Mark Cavendish has become just the fifth man to win the points jerseys in all three Grand Tours, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider taking his fifth stage win in this year's Giro d'Italia as the race finished in Brescia, on a day when Astana's Vincenzo Nibali was confirmed as the winner of the 96th edition of the race.
Cavendish had started the day 11 points behind Nibali, winner of the previous two stages, but took the day's two intermediate sprints to move ahead of the Sicilian before taking the final sprint.
AG2R La Mondiale's Carlos Betancur succeeds fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran of Team Sky as winner of the best young rider's competition, while with no categorised climbs today, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox's Stefano Pirazzi is confirmed as winner of the mountains jersey. Uran finishes second on GC, with the podium completed by Cadel Evans of BMC Racing.
Huge crowds greeted the arrival in Brescia of the 168 riders remaining from the 207 who had started the race in Naples three weeks ago, with Nibali’s Astana team, their Specialized bikes adorned with pink bartape, leading the peloton into the first of seven 4.2km laps of the closing circuit.
With today marking the first time since 2007 that the Giro has concluded with a road stage rather than an individual time trial – last year, in Milan, the maglia rosa itself changed hands on the final day as Ryder Hesjedal overhauled Joaquim Rodriguez – there was a relaxed air around the peloton today as the riders headed towards Brescia on a rare sunny day.
Maglia rosa Nibali’s team provided Champagne for the 22 others taking part in the race, while Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox celebrated Pirazzi’s mountains classification win by dishing out pizza to all the teams on the race.
For one team, though, there was some unfinished business to be dealt with. Nibali’s victories in Thursday’s individual time trial and on the summit finish at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo yesterday had seen him move ahead of Cavendish in the points classification.
With Nibali in the maglia rosa, it fell to the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider to wear the red points jersey today, but as he posed for photos at the start with the other jersey wearers, Cavendish looked like a man who knew he had work to do.
At the day’s first intermediate sprint, which came at Sirmione, 129.1km into the 197km stage from Riese Pio X, Cavendish crossed unopposed to reduce the deficit to Nibali to just 3 points.
He seemed a bit too eager to get the final points that would guarantee his victory, going ahead of the peloton at the start of the third lap of the circuit in Brescia with confusion about where exactly the second intermediate sprint point was, with the stage profile showing a different location in the roadbook to the one on the stage itinerary.
In fact, it was at the start of the next but one lap, and with a move by Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela’s Giairo Ermeti brought back, Omega Pharma-Quick Step led the peloton up to that second intermediate sprint, Cavendish crossing unchallenged to move into the leadership of the points classification on the road.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step ratcheted up the pace on the closing laps of a circuit that had a number of narrow roads and tight corners, but coming under the flame rouge, it was Cannondale who moved to the front as they looked to set up Elia Viviani, second to Cavendish in two stages of this year’s race.
It was another Italian, however, Sacha Modolo of Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, who pushed the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider closest, finishing second with Viviani in third place.
Cavendish now joins Eddy Merckx, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert and Alessandro Petacchi in winning the points classification at all three Grand Tours, and what’s more, he has done it in emphatic manner, winning all five of the sprints he contested.
On a day for the sprinters, there was no change in the overall standings, Nibali emerging as a convincing and worthy winner of a race that at times has been thrown into chaos by the weather.
The 28-year-old from Messina rider finishes the race 4 minutes 43 seconds ahead of Uran, with Evans a further 1 minute 9 seconds back.
The picture of him emerging through the snow to take a convincing win in the Dolomites yesterday and clinch the maglia rosa is likely to become a career-defining image as he sealed his second Grand Tour win, adding the 2013 Giro to the 2010 Vuelta title.
Giro d'Italia Stage 21 result 1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 05:30:09 2 MODOLO Sacha Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox All at same time 3 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling 4 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard 5 MEZGEC Luka Team Argos - Shimano 6 FERRARI Roberto Lampre - Merida 7 DEHAES Kenny Lotto Belisol Team 8 BELLETTI Manuel AG2R La Mondiale 9 VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team 10 PAOLINI Luca Katusha Team 11 LANCASTER Brett Orica GreenEDGE 12 VENTOSO Francisco Movistar Team 13 TAMOURIDIS Ioannis Euskaltel - Euskadi 14 HUNTER Robert Garmin - Sharp 15 CANOLA Marco Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox 16 DUQUE Leonardo Team Colombia 17 ANDRIATO Rafael Vini Fantini 18 RUBIANO Miguel Androni - Venezuela 19 MARCATO Marco Vacansoleil - DCM 20 TRENTIN Matteo Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Final overall standings 1 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 84:53:28 2 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 04:43 3 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 05:52 4 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida 06:48 5 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale 07:28 6 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida 07:43 7 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff 08:09 8 INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 10:26 9 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 10:32 10 POZZOVIVO Domenico AG2R La Mondiale 10:59
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.