1) Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Astana) 86:32:49: Although racing fans lamented the maglia rosa fates of Esteban Chaves and Steven Kruijswijk in the 99th Giro d’Italia, the incredible resurrection of Vincenzo Nibali revealed that racing is anything but predictable.
Before Stage 19, Nibali’s Giro was a disaster. The favourite was adrift of the podium due to three consecutive lousy days, losing 37-seconds on the stage to Corvara, almost two minutes in the mountain time trail and then 1:47 going to Andalo. After Andalo he couldn’t talk to the press he was so distraught. Astana conducted tests to find out why he was underpowered, but the squad knew he was ill.
At 4:23 behind Kruijswijk on Friday, he was down and out. Except he wasn’t. The Shark of Messina’s dominant performances on Stages 19 and 20 turned around the losses of Stages 14 to 16 and are now the stuff of legend. His second pink jersey and fourth Grand Tour triumph is his greatest career accomplishment.
2) Esteban Chaves (Colombia/Orica-GreenEdge) +0:52: It’s impossible not to like the cheerful Chaves, and it’ll soon be impossible not to consider the Colombian as a Grand Tour favourite after this runner-up spot and last season’s fifth in the Vuelta a España. Like Nibali during the mountain time trial, and Kruijswijk after his crash, Chaves wasn’t at his best over the last two mountain stages.
If he doesn’t win a Grand Tour in his career, I’ll eat my casquette.
3) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +1:17: The Podium King was at it again. First, he smelled blood when Nibali was weak, pulling the Italian off the third step in the mountain time trial. Then, knocked back off the podium after Stage 19, he set his sights on Kruijswijk the next day, successfully putting the Dutchman 33-seconds behind him.
He added a win on Stage 16 to his three Tour triumphs and ten Vuelta victories.
Valverde’s first ever Giro d’Italia ended with his eighth trip to the podium, something he has in common with Nibali.
Will Valverde have anything left to help Nairo Quintana in the Tour de France, or even make another podium bid?
4) Steven Kruijswijk (The Netherlands/LottoNL-Jumbo) +1:50: The Dutchman personifies the Heartbreak of the 2016 Giro. Kruijswijk, whose best Grand Tour up until this season was 7th in last year’s Giro, didn’t put a foot wrong until the first kilometer of the descent of Colle dell’Agnello, where the snowbank crash scuppered his chances.
As with Chaves’ last day disappointment, Kruijswijk’s crash spoiled cycling’s chance to see a contender instead of a favourite win a Grand Tour. There hasn’t been an “outside winner” since Chris Horner in the 2013 Vuelta. The last Giro title to go to a contender but not a favourite was when Ryder Hesjedal won four seasons ago.
It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the Vuelta.
6) Bob Jungels (Luxembourg/Etixx-QuickStep) +8:31: What a coup for Etixx to get Jungels from Trek. Jungels wore pink for three days and was very consistent throughout the race. The 23-year-old is on a roll, having come third in March’s Tirreno–Adriatico. He now will be considered a Grand Tour contender, though not a favourite quite yet. I expect to see him win a WorldTour stage race soon. Next stop: the Tour de France.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 29, 2016
7) Rigoberto Uran (Colombia/Cannondale) +11:47: Rigo had hopes of improving on his two runner-up spots of ’13 and ’14, but had to bravely fight back from bronchitis. Uran battled his way into the top-10 on three occasions. He might be best remembered for working for his friend Chaves on Stage 20.
8) Andrey Amador (Costa Rica/Movistar) +13:21: Amador became the first Costa Rican to wear the pink jersey and then immediately lost it. He was faster than Tom Dumoulin in the long time trial. After coming fourth last season, Amador certainly has established himself as a Grand Tour contender, but not a favourite. Like Jungels, I think he’s good for a WorldTour stage race win at some point.
9) Darwin Atapuma (Colombia/BMC) +14:09: Atapuma was very active and visible in this race, and through his strong 2nd to Taaramae on Stage 20 after a heartbreaking 3rd on Stage 10 in Sestola, he assured BMC of its fourth straight Giro top-10. He also gave Colombia three riders in the top-10. The Puma’s performance was his best Grand Tour.
10) Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus/Dimension Data) +16:20: The Silent Assassin of this Giro, he was barely visible except in a breakaway early in the race. Always in the first selection but not the second, the three-time Giro stage winner ties his best Grand Tour result, matching his 10th in the 2011 Giro.
Pink jersey: Nibali
Red points jersey: Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy/Trek-Segafredo): As much as the 99th Giro was one about Nibali’s dal buio al trionfo—from the dark to victory—it was also one that had abject disappointment as a central theme. Illness, injury, saddle sores, crashes and meltdowns all featured in the race.
I’ll never forget the look on Nizzolo’s face in Torino when he accepted his trophy for winning the points competition about an hour after the finish and a half hour after he had his first Giro victory taken away by the race jury for straying off his sprint line.
For the second year in a row, he took the red jersey without a win. After two runner-up spots, two thirds and a fourth in the bunch sprints, the relegation to 12th was a cruel blow, and the trophy seemed like little consolation and more like something to throw.
— steve @ steephill tv (@steephill) May 29, 2016
Blue mountains jersey: Mikel Nieve (Spain/Sky): Nieve did a fantastic job of assuming the role of Plan C for Sky after Mikel Landa and Elia Viviani went home. He took a stage, came runner-up to Nibali on Stage 19 and nicked the KOM from Damiano Cunego (Italy/Nippo-Vini Fantini).
It was a bloodless capitulation from the Little Prince, who hasn’t had a good decade. Not getting into the breakaways on the final two mountain stages, when his closest rivals did, ensured that he lost the opportunity to have six of the last ten mountain titles go to wild card teams.
White young rider jersey: Jungels
Team: Astana: Jakob Fuglsang was in second place on GC for two stages before he had a difficult day, finally finishing in 13th, his third best Grand Tour result. But it was the amazing Michele Scarponi, 2011 winner and three-time fourth place finisher, who was Nibali’s saviour. The Shark owes a lot to the Parrot, who came in 16th. Tanel Kangert and Andrey Zeits were also integral in bossing the front of the peloton.
Cannondale will be pleased to come runner-up, with Uran, Portuguese rider André Cardoso and Italian Davide Formolo in the top-31.
Movistar was third, not surprising for a squad with three riders in the top-13. A surprise in fourth was French squad AG2R, with three in the top-20, its highest placing 11th spot Hubert Dupont, a man who rode even more in the shadows than 10th place Siutsou.
The Canadians: The illness that forced Ryder Hesjedal to climb off the bike on Stage 14 was the main story for the Canadians, but Hugo Houle’s 72nd was a considerable improvement on last season’s 113th.
The AG2R rider’s best day was the mountain stage to Risoul, where he was 28th, bumping him up 15 places on GC.
Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) supported both Caleb Ewan’s sprint campaign and Chaves’ bid for pink glory, and as ever the hardman toiled selflessly. His 144th spot is his third best Grand Tour result out of the eight that he has finished.