Trek Factory Racing's Giacomo Nizzolo may not have gotten the stage win that he so desperately wanted at this year’s Giro d'Italia but his consistently strong finishes in the bunch kicks helped secure him the overall points classification’s red jersey in Milan on Sunday, and seal his place amongst the sport’s top sprinters.
"For sure to win both – a stage and the jersey – would have been the perfect scenario, but anyway I can be happy to win this jersey here in Milan, which is my city and I am really proud to go on the podium," Nizzolo said in a team press release.
The Italian joined a former version of the team, Leopard-Trek, in 2011 as a 22-year-old up-and-coming sprinter and has been with the outfit through their title sponsor changes to RadioShack and Trek Factory Racing.
During that time he has had multiple strong performances and last season he proved to be Trek Factory Racing's top sprinter with two wins; stage 3 at the Tour de San Luis and stage 2 at the Tour de Wallonie. Perhaps more impressively he had 12 podium places, including five at the Giro d'Italia where he also placed second overall in the points classification, showing his promise as a Grand Tour sprinter.
In total, Nizzolo, who is now 26, has sprinted to seven second-place finishes at the Giro d'Italia; one in 2013, four in 2014, and two this year during stage 13 in Lido di Jesolo and stage 17 in Lugano.
Although he failed to achieve a stage win, his consistent finishes in the sprints over three weeks were the key to his success in the points competition. Two second-place finishes combined with three fifth places and a sixth place landed him in the jersey with 181 points. BMC's double stage winner Philippe Gilbert was second with 148 points and Lampre-Merida's double stage winner Sacha Modolo was third with 147, while Team Sky's Elia Viviani ended up fourth overall with 144 points.
"At the end we have the jersey and for the team it was a big objective. And I can say that it was not easy! I mean Modolo won two stages and he didn't get the red jersey," said Trek Factory Racing director Adriano Baffi.
"But we calculated from the beginning to go for it, and although we have no victory we have three times second and now with the jersey we can be happy.
"I told Giacomo he has a place in the Giro's history books because the points classification is the second most important of the race."
Viviani kicked off the points classification after his stage 2 win in Genoa and although André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) briefly took the lead after his win in stage 6 followed by Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF) after his win in stage 10, Viviani moved back into the red jersey on stage 13.
Nizzolo slowly gained points during the following stages until he jumped into the lead with 159 points on stage 17, and he managed to hold onto a small lead on his rivals through the final mountain stages.
He increased his final tally to 181 points after a fifth-place finish during stage 21 in Milan, where a two-man breakaway successfully made it to the finish line with Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) taking the win ahead of Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge).
"It was hard to control today, and during the stage we lost some points," Nizzolo said of the final stage. "For the second sprint there was a lot of stress – maybe too much – and in the end the breakaway was gone and for us that was not bad, so we let them go, for the jersey. The final sprint was a bit chaotic, but I took third from the bunch and in front of my main competitors so it all worked out."
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