After a record-breaking number of near misses, Giacomo Nizzolo finally secured his first-ever Giro d’Italia stage win on Friday. He roared across the line in Gerona with an enormous grin on his face, his right arm punching skywards, and surely feeling massively relieved, too, that his long wait for a victory in his home Grand Tour was finally over.
The Qhubeka Assos sprinter’s maiden Giro d’italia stage win ended an unprecedented run of podium placings on stages in the Italian Grand Tour without ever taking the victory - comprising 11 runner-up spots, two of them this year, and five third-place finishes.
But on Friday’s fast and furious bunch sprint win in Verona, the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place with relative ease for the 32-year-old Italian, as the reigning national and European Champion began his sprint from far out, then surfed off a late solo attack by Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) to ensure he stayed comfortably ahead of the field.
“My strategy was, above all, not to get closed in, even at the risk of going early and getting too exposed to the wind,” Nizzolo said afterwards as he celebrated Qhubeka-Assos' second win in three days in the Giro d’Italia, in what is their best Grand Tour victory tally since Ben King took two mountainous stages in the 2018 Vuelta a España.
“Normally I prefer technical sprints, but this time I followed Fernando Gaviria [UAE Team Emirates], then jumped across to Affini, who’d launched an incredible attack.
“Probably having someone to chase down like that helped me. But there wasn’t any particular pressure on me, it was the same pressure as usual.”
As for why a rider who had triumphed in races as prestigious as the Europeans, and with 26 victories in his palmares, had never won a Giro stage, Nizzolo stated that, “I always knew I had the potential.”
“But it’s not so simple, a small mistake can cost you a lot and of course I’ve made mistakes like everybody else. Today I took the risk of losing again, by going from far out, and that’s what gave me the win.”
Twice the winner of the Giro d’Italia’s points classification thanks to his remarkable consistency, Nizzolo said he believed he had had a stage victory in the same race back in 2016, in a bunch sprint in Turin, only to find himself relegated afterwards. “I thought that was mine, but the commissaires decided differently,” he said a shade tartly on Friday.
Apart from praising his teammates for supporting him despite so many near misses, and the hugs and shouts of congratulations he received afterwards showed just how much they appreciated his success, Nizzolo also had special words of thanks for his fan club, who have travelled the length and breadth of Italy in this year’s Giro to show their continuing support.
“They’ve been there all the way, backing me, and that’s been a real reference point for me,” Nizzolo said.
“They’re mostly friends and family, although my Dad couldn’t be here today, because he’s in hospital having an operation. Nothing serious, fortunately, and I hope he enjoyed seeing what happened in the Giro today.”
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