Nibali’s shark attacks net second Giro GC win
SANT’ANNA DI VINADIO, Italy (VN) — They call him “The Shark,” and it was his attacks that won Vincenzo Nibali the Giro d’Italia on Saturday. Astana’s Italian captain went deep not just once, but three times to distance overnight leader Esteban Chaves (Orica – GreenEdge). It worked, and Nibali rode away with a gap over the Colombian of 1:36, enough to take over the pink jersey and seal the overall title with the race finishing Sunday in Torino.
Nibali surged on the Colle della Lombarda climb dividing France and Italy. Chaves and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) withstood the first attack, but could not do much when Nibali went again. He turned over his shoulder, controlled, and went again with teammate Tanel Kangert, who dropped back from the early escape. When Nibali crossed the pass into Italy, after the Giro’s overnight stay in France, he already appeared to be the 99th Giro d’Italia victor.
He seized the race lead after the descent and the final 2.35-kilometer climb up Sant’Anna di Vinadio. Only a flat stage into Torino remains tomorrow for Nibali.
“Those last five kilometers of Lombarda were so difficult,” the 31-year-old Sicilian said. “I never looked back to see how my rivals were going. Given yesterday, I had a lot of faith.”
Barring a catastrophe on what should be a processional final stage, Nibali will become a four-time grand tour winner in Torino on Sunday. He has already won the 2010 Vuelta a España, the 2013 Giro d’Italia, and the 2014 Tour de France.
The 2016 Giro never looked certain until a miraculous turnaround this weekend in the Alps.
Nibali lost time three days in a row win the race went through the Dolomites and the eastern Alps. First, it was 43 seconds in Corvara and then 2:10 in a mountain time trial. After the Giro’s rest day, he lost again on the Andalo climb Tuesday. It appeared over for Nibali.
However, he rebounded just as Astana teammate Fabio Aru did to claim second overall in the 2015 Giro.
Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo) crashed in the pink jersey racing into France on Friday and opened the door for Chaves and Nibali. Nibali quickly refound his “Shark” self, attacking and dropping Chaves to the finish in Risoul. He distanced him by 53 seconds Saturday and Sunday he more than made up the needed 44 seconds to take over the race lead.
“I was always informed of Chaves’ time gaps. I kept pushing as deep as I could,” Nibali said. “I didn’t know I had the pink jersey until the finish. I heard the speaker announcing the seconds, counting back to Chaves. I heard the numbers go up, and I knew I had the pink jersey.”