Vincenzo Nibali’s horrific and shameful Giro d’Italia somehow ends in victory

2016 Giro, Stage 20After Vincenzo Nibali won stage 19, Esteban Chaves said: “It’s not easy to follow Nibali downhill. He’s crazy to do that, but I must be crazy too to follow him.”

Descending is perhaps an underrated aspect of cycling. Grand Tour winners are always among the strongest climbers, but you don’t see the impact of a descent in the same way. We know that Steven Kruijswijk overcooked a corner that day, but we don’t know how many times he nearly did so trying to keep pace with Nibali. We also don’t know what it took out of Chaves having to sprint out of corners to stay on the Italian’s wheel. Perhaps this is where Nibali did the damage that allowed him to win this year’s Giro d’Italia.

He won?

Yes, he won. It seems rather strange when much of the coverage of this race has focused on his failings – but yes, he’s won. On stage 20, he attacked early, on the penultimate climb, and dropped everyone bar Chaves and Alejandro Valverde. Before the summit, he attacked again and this time got away alone. From then on it always seemed likely he’d gain the 44 seconds he needed.

There were tactics in play too. If Nibali was able to drop his rivals, he then benefited from work done by team-mate Tanel Kangert who slowed to help him having been in the break.

Nibali finished sixth, almost a minute and a half ahead of Chaves. Intriguingly, Valverde only actually finished 13 seconds down on him in the end, so if the Colombian had managed to stay with the Spaniard, he would actually have won the Giro. Bet that’s irritating.

As it is, if Nibali doesn’t crash in the final flat stage – and he really shouldn’t – the race is his.

The podium

Poor Steven Kruijswijk. He looked good for the win until he did his snow plough thing on stage 19. He actually finished ahead of Chaves today, but not Valverde and therefore failed to cling onto third place. Snatching a podium spot at the last gasp from a worthy and admirable adversary is a very Valverde thing to do. The only surprise is that he didn’t do it with a time bonus halfway through the ceremonial final stage.

Stage winner

Rein Taaramae, who’d been in the break. He’s Estonian and prone to finishing in the top ten in week long stage races without ever really doing more than that.

Stage 21

Is Giacomo Nizzolo still in the race? His career features 13 second and third place finishes in the Giro and no wins. This stage really, really should be a sprint and there really aren’t many out and out sprinters left in the race. He’s endured some horrific mountains for this one last chance. Good luck to him…

Local specialties of this region include potato dumplings ‘seasoned’ with an onion and cheese sauce. (Nice seasoning.) Also “typical local starters” and “meat-stuffed courgettes”.

2016 Giro, stage 21