A strange kind of glory for Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin). The German thought his Giro d'Italia had ended quietly with second place on Turin's Corso Moncalieri, only to find half an hour later that he had, in fact, claimed the biggest win of his career.
Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) was first across the line at the end of a chaotic finale stage 21 on the banks of the Po, but his joy at a long-awaited maiden Giro stage win turned to consternation when the race commissaires climbed aboard the broadcast unit near the finish to review the sprint.
The images showed that Nizzolo had deviated from his line in the final 50 metres, hemming Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) in against the barriers. After nigh on 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury decided to relegate Nizzolo and declare an incredulous Arndt the winner.
Arndt endured a rather delicate moment as he waited behind the podium to accept the day's spoils, as he spied Nizzolo, who was on hand to receive the red jersey of final winner of the points classification winner.
"I went behind the podium and I saw him there, and he was not looking happy," Arndt said. "I thought ‘Should I go to him and speak to him?' But I was just there and waiting, it was not my decision.
"So I did not speak to him yet, and I can imagine he is really disappointed. If I was in his position, I would be disappointed, no question. But I hope he can enjoy what he got here, the red jersey for the second time. He did a good Giro."
While Modolo, fourth on the stage, had voiced his ire to reporters immediately on crossing the finish line, Arndt was unaware of Nizzolo's irregularities and had not even reviewed the images of the finish by the time he sat down in his press conference an hour and a half after the stage.
"I crossed the line in second and I thought I was second. But afterwards it turned out I'd won the stage. It was a surprise for me," Arndt said.
"I didn't really see the incident. They were on the left and I was on the right. I was more focused on my own line. I saw that he [Nizzolo] closed it on the left but I didn't see by how much. I didn't see the video yet."
Now in his fourth season with Giant-Alpecin after mixing road and track duties during his amateur career, victory in Turin on Sunday is the stand-out achievement of Arndt's time in the professional peloton to date. Without the immediacy and the exhilaration of crossing the finish line in first place, his celebrations seemed a touch muted, though the victory was gratefully accepted.
"For sure it's the biggest win of my career. I came here to go for the sprints. I had two good results but no win before today," Arndt said. "It feels different with the decision of the jury but in the end I'm just a rider and I did my sprint. I did my best, I tried to win the sprint. The team worked hard and it was hard to do what I did. We will enjoy the victory."
Watch 2016 Giro d'Italia stage 21 highlights video
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