The Roar
The Roar


Nibali and Chaves save the Giro

Caleb Ewan is among the favourites to take out Stage 1 of the TDU. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
29th May, 2016

It was fitting that Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) finished first and second on general classification at the 2016 Giro d’Italia.

The pair ignited the race after a somnambulant first two weeks, lifting it in status from ho-hum to classic with daring attacks, gutsy grinding and a never-say-die approach that sent the tifosi into emotional meltdown.

Chaves, that brave little Colombian, took on some of the world’s best general classification riders and proved that he could hold his own, while Nibali, a veteran of three week racing and one of the riders of his generation, went on one last feeding frenzy to wipe out a time deficit born of bad luck and bad legs.

The Shark’s final two days in the mountains were superb. He overcame indifferent form to claim Stage 19 in one of the best days of Grand Tour racing you could ever wish to see, and backed it up a day later by riding Chaves off his wheel to eliminate and then build upon the 44 second debt that stood between them.

Chaves announced himself as being more than just a top ten contender by conquering the six mountain peaks of Stage 14, a win that propelled him into a podium position and serious favouritism. By Stage 19 he had taken over the Maglia Rosa – the Giro’s leaders jersey – but was unable to hold it when Nibali upped the cadence on Stage 20.

While it was disappointing from an Australian viewpoint to see Chaves lose the overall lead, he still made history by becoming the first Orica-GreenEDGE rider to make the final podium at a Grand Tour. And of course, there is no shame in being beaten into second by Nibali. After all, the Italian rider now has four Grand Tours to his credit and a suitcase full of top ten results.

The unlucky rider in all of this was Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). The big Dutchman had been a deserving leader of the race. He looked strong and had matched all attacks that came his way until his unfortunate crash during the epic Stage 19 slugfest. He overcooked a corner and was sent cartwheeling into the road after hitting a snow bank. His broad shoulders were not seen at the front of the race again and he passed his Maglia Rosa onto Chaves.

While we would all prefer to see the race leaders sort out their overall positions on the road, staying upright is one of the prerequisites when it comes to successfully completing an event. That Nibali, Chaves and third placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) managed to do this is reflected in their final general classification. Kruijswijk finished fourth, still a mighty effort, but just short of the everlasting fame provided by a podium.


It all made for a dramatic and highly entertaining final week of racing. Which was lucky, because up until that point the Giro had been a slow burner at best.

Yes, the German domination of the sprints in the early stages was awesome to watch. If you want to see perfection on wheels just watch replays of Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) ripping all the other sprinters new you-know-what’s. Greipel’s second win on Stage 7 was especially memorable. The speed at which he rounded the final bend after being buffeted out of position and shuffled down the order had to be seen to be believed. It was a highlight to be sure.

So was the continued development of Aussie lad Caleb Ewan. He went from being caught out of position on the first couple of sprint finishes to contesting for a fourth and then a second placing. In the end he was the only one who got anywhere near Greipel. He left the race before the mountains but the experienced gained racing against the best fast men going around will serve him well.

But the sprints were for the most part clinical – cold, hard facts that were difficult to argue with. The mountain stages though were vague, unpredictable affairs. Underdogs had good days, favourites had bad days, leaders burnt their teams, teams burnt their leaders, and leaders sometimes burnt themselves.

There was no formula. There was no Team Sky dictating terms. The Maglia Rosa jumped from back to back. Just when you thought it may have settled on a pair of shoulders for good it was ripped off again and presented to someone else. That is how things should be, doubtful until the end.

So well done to Kruijswijk, Valverde, Chaves and Nibali. You had us cheering, crying, smiling and barracking. But most of all you kept us guessing. Thanks for the show.

Forza per il Giro d’Italia.