Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) pulled on the red points jersey of the Giro d'Italia after finishing second in the sprint in Lugano behind Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) but it was of little consolation to the Italian sprinter who has yet to chalk up a Grand Tour stage victory.
Nizzolo has now finished second in seven different Giro d’Italia sprints, and is increasingly desperate to hit the finish line first and raise his arms in celebration in his home Grand Tour. In addition to Wednesday's stage 17, Nizzolo has finished second once in 2013, four times in 2014 and was second this year in the sprint in Jesolo on stage 13, also won by Modolo.
"I’m cursed. It’s official. I’ve tried every time there has been a sprint but it seems winning is ‘stregata' (cursed) for me. It’s nice to pull on the red jersey but I really wanted to win the stage today," Nizzolo said.
Nizzolo had the full support of the Trek Factory racing team during the fast stage down the Valtellina and along the northern shore of the lake but the climb in the finale and the high-speed decent in pursuit of Luca Paolini (Katusha), meant he was alone going into the streets of Lugano.
"I felt good today and even fought for the points in the intermediate sprints," he explained. "We used up a few riders to work on closing down the break. As usual, I had Felline who helped me until the last kilometre, but the descent into Lugano made things a bit more complicated. I was on my own in the final kilometre and so it became a bit of a lottery. I only found a way through in the final metres. I pulled back some ground but not enough and so I couldn’t get up to Modolo."
A final sprint in Milan on Sunday
The Giro d’Italia heads back into the mountains on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with finishes in Verbania after the climb of Monte Ologno, a mountain finish in Cervinia and than the dirt road climb of Colle delle Finestre before the finish in Sestriere on Saturday.
Nizzolo has been locked in a fight for the red points jersey with fellow Italian Elia Viviani. The Team Sky sprinter was only 11th in the Lugano sprint, allowing Nizzolo to open a slight lead. He has a total of 159 points, with Modolo up to second place with 142 points and Viviani is third with 134 points.
The final sprint in the centre of Milan on Sunday will be decisive. Stage winners score 50 points, with a sliding scale of 50, 35, 25, 18, 14, down to a single point for 15th place.
"Now my next goal is to win the final stage in Milan,” Nizzolo proclaimed. “To be honest, I’d be happy if Viviani won the jersey and I won the last sprint. I want to win a stage!"