300 metres past the finish line, Valerio Agnoli pulled over to the side of the road and wept openly. Last winter, the Roman had joined Vincenzo Nibali in making the switch from Liquigas to Astana, and after his master had put the final seal on his Giro d'Italia victory by winning in the snow at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the emotion of the occasion proved too much for Agnoli.
"I'm just so happy for Vincenzo. I'm ultra-happy for Vincenzo and he really deserved this victory," Agnoli said, wiping his eyes with his sodden gloves.
A television crew drew closer and excitedly asked Agnoli if his tears were caused by suffering through the frigid temperatures and swirling snow that had greeted the peloton on the final climb of the Giro. "No, these are tears of emotion. I'm happy for Vincenzo e basta," Agnoli said, his voice wavering.
Hyperbole is rarely lacking in moments such as these, and another reporter looked to compare Nibali's solo victory on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo with Eddy Merckx's famous impresa on the climb – also in the snow – in 1968. With three kilometres to go, Nibali had pressed his way clear of Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and pedalled, at least as far as sections of the home media were concerned, into an almost archangelic realm.
"Dai, Vincenzo is unpredictable and there are no words to describe him," Agnoli said. "I think that Astana has shown great character in this Giro from the very first stages and I think this victory is one for the team too."
Agnoli has been Nibali's uomo di fiducia since he joined Liquigas in 2008, and was particularly prominent during the Giro's testing opening week in southern Italy when many of the rest of the Astana squad seemed to be...
Dumoulin set for second overall and young rider classification
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) heads into Sunday's fifth and final stage of the Tour of Belgium with a 40 second lead over Tom Dumoulin (Argos - Shimano). Should the Belgian win, it will be his second overall victory of the season having won the Volta ao Algarve in February.
Martin's team led the chase for the seven-man breakaway from which stage winner Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) emerged solo in the final kilometre.
"My teammates really had to work hard," Martin said after keeping the red leader's jersey which he's worn since taking out the individual time trial on Stage 3. "There was a break in front of seven guys and we really had to work hard to get them back. I really have to thank the team. They did incredible work today. The final was harder than I expected. We had three small climbs in the final lap, and with having to bring the small group back the team was really at the limit. Tomorrow will be tough again, as teams will try to go on the attack in the final stage. But we will do our best just like we did today."
Dumoulin will be satisfied if he can defend his second overall, which should guarantee victory in the young rider classification, in which he holds a 34 second advantage over Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha).
The Dutchman's teammate Reinardt Janse van Rensburg sprinted to seventh place on Stage 4.
"It was our goal today to consolidate our GC standing with Tom Dumoulin and to get a good result with Reinardt at the finish," said Aike Visbeek. "The boys did a solid race on the hard course and worked to get the break back and to get Reinardt in a good position at the finish. He made it to the top 10 despite being boxed in, so they've done a good job."
After several years of coming close to reaping the spoils of success at the US professional road race championship, Ted King is zeroed-in on the this year's Memorial Day race in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The 30-year-old Cannondale rider helped launch friend and former teammate Timmy Duggan into the stars-and-stripes jersey last year after making it onto the podium himself in 2011, and now King's got his own red-white-and-blue ambitions.
“I'm in it to win it. Period,” he told Cyclingnews on Friday. “That's my goal. Third place was nice. I imagine being in second place would be nice, but the person on the top step is the only person who's really, truly leaving the race happy.”
All King has to do is overcome 87 other guys who want to do exactly the same thing. The Cannondale rider will be without teammates on the brand-new 165km route in a field that will have multiple Continental and Pro Continental teams packing a full punch. The odds can be daunting, but the 6-foot-2-inch WorldTour domestique from Brentwood, New Hampshire, may have history on his side.
No rider outside of a WorldTour team has won the championship since Chris Wherry did it while riding for HealthNet-Maxxis in 2005. Although the trend has recently been changing, US-based WorldTour riders have dominated the podiums since foreigners were prohibited from the championship in 2006.
King will be one of only eight WorldTour riders contesting the championship on Monday. He'll join Duggan (Saxo-Tinkoff), Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Leopard), Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and Garmin-Sharp's four-man squad of Tyler Farrar, Caleb Fairly, Alex Howes and Jacob Rathe. Those riders will face full squads from UCI Pro Continental team UnitedHealthcare and nearly all of the US domestic Continental teams.
The cancellation of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia meant that Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) had already sealed the mountains classification by the time the race tackled its final climbs on Saturday, but as has been the case throughout the race, the Italian was still on the offensive as soon as the road went uphill.
Although Pirazzi held an unassailable 34-point lead over Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) coming into the stage, he opted to show off his blue jersey by attacking out of the maglia rosa group on the penultimate climb of the Passo Tre Croci and picking up the points for third place behind the early break.
"It was only right that I honoured this jersey on the last stage, so I think I did well to go on the attack and show that my condition was still good and that I deserved this jersey even though they cut the stage on Friday," Pirazzi told Cyclingnews.
As well as the elimination of stage 19 and the climbs of the Gavia, Stelvio and Val Martello, the extreme weather at this Giro also saw Sestriere removed from stage 14 and the climbs of the Passo Costalunga, Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Giau cut from stage 20. Pirazzi insisted that their absence took nothing away from his achievement.
"No, certainly not because if they'd left the route as it was supposed to be, I would have attacked on the Gavia anyway, and I think I still would have brought this jersey to Brescia," he said.
Pirazzi's aggression has been a feature of this Giro – along with the "Tutti Pazzi per Pirazzi" banners feting the Lazio native on the roadside – but his instincts were out of kilter with those of much of the rest of the peloton on stage 15.
In frigid conditions on the Mont Cenis, a go-slow...
Understandably, perhaps, given that a mechanical problem left him over-geared on the steep final ramps of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Saturday, Cadel Evans’ first act on emerging from the BMC bus ahead of the final stage of the Giro d’Italia was to check his bike thoroughly.
Evans lost second place overall to Rigoberto Uran (Sky) in the snowbound finale of stage 20 and his frustration with his equipment malfunction was palpable at the finish, as he investigated the damage and then shut himself in a BMC team car rather than speak to the press.
Twenty-four hours later, and with that initial disappointed digested, Evans was keen to look at his Giro from a different perspective and focus on the bigger picture. The Australian’s decision to enter the race was a late one, and given that his stated aim was to build towards the Tour de France, his place on the final podium in Brescia exceeded expectations.
“I came here, like I said from the first day, to recover the days of racing that I lost last year because of the illness and so on and get back to my best and yesterday I was really coming back close to that,” Evans said. “If you look at things in terms of the objective I set out to do here, it was actually really successful. Of course I would have preferred to have been second than third but to be on the podium in what was really in some ways a training ride – well, that’s something.”
When the race began in Naples, Evans was widely viewed as being among the second tier of contenders, a step behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). While Nibali ultimately proved untouchable, Evans’ robust challenge outlasted that of both Wiggins and Hesjedal, who abandoned in the second week.
Manxman joins elite club of Grand Tour points jersey winners
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma QuickStep) completed a perfect Giro d'Italia and became only the fifth rider in history to win the points competition in all three Grand Tours with yet another perfectly executed sprint in Brescia.
The Cannondale team and Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole) tired to take on the Manxman in the final kilometre but he let the Cannondale riders burn themselves out and then accelerated to win from the front.
Modolo could only follow in his slipstream to take second, with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) third.
Cavendish scored 25 points for his win. He had already picked up enough points in intermediate sprints to retake the lead in the competition and so won with a total of 158 points, 30 more than Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
"I'm so happy to have won. I tried to win the red jersey last year but missed it by a point. This time I got it. It's always difficult to win the red jersey but we got the stages we wanted and the jersey we wanted," he said, again happy to share his success with his teammates.
"The team did an incredible job, I couldn't have done it without them. Every stage we contested, we won. They helped me in the sprints and in the mountains, they were always there to help me. It's difficult not to win with this team.
Cavendish joined Eddy Merckx, Laurent Jalabert, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Alessandro Petacchi as the only riders to win the points jersey in all three Grand Tours.
"The Giro points jersey is the most difficult to win for the simple fact that there are less sprint stages and more uphill finishes," he said.
"Last year I went full gas for three weeks and lost for one point. There's nothing you can do about it, at the Giro the points classification is more suited to climbers."
Of his five stage wins at this year's Giro d'Italia,...
"I thought there was a chance I could get on the podium," said Busche about the time trial. "I think I was pretty close, but I knew Zirbel was the favorite, and I knew Brent would be in there probably for second or first, and then a tight race for third, and I just came up a tiny bit short there." Busche finished in seventh place 12 seconds down from third place finisher Nathan Brown.
Busche will be racing Monday's road race without any teammate, like several European riders in both the men's and women's races. But several riders with few or no teammates, like Timmy Duggan (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) last year, have managed to win the championships in the past, thanks to courses that favored power over tactics.
Busche will have to survive attacks from one of the strongest US peloton's in years. "I'm part of the now-known team 'No Team' with Timmy Duggan, and Ted King (Cannondale-Liquigas)," said Busche. "It's not like we are racing like a team as far as tactics in the race, but we are helping each other with the support. We've organized a little support crew for ourselves."
Lacking a team to help control the race Busche, a strong climber, was looking forward to seeing how Lookout Mountain would impact the race. "It's a new course and people are not going to know what to expect. I've heard the...