Returning to the U23 race calendar for the first time since 2012, the Baby Giro lived up to expectation with Russian Pavel Sivakov holding off Mitchelton Scott's Australian duo Jai Hindley and Lucas Hamilton to claim the overall victory on the final day.
Sivakov (BMC Development Team) adds his name to a list of previous winners that includes Francesco Moser, Piotr Ugrumov, Marco Pantani, Gilberto Simoni, Davide Frattini, Dario Cataldo and Carlos Betancur.
The 19-year-old moved into the pink jersey after stage 3, holding off all challengers to secure consecutive GC wins after his Ronde de l'Isard success. Sivakov claimed the overall nine seconds ahead of Hamilton and 17 second ahead of Hindley.
"I feel incredible. I can't believe it. I hoped I could win but I never thought I would be able to win the Giro d'Italia U23 this year. It was really tough at the end but the guys did a really good job. They have been amazing all week and this victory is as much the team's as it is mine," said Sivakov. "This is one of the biggest races in the U23 calendar so it is a big win for me and the team. It's an amazing feeling and it gives me a lot of confidence as I continue to look ahead."
Mitchelton-Scott put the Russian under pressure on the climb Francavilla al Mare with Hindley and Hamilton securing a one-two finish. However, the three-second advantage over Sivakov wasn't enough for the Australia to improve upon their podium positions.
"It was a pretty good stage for us overall. The guys controlled the race in the valley before Patrick Müller pulled hard for around 20km before dropping me off at the front of the race with 5km to go," Sivakov said. "From there, it was up to me to defend the jersey and win the race for the team. I lost a little bit of time when the two Mitchelton - Scott riders attacked but I was able to hold onto their wheel until the final meters."
Former professional Klaas Lodewyck was the team's sports director for the race and explained that the Baby Giro was a key season objective for the squad.
"It's an incredible day. The Giro d'Italia U23 has been a big goal of ours from the beginning of the year so to see Pavel Sivakov take the win is amazing," Lodewyck said. "Today's stage started pretty well for us. There was a break of 16 riders but with no one threatening the GC, we began to control the gap without too much stress. A few teams started to help set the pace as they were looking for the stage win and that allowed our guys to sit up a little until we reached the last climb."
After four-second-place finishers in one-day Italian races, Hamilton added to his runner-up positions at the Giro. The 21-year-old who the stage 5b time trial on his way to second overall explained it was a full team effort to place two riders on the final podium.
"The team has been ridiculously strong all week. All of these guys are capable of winning in their own right and I'm sure that Jai would agree that we are fortunate to have had such strong support. This is one of the biggest races of our season and I must say I really enjoy racing in Italy," said Hamilton, who will next line out at the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta. "I'm very happy with our performances and the result, for sure there's some mixed emotion because it was so close, but I'm sure once it all settles down I will be very proud of our achievement."
Hindley echoed his teammates' comments, praising the work of his teammates as Mitchelton-Scott also secured the team classification.
"I'm very happy to have won the stage today," said Hindley. "The wind on the final climb really played a big factor and there was no chance to attack until the last couple of kilometres. The team have been fantastic all week and the course really suited us today, it's a shame we couldn't dislodge the leader, but we gave everything we've got."
Hamilton and Hindley join fellow Australians Matthew Lloyd and Scott Davis in finishing on the Baby Giro podium while Sivakov is the first Russian since Dimitri Konyshev to win the race with the USSR in 1988.