van Looy weren’t afraid to take a pull or launch an attack. And there are those comparing Cav with the best. It’s ludicrous.

    • Mourey did very well, his coach said it was a cyclocross effort everyday: sit on the wheels all day and then do the last hour at full speed.

      As for wheelsucking in the sprints, surely that’s the point! You “only” need to pop out with 50 metres to go but the ability to do this, whether positioning, speed or timing makes it so difficult.

  13. Thanks for your great coverage of the Giro from route reveal, to the daily previews, to the “Moment the Race was Won”. Only thing I would add to your wrap-up would be a Chapeau to Team Movistar. Four stage victories, winning the Super Team classification, and seemingly every day mixing it up in the final kilometers of the stage. But even more, a nod to Giovanni Visconti for his 2 stages victories, second places in the Mountain, Sprint, and Most Combative competitions , third in Azzuri d’Italia competition, and fifth in Points battle. Not a bad 3 weeks of work for a whole team let alone a single rider.

  14. Being an Euskaltel fan, my heart broke for Samu on the mountain time trial. I thought he had that stage won for sure, but Nibali was not to be denied. He was unstoppable in this race and I don’t think anyone had a chance against him. It was pretty cool to see Uran and Bentacur tear the mountains up.

    I do have to admit that when I saw Nibali tear past everyone and win Stage 20, I was thinking “dope” the whole time. I was also confused about why he did it considering all he had to do was stay with his teammates so they could escort him to the finish line. I’ll just assume everything is fine until I hear otherwise. For now, Zorionak Nibali!

    • That’s his defense against the Colombians, by going on the offense. The 3 other climbers were quite strong, finishing close together. Also, he wanted to win a nonTT stage; the fans and the Italian press were demanding it, and it’s expected that a GT winner wins a mountain stage.

  15. There are not often great pictures of the bigger peloton, the one in front of the tunnel in the pouring rain is outstanding. Nothing left to add.

  16. @Inrng thanks for the great coverage. For me the winning moment for Nibali was in Altopiano del Montasio: Nibali drops his chain and is distanced by about 30 meters by Evans, he calmly stops pedaling momentarily, stoops down fixes his chain then gives a little dig and catches up and blows past Evans without breaking sweat.

    @ Rayan
    Euskatel team has a Greek rider Ioannis Tamouridis who in his first appearance in a Grand Tour managed to finish very respectably. This is a first for Greek cycling, I cannot help but feel proud!

  17. Chapeau Inrng! Excellent coverage and insights. For me, one of the highlights of the race was Evans’ performance given his age and relatively lack of preparation. I was wondering why he did not make the cut in your Bravo list.

  18. And what about the bad weather and the electronic shifting????

    Never have I seen so many malfunction/mechanical… Sorry, but I am not buying into that electronic revolution just yet.

    You can have the latest, the lightest, but you actually have to cross the finish line first.

  19. This race certainly did nothing to make me change my opinion of expensive and possibly unreliable technological “improvement”. With so many failures I wonder if the aura of coolness with this stuff is in danger of fading? Now one can say about mechanical stuff, “if it’s good enough for Nibali (Wiggins and who else?) it’s good enough for me!” Bicycles are not commercial airliners, cables control things pretty darn well, just as they did on the Wright Bros flyer all those years ago.

  20. I truly would love to see any of these Cav “critics” try to wheelsuck ANY wheel at 50+ kph for 5 hours and still sprint (and win) in the end. Oh, so easy no?!?!

    • None of us can ride like any of these guys. And no one said it was easy. But in the context of their peers, historical and current, Cav’s a boring cyclist. No panache.

      • Much as I consider pure sprinters inferior riders who should never be world champions and who can never compare with other more complete riders or with climbers, I must admit Cav’s developed as much “panache” as can be demanded from a pure sprinter. His win in Cherasco this year was damn impressive, and so was his solo win in Brive in last year’s TdF. I think he’s making progress and that the second half of his career will be more interesting than very successful first.
        As for being the first ever, I rate sprinters not so much for their effectiveness in sprinting (although this certainly counts) as for what they can do besides, that is, how many races are they able to contest and use their sprinting advantage. Cav is unbeatable in effectiveness (first criterium), and improving his all-round presence (second one). He certainly beats Cipollini the unbearable or Van Poppel in the first segment, but he’s obviously far from a Van Looy, a Maertens or a Freire in the second segment. But he’s not a heavy rider, and he’s got GUTS, so he will certainly make it to become a more complete rider.

  21. I remember the Lion King who used to need no team and lead his own sprint out under the red kite and always won. He was a fab climber too!……… oh sorry folks my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Cav critics you know NOTHING.

  22. Cavendish no panache!

    Ha! Comming back the next day after his lead-out man got thrown out (Mark Renshaw)
    Winning the Champs-Élysée a full bus lenght ahead of the field
    Finishing Milan-San Remo in the rain, after a solide crash in the first 200km
    Winning MSR on his own, à la Oscar Freire
    Leading his team and giving everything at every TTT
    The guy was an ugly teenager on a bad slide who insisted to get a picture with David Millar and he now races better than him AND has not yet been seen with Ferrari, Conconi or other idiots.

    Not a fan of Cavendish, or any sprinter by a far stretch, but I can objectively observe the facts. The man has delivered and did so with impressive panache.

  23. It is pretty clear that, in the context of these critics, “no panache” is code for “not being the rider I root for.”

    Cav has won everything there is for a sprinter to win. He has won sprints with leadout trains, and sprints where he has no leadout at all. He has won with teams dedicated to his victories and with teams providing zero support. He has won from in front, coming from behind, and erasing massive gaps in the course of 100 meters. He has won twisty finishes and long straights. He has won on flats and on modest grades.

    He has won points jerseys in all three Grand Tours. He has won at Milan-San Remo, Champs-Elysee, and the World Championships. He has accomplished everything that a sprinter can accomplish, and he is the dominant sprinter of our time. Few cyclists in any specialty have been as consistent or successful in their field as Cav. He is an all-time great.

    • Absolutely perfectly stated.
      I am not particularly a fan, but the guy has completely dominated his specialty in recent years.

  24. I was sorry to see Wiggins and Hesjedal go out so early due to illness, more competition for the top spot would have been nice. But Nibali won it convincingly, I doubt any of them would have been able to keep up with him.
    Cavendish is just amazing as a sprinter, raw speed and tactical brilliance. I dislike the calculated way sprint finishes come about, but once it’s down to a bunch sprint it’s unbelievable how hard it is to beat Cav.
    Re: the mechanical failures, I was wondering if it wasn’t more the move to 11 speed this year than the electronics causing more failures.

  25. Happy to see Nibali win!

    Some say the Giro was marred by bad weather and does not represent what cycling should be or a legitimate battle. Well, I say quite the contrary: cycling is a tough sport and this year the toughest won. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I found it epic.
    It was a war of attrition. Cycling is not a sun-only competition for BradleyWigginses!

    These guys that made it through the end are a really tough lot and I am really impressed by this. Well done. Inspiring.

    And, finally, as always, picking on anecdotal things, I did enjoy Nibali’s classy manners: no garish pink bike for the whole ride. The other pros should by inspired by this. There’s too much tacky in cycling.

    Classy Nibali all the way: the manners, the discourses, the relation with the journalistes, and the bike!

    • I just did. And you got this right! What an exciting finish. He makes it look as if he was the only one trying to catch the two (I think they were three seconds before the 1 minute scene I got) detached riders. He is just jumping like a rabbit with a F1 engine in his butt. Everyone seems to have conceded defeat behind.

    • Spot on, I remember watching that and getting a shiver down my spine when Cav exploded out from behind the breakaway riders and blew them away. It was hard not to feel a little sorry for Nico Roche and L-L Sanchez, even the top sprinters couldn’t live with that kind of explosive pace.

      Was really pleased to see him complete the grand slam of GT points jersey’s the other day, was nervous all day waiting for the final stage and still expected something to go wrong. I feel that some critics think he is just plonked onto finish lines to complete these wins, but getting over the mountains in GT’s is no mean feat, never mind sprinting at full pelt at the end of a 3 week tour.

  26. Hey, great coverage of the race man!
    Really enjoy reading your words. Brings clarity.
    And I really like the essence of it all: how you determine where
    the race was one specifically speaking…
    great suff

Comments are closed.