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“Today, over the radio, my sport director told me “Zakarin, Zakarin, think of Zakarin”. Today all the hard work has paid off."

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

GIRO D'ITALIA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
28.05.2016 @ 23:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after the team lost everything with Ilnur Zakarin’s bad crash, Rein Taaramae salvaged the Giro d’Italia for Katusha by riding to a storming solo win on the final mountain stage of the race by emerging as the best from a strong breakaway of climbers. However, the biggest winner was Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who dropped Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) with repeated accelerations on the Colle della Lombarda and managed to put 1.36 into the Colombian to move into the race lead on the eve of the final stage. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was just 13 seconds further back and secured the final spot on the podium.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Rein Taaramae: My director told me “Zakarin, Zakarin, think of Zakarin!”

One day after TEAM KATUSHA’s Giro bad luck, with Ilnur Zakarin’s horrible crash and abandon, Rein Taaramäe had the perfect answer by winning the last mountain stage in Sant’Anna di Vinadio. A smart race of the Estonian rider and a perfect timed attack on the Colle della Lombarda were the ingredients of his success. Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) finished second, 52 seconds behind. Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) was third at 1.17. Vincenzo Nibali is the new maglia rosa.

 

”Yesterday was really a hard and sad day for us. The team worked for three weeks for the GC and I know how motivated Ilnur was. Everything ended in one sudden second. That’s why I was so motivated today to go in the break. The second reason was that I wanted to prove myself I can do a good race. I worked so hard in the beginning of the season and I hoped this work would pay off one day,” said Rein Taaramäe.

 

Rein Taaramäe was already in the break of eleven riders skipping away on the Col de Vars. Later, on the Col de la Bonette, Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) was allowed to take one minute, but he was reeled in over the top. On the last first-category climb, the Colle della Lombarda, it was clear that only the six strongest riders of the eleven would decide on the stage win: Visconti (Team Movistar), Dombrowski, Atapuma, Taaramäe, Kangert (Team Astana) and Foliforov (Rusvelo). Dombrowski and Atapuma attacked, but later Taaramäe’s attack was the right one. Taaramäe reached the top with 32 seconds to the others. After a fast descent there were still 3,2 km uphill to Sant’Anna di Vinadio but nobody was able to come back.

 

”It was not easy at all to go in the break. Honestly, I suffered a lot in the beginning. I even dropped a few times from the break, but every time I was able to come back. I did everything to go on a regular pace and that worked. I know these climbs very well since I did a lot altitude training camps here. From those camps I also learned that I become better the higher we go in the mountains. I found my moment to attack and I went away. I took my rhythm and was able to create a gap. The last two kilometers were really hard, I had strong cramps, but I went until the finish and won. This victory is very important for me but also for the team. I am super happy and I still can't believe it. What a day!” added Rein Taaramäe.

 

"Ilnur Zakarin’s crash yesterday scared me a lot. I was close to him. I saw everything. The thought crossed my mind that something very serious could have occurred, but when I saw him sitting up, I was relieved. It was hard to go and race again today after that but I also wanted to win this stage for Zakarin.

 

“I didn’t feel good at the beginning of the stage. I was the last rider to catch the breakaway. On La Bonette, above 2000 metres, I started feeling good, so I rode away on La Lombarda at the highest possible altitude. I had six weeks of altitude training and it paid off.

 

"I don't know if it's my best win, I also won a stage in the Vuelta, but a dream comes true when you win a stage in the Giro. It was my personal target. When [Ilnur] Zakarin crashed yesterday, I was really scared for him. It happened at 70-80kph. I was really scared he'd lose his life. I turned around to see, and when I saw that he sat up I realized he survived. It was really hard morale-wise to continue the race.

 

"This morning I didn't feel very good, I caught the breakaway very late at the top of the climb, and it was really difficult. Once we crossed 2,000 metres, it suited me - yesterday was the same. I've stayed here for training camp three times, and I knew if I survived in the front when we got to 2,000 metres nobody could beat me. I know the reason - I stayed six weeks in altitude training camp - I could get a Colombian passport, maybe.

 

 “It’s a very important victory. Yesterday, in a flash, we lost everything we had been working for over the previous three weeks. We actually had two hard times in this Giro, firstly when [Ilnur] Zakarin crashed three times in the individual time trial and lost his chances of winning the Giro.

 

“Today, over the radio, my sport director told me “Zakarin, Zakarin, think of Zakarin”. Today all the hard work has paid off.

 

“For Estonia, which is a very small country with only one million people, it’s a special day. Jaan Kirsipuu came second once in a stage of the Giro d'Italia, but I’m the first Estonian winner.

 

“I’ve done the Tour de France seven times, and the Vuelta three times. This was my first experience at the Giro and I can say this is the Grand Tour a rider can enjoy the most.

 

"It was important, especially today. Yesterday was a tough day in which we lost our captain Zakarin. We worked hard and in one moment it was all over. It was very important.

 

"I was not in the best shape in the first part of the Giro but it is the most important victory of my career. My dream is to win stages in all the Grand Tours. I have succeeded here and also at the Vuelta. Now I only miss the Tour de France."

 

”I am happy for Rein, but also for the team and Ilnur, who, I am sure, watched the race. We knew it could be a day for a strong breakaway. Thats's why Rein was among the riders attacking in the beginning of the stage. In the first climb he had some difficult moments, but he held his pace and was able to come back. Rein did a very smart race: while the rivals attacked one by one, Rein waited until the highest parts of the climb. He attacked exactly at the right moment, over the 2000 meter altitude level. Nobody could follow him. Rein proved his class, but also he brought a big happiness to the team,” added sports director Dmitry Konyshev.

 

Darwin Atapuma:  I underestimated Taaramae

A stage win in the mountains narrowly escaped Darwin Atapuma’s grasp for the second time at the Giro d’Italia, with Atapuma crossing the line in second place.

 

Atapuma made an early eight-rider breakaway from which multiple attacks were launched after the first climb of the day. Rein Taaramäe (Team Katusha) attacked on the Colle Della Lombarda, leaving Atapuma, Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) to chase him down.

 

Taaramäe hung on to take the stage win, with Atapuma crossing the line solo 52 seconds behind. The Stage 20 result marks a second, third and fourth place result for Atapuma on the three toughest mountain stages of the race.

 

Atapuma’s performance has moved him into ninth place on the General Classification, his first top ten result in a Grand Tour heading into the final stage tomorrow.

 

“I have nothing left,” he said. “It was another incredibly tough stage. I gave it everything and felt really strong. In the end I think I underestimated Taaramäe. He was the smartest rider out there today. I wasn’t feeling good at the beginning of the last climb, but Dombrowski was and wanted me to pull. Then I felt better, but at that point we weren’t pulling Taaramäe back fast enough. I attacked again to try and bring him back but I ran out of kilometers and then the stage was over. In the end I think I have shown what I can do here at this year’s Giro d’Italia but I’m disappointed to not have a stage win to show for it.”

 

Max Sciandri, Sports Director, added:

 

“Another mountain stage and another near miss. Darwin put in a great ride and it was clear that he was the strongest out there today. But Taaramäe played it well. I think Darwin spent a lot of energy attacking to bring Nieve back. He still had the legs at the end of the stage but just missed out. He can be really proud of the way he has raced at the Giro d’Italia. Every mountain stage he has either been in the breakaway or attacking and finishing well.”

 

Joe Dombrowski: This was the stage I really wanted to win

"I felt like I could win and I've wanted to win a mountain stage in this Giro since the start of the year,” Joe Dombrowski said after taking third place. “And this was really the one because it I know all the roads, my family was there with a kilometre to go. I wanted to win really bad today but it doesn't always work out.

 

"We came here riding for Rigo (Uran) and that was the main thing and then as a secondary thing, if I could go for a stage that's what I wanted to do: to try to win a mountain stage. But you know… on almost every mountain day I've been up in the front doing something or trying something. Today was the closest I came to actually taking a stage.

 

"If you want to win, unless you are going to win out of the GC group and follow the GC group, you have to try a lot. For me at this point, I can't take off from Nibali so I have to take my opportunities when they come and tried to do that every day that suits me.

 

"Taarame lives in Monaco and I know he trains out here too. He knows all the roads. On a climb like that when it is a bit headwind, a bit tactical and you have to use your energy in the right places … I think he rode a super good race.

 

"I tried to attack at the bottom because I knew it was hard and then it was not has hard as afterward, so I wanted to make a bit of a selection. But there was a headwind coming up so it made it a bit tactical. I felt good, I was good, so I attacked a couple of times, followed some stuff and I think Visconti and myself weren't really expecting Taaramae to just chip off the front, there was a bit of hesitation. You look at the strongest guy and you follow him, and if somebody comes back you think: ‘They are not going anywhere' but it turned out he was going somewhere."

 

"You know I think I may be a little different than most riders in that for me the third week is usually easier than the first. That’s just because I think I am not super punchy or fast, but I can keep going and going. I think Grand Tours suit me. After the 2015 Vuelta I was pretty tired by the end but coming out of this Giro I feel better.”

 

Consistent Mikel Nieve wins the mountains jersey at the Giro d’Italia

Mikel Nieve sealed the King of the Mountains jersey at the Giro d'Italia after finishing a valiant fourth on stage 20.

 

The Spaniard infiltrated the day's break and crested the first categorised climb in third place before attacking alone and claiming maximum KOM points on the brutal Col de la Bonette to all but wrap up the jersey in style.

 

Fellow escapee Darwin Atapuma (BMC) could have spoilt the party had he earned full points on the day's last two climbs but stage winner Rein Taaramae (Katusha) beat him to the summit of the Colle Della Lombardia and the maglia azzura was Nieve's.

 

The award caps a fantastic race for the 31 year old after he won stage 13 following a stunning solo attack and finished second on stage 19 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

 

Speaking to TeamSky.com back at the bus Sport Director Dario Cioni heaped praised on Nieve.

 

He said: "The mountains jersey wasn't one of our pre-race goals but it became clear we could chase it after Mikel's stage 13 win. We knew if he could get to the last two days with good legs there was a good chance of winning the jersey.

 

"I think the stage yesterday really gave him confidence and the plan today was to go for the mountains jersey and the stage - but the priority was the jersey, so it was crucial to be in the break."

 

Cioni certainly isn't surprised that Nieve has won the jersey and he expressed his delight at how the team have bounced back since the departure of team leader Mikel Landa from the race.

 

He added: "Mikel is one of the best climbers in the world. When he was called up to the Giro at late notice we promised we would look after him and let him concentrate on the mountain stages and now he's got a stage win, a second place and the mountains jersey. That's a pretty big achievement. I'm sure he won't complain about this Giro!

 

"We came to the Giro with one single goal which was to win it with Mikel [Landa] and on the side we hoped Elia [Viviani] could win some stages. Unfortunately Elia had to pull out and soon after so did Mikel, so it was a difficult situation.

 

"The guys did well to bounce back and find new motivation - not just Mikel, but everyone. To react like this shows that they are very professional."

 

Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) started the day in the King of the Mountains jersey with a healthy 36-point lead over Nieve, but the Italian missed the day's break and, despite attempting to bridge across, he couldn't get back on.

 

That made Nieve the favourite, but Stefan Denifl (IAM) beat him to the top of the Col de Vars to move ahead in the standings.

 

Nieve quickly attacked though and went solo ahead of the second first-category climb of the day and stormed up it, maintaining a comfortable gap of more than a minute back to the chase group to claim maximum points and a comfortable lead at the top of the standings.

 

Once he'd crested the climb the Spaniard seemed happy to regroup with the chasers on the descent and when they hit the bottom of the final climb with 30km to go attacks started to fire, but Nieve stuck with the group, and was only really distanced near the summit.

 

It was Taaramae who eventually went clear to claim the stage win ahead of Atapuma, while Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) came home third, with Nieve next over the line four minutes down as the 2016 Giro d'Italia King of the Mountains.


"I started the stage with the desire to win the mountains classification and I went out to get the points, he said. “I did it as best I could and in the end I succeeded.

 

"After Mikel Landa’s withdrawal, we really had a good Giro. “The whole team and I attackedand tried to win, we did it and we have to be happy with the result.”

 

"For now, let's enjoy this jersey, then we'll see about the Tour de France.”

 

Vincenzo Nibali: I can confirm that it is harder to win a grand tour for the second time

"I want to dedicate the pink jersey to all my teammates,” said an emotional Vincenzo Nibali. "Together we have always believed, and the dream can become reality tomorrow in Turin.

 

"We applied perfectly our race strategy, knowing we are the strongest team and totally motivated.

 

"When I took on the penultimate climb, I went full gas and meter by meter my advantage was increasing. It was wonderful.

 

"After I crossed the line, I listened to the speaker who was counting down the seconds, and only then did I realize that the pink jersey was mine.

 

"It’s amazing. I didn’t believe I could win the Giro. It’s been a spectacular day really. I’ve benefited from an enormous amount of work by my team. I rode without the fear of losing anything but after yesterday, I understood that I was able to win the Giro. I attacked when I saw the others suffering. It’s wonderful.

 

"It's been a fantastic day. I especially have to thank my team because they were extraordinary today, especially Michele Scarponi and Tanel Kangert toward the finish, and Jakob Fuglsang was a great help to me.

 

"At high altitude I was confident that I could breathe and ride better than anyone. I was not afraid of losing and I was not afraid of winning.

 

"I only believed it after the finish. I was there, listening to the speaker counting down the seconds. It was only when I understood I'd pulled it off that I could start to celebrate.

 

"Yesterday I realised that I was going very well at altitude and I was confident for today. On the Colle della Lombarda we kicked off our forcing. The entire team was magnificent. I was feeling good and in the finale, I asked Michele to up the pace. I'll have to build a monument to him. I didn't even believe it myself that we would manage it, but thanks to some great teamwork, we defied a lot of predictions.

 

"This morning when I started, I wasn't afraid to win and I wasn't afraid to lose. After yesterday, I understood that I was going better than everyone else at high altitude."

 

"In short, yesterday I saw I was much better. These last few days were very important. It was a draining Giro. I started with the pressure of being favourite, but once I said to myself: ‘Whatever happens, happens' I felt more free.

 

"I spoke a lot with Michele in my room and I began to realise that people loved me all the same, beyond what happened in this Giro. That's what made me go well in this Giro. In my head, I set out with the desire to do too much and I was expecting something straightaway. I was too focused and I wasn't riding well. But then we realigned ourselves and we rode well this last week.

 

I knew today’s stage. I had climbed La Bonnette at the Tour de France [in 2008]. It’s very long and hard but the key point was La Lombarda. With Jakob Fuglsang and Michele Scarponi, we kept the race under control, while Tanel Kangert had gone ahead. After I accelerated, I was kept informed of the gaps.

 

”It was my first time racing against Esteban Chaves but I knew from last year’s Vuelta that he’d be hard to beat. I’ve kept pushing till the end. After I crossed the line, I listened to the speaker who was counting down the seconds, and only then did I realize that the Maglia Rosa was mine.

 

“Bonette was a long climb and a good place to attack was the Lombarda. The last five kilometers of the Lombarda were very difficult. I felt that at 1800 - 2000 meters, I was the strongest. Yesterday's victory confirmed to me that I had good form so I was fully confident.

 

 “My bad day was the time trial to Alpe di Siusi. It was a terrible day for me, but I knew that I could feel better in the third week. I have many friends in the peloton and many told me: ''Anything can happen in the third week. Do not guve up.'' I never gave up and in the third week, everything went well for me.

 

“We always said that winning a grand tour a second time is the hardest. It's true, I can confirm that. This Giro was very hard because I was the favorite. I knew it from the start. My opponents have always looked at me. I tried to control the race and I probably made some mistakes. And then I changed my race.

 

 ”In each of my grand tour wins, I got the jersey earlier and I had to manage my lead in the third. This time, it was very different, perhaps because the mountain stages arrived later in this Giro. After my bad time trial, I had to find another way to reverse things. I know the long climbs are more favorable to me. But most important for me is the morale.

 

”The first thing is to rest and recover. Then we can see what we do for the Tour de France. We know how difficult it is to do two consecutive grand tours. Fabio [Aru]is fully focused on his goal, and I might be able to help him. But in any case, we must not lose sight of the fact that after the Tour de France, we have Olympic Games which are very important for me. The Tour could be the right way to prepare it.”

 

"Perfect, I find no other word,” said sporting director Alexander Shefer. And I'm really glad. The team's efforts have brought` us to first place in the GC and teams classification.”

 

Michele Scarponi: We continued to believe in it

"It looked really hard, almost impossible to believe,” Michele Scarponi told Rai. "It seemed impossible just three days ago but we continued to believe in it. 

 

"Last night we were very happy and today even more. Actually we also believed in it during the hard times, but yesterday's victory gave us a higher dose of confidence."

 

Alejandro Valverde: This podium is like a victory for me

Alejandro Valverde, debutant in the Giro d'Italia at 36 years old, all but secured a podium finish for the Movistar Team which grants him another big place in the cycling history books, following yet another amazing mountain stage from Guillestre to Sant'Anna di Vinadio (134km). Attacking from the very first Col de Vars (Cat-1), always keeping his 43" deficit against third-placed Steven Kruijswijk (TLJ) in mind, but above all, without losing his essence, the main value that has turned him into the most consistent rider in decades: never surrendering. The Spanish road race champion profited from an impressive acceleration by Vincenzo Nibali (AST), 4km from the top of the Colle della Lombarda (Cat-1), to leave the Dutchman behind and got a gap over former leader Esteban Chaves (OGE), who couldn't even follow the wheel of Valverde.

 

Because Valverde is way more than a classics rider, the telephone squad's leader, barring any incidents towards Turin on Sunday, will join the select group of riders who have claimed podium finishes in all three Grand Tours. Another success to add to a long list which includes four Flèches Wallonnes, three Liège-Bastogne-Liège, one Vuelta a España, two Critérium du Dauphiné, two Clásicas de San Sebastián, 14 Grand Tour stage wins, three national road titles and six medals in the World Championships, not to forget his four UCI WorldTour titles. Undoubtedly, this podium marks the icing on top of the most polyvalent rider to have ever been born in Spain and made part of the Movistar Team's ranks.

 

This Giro d'Italia, fought like no other one by the whole team after abandonments from Javi Moreno and Carlos Betancur, is the reward for many months of work... and a whole career's dedication. Alejandro Valverde responded for his team-mates, his loved ones and his fans to climb into 3rd overall in the 'Corsa Rosa'. A podium he will step onto tomorrow in the capital city of Piedmont.

 

Alejandro Valverde said: 

 

"I'm extremely happy about today's. I think everyone could see it when I punched the air so hard after the finish, standing there, waiting for the overall podium to be confirmed. It seemed as if I had won the race myself.

 

”It wasn't easy at all, but we got that third place and we came so close to the second spot. It's nothing short of incredible for me. Being on the podium of all three Grand Tours is a phenomenal achievement for my career.

 

”And at the end, after struggling so much in altitude, it seemed like I got used to it, because my legs during the final climbs were fantastic. The job we did all day, from the first attacks on Vars, the whole team helping me out on the Col de la Bonette, plus that final hand from Visco in Sant'Anna... it was marvellous.

 

“So many 'tifosi' at the final slopes meant I didn't have any real time gaps coming from my earpiece, I couldn't hear them, but I knew I was putting time into those behind, that we were climbing strong and, as I could see Nibali, we were even taking time back on him. The last two ascents - it all really went well. I can only be happy.

 

"It was another surprising day to close a Giro with lots of changes, quite different from what fans and people around the race could expect for. Nibali? We knew he was going to be really strong again today, and on the stage, before his attack, we could feel he was going to drop Chaves.

 

“He truly deserves this final victory. I was stronger than him at some stages, while he beat me in others. Both of us, Chaves too, deserve to be on the podium.

 

”I consider myself a good rider, who gives everything for myself, my team, my fans. Stepping onto the Turin podium with my kids tomorrow will be a massive satisfaction.

 

"We ended up on the podium which is what we wanted in the end. Thirteen years have passed since my first podium in a Grand Tour and it is something incredible. I have been on the podium in all three grand tours, and this thing is something phenomenal.”

 

Rafal Majka: Maybe I need to do another grand tour as preparation in the future

Rafal Majka received strong support from his teammates today on the first two climbs, before the Tinkoff leader fought among a select group of GC riders on the final climbs of the day. He cemented his fifth place in the GC with another top ten finish – his seventh of this year’s Giro.

 

Majka was glad of the support of his teammates – as he had been for the Giro as a whole.

 

“It was again another very tough stage. I gave 100% of myself, as did the team - I'd like to thank them for their huge effort all Giro.”

 

Looking back on the day, and his experiences throughout the Giro, Majka was already assessing his performance.

 

“I saw I lacked the explosiveness that my opponents had - I think that was my weakest point this Giro. However, I feel that my form is good and I will look to perform much better at the Tour with Alberto. Maybe in the future I need to do a Giro or Tour more relaxed in order to build my form to them and then attack another Grand Tour or an important stage race as captain.”


Sport Director Tristan Hoffman added: 

 

"The goal here was a podium finish but in the end it's a fifth place, but one we can still be proud of. Rafal did everything, he tried and fought together with the team every day as he could so we can be happy. It's a very high level here and we've still got all the boys here which shows we've got a good level overall."

 

Talking about the stage, Hoffman said:

 

"It was full gas early on with the first climb, and there was a big explosion in the bunch. Once the break went it all came back together and then came down to the final climb. He was there in the select group but when Nibali attacked he had to set his own pace. He followed as long as possible but it was hard day."

 

 

With the Giro all but finished, Rafal was looking to the future, and how he would ride in support of Alberto Contador at the Tour de France.

 

“I'm very happy with 5th overall and the team did its best. Now we will focus on the Tour with a strong team around Alberto in the quest for the yellow jersey.”

 

Bob Jungels: I’ve learned what I can do in future grand tours

Behind Vincenzo Nibali, once Gianluca Brambilla- the first Italian rider to wear the maglia rosa at this edition – concluded his work for Bob Jungels, the 23-year-old had another strong and steady ride on the third-category ascent which basically put an end to the GC fight, coming home 11th, a result which has all but sealed his win in the white jersey standings, where he holds a 30-minute lead over second-placed Sebastian Henao (Team Sky). In the overall rankings, Jungels is sixth, an impressive performance which makes him the youngest rider since 2014 to finish in the top 10.

 

"In the past two days I got better and better and it was a great feeling to see that I could stay with the main contenders. I recovered very well during this race and this played out in my advantage. As I previously said, this was my first Grand Tour in which I started with the clear goal of going for the GC. It wasn't easy against this field, but to finish 6th, wear the the maglia rosa for three days and claim the U25 classification it's something that makes me very proud", said Jungels as soon as he climbed off the podium after collecting his 16th white jersey at the Corsa Rosa, on a day which saw our squad win also the Super Team classification, with a healthy advantage over the next outfit.

 

Jungels, who's in his fourth season as a pro and his first with Etixx – Quick-Step, credited the fantastic support he received from his teammates as one of the keys behind his successful campaign at the Corsa Rosa, a race which he discovered for the first time:

 

"The team did an incredible job, you could see that in every stage I had somebody around me. This team spirit brought me so far in the Giro and I have to thank the guys for their help and for how they protected me in the stressful and difficult situations.

 

"The last three weeks were very important also because I got a confirmation of my riding style: I can gain time in the ITT and ride a steady pace in the mountains, and this is something that I can develop in the future."

 

Disappointed Steven Kruijswijk: Staying on your bike is also part of cycling

Steven Kruijswijk fell to the fourth place in the Giro d’Italia during the penultimate day of the race today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader fought for his life the day after his crash, but could not stop Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the final part of the stage. Rein Taaramäe (Katusha) won the stage, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) passed Esteban Chaves (Orica - GreenEDGE) to grab the pink jersey.

 

A small rib fracture made Kruijswijk’s day that much harder. Overnight, it was unclear if he would even start. Kruijswijk was suffering with a lot of pain in his foot and the side of his body, but moved on.

 

“I didn’t suffer for three weeks to give it all up now,” he said. “This last hard day was possible only because I suffered through the rest, but I am totally exhausted now. The only thing that was possible was to hold my top three spot because I lost the Giro yesterday. It’s a shame that I’m standing here without the pink jersey now.”

 

Kruijswijk slipped out of the top three during the final part of the Colle della Lombarda climb. When Nibali attacked, Chaves and Valverde were able to hold on for a while. Chaves lost ground eventually and fell back to Kruijswijk’s group while Valverde joined with Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale).

 

“I did the best I could,” Kruijswijk continued. “I barely slept last night after my crash and I felt a lot of pain. I tried to ignore that pain. I wanted to forget everything and go to the finish line. I did. This was it.

 

“I was on my limit today and I couldn’t do any more than I did. This was it. After the crash yesterday I knew I just had to fight and see where I finished.

 

“Last night I didn’t expect to start or that I’d be able to follow the guys, so in the end I have to be satisfied after what happened yesterday. I had a sleepless night, it was three or four o’clock before I fell asleep. I tried to hold on, but it was too hard. I’m still disappointed after Risoul.

 

 “It was a big chance for me to win a Grand Tour, and I think I was one of the best in the race. But staying on your bike is also cycling and that’s what I lacked yesterday.”

 

"After all I did not know if I could start. On paper I should be satisfied, but I'm really sorry, I had a great chance to win a Grand Tour. I had shown that I could keep up with the best.

 

“I’m proud of what Steven pushed out of his body today,” Sports Director Addy Engels added. “We saw during the stage that he wasn’t the same Steven as he was before his crash, but that he was still at a good level, and that was more than we had hoped for.

 

“We had to begin the day without a target because maybe Steven was feeling bad and had to abandon the race, but he was still quite strong. That makes it even more painful that he lost his third place. We were close, and that hurts, but we still delivered a wonderful Giro d’Italia with our team.”

 

Esteban Chaves: This is only the beginning

Esteban Chaves fought valiantly in the race leaders pink jersey on a brutally difficult stage 20 of the Giro d’Italia today, moving into second on the general classification ahead of tomorrow’s final stage.

 

Queen Stage winner Chaves and his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates gave everything throughout the stage, maintaining control until the attacks from Tinkoff and Astana split the race in the final 30kilometres.

 

Colombian Chaves was alone with ten kilometres remaining when Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) capitalised on the work of his teammates and broke clear. Chaves closed the first attack but not the second with Nibali pulling away, eventually crossing the line over a minute ahead and taking the race lead.

 

“Today was really hard,” said an exhausted Chaves at the finish. “I don’t want to make any excuses because we gave it everything today. I didn’t have the legs and that’s how it happened when I got dropped.

 

"I'm tired but this is the life, it is only a bike race. I tried and did the best I could. The team did the best they could. I'm here. I'm happy. I did my best. I tried and this is just the beginning for me.

 

"I'm OK [health-wise]. I don't have excuses. I didn't have the legs and that is normal. You need strength to do this. It was one race of 80 hours and 3,000km, and there are no excuses. The only simple answer is that I had no legs.

 

"It is the beginning for me and for sure other opportunities will come.

 

"We're still happy, we gave our very best but Nibali, Scarponi and Astana showed they're the best. I didn't have the legs, that's life. There's nothing else to say.

 

"My cold is not an excuse. I'm not the kind of guy to say I was ill or I had cramp. I just didn't have the legs and that's it. When you're heartbeat is at 200, you don't think about anything, about illness, you just try your best.

 

"This is the first time that my parents have come to Europe, it was my first time in the maglia rosa. I lost the jersey today that's not important. It's more important that they were here. I've only lost a bike race.

 

"I learnt that dreams can come true. If you keep working and never give up, then your dreams can come true. That's what I'm going to continue doing."

 

"Overall I'm happy. If someone had told me three years ago that I would be on the podium of the Giro d'Italia, I would never have believed it. Today was a dramatic stage. We tried to keep the jersey but Nibali was the best. We must accept it. I will not look for excuses.

 

"It's just a bike race. This is not the most important thing in my life. Today my parents came to Europe for the first time and that's real life.

 

“I am very proud of my teammates and how they were fighting, it has been an incredible Giro d’Italia and tomorrow we will have the last stage. After that we can celebrate everything we have achieved.”

 

“I really think that this is just the beginning for me and for ORICA-GreenEDGE in Grand Tour races so for sure other opportunities will come.”

 

At the end of the stage sport Director Matt white spoke of his pride in the efforts of Chaves and ORICA-GreenEDGE.

 

“Esteban (Chaves) gave it everything,” said White. “We are very proud of him and all the boys on the team.

 

“Vincenzo (Nibali) has been very strong the last two days and Esteban gave it everything he could and that’s all we can ask of him, this is another great experience for him and the team.”

 

“We were fifth at the Vuelta a Espana last year,” continued White. “Now we are second at the Giro d’Italia behind one of the best Grand Tour riders of recent years and there’s certainly no disgrace in that.”

 

 

"Esteban gave everything he could. Nibali's had a very strong two days. We're still very proud of Esteban. He did what he could, and that's all we can ask from him and the team.

 

”[Rigoberto] Uran? They're countrymen. You can see Esteban finished with nothing today. They happened to meet on the climb, and it was good try to get closer to Nibali, but he just wasn't good enough today. It's a great experience.

 

"We've come fifth in the Vuelta, and six months later we're second in the Giro to one of the best stage race riders of the last 10 years. Nibali's won the Tour de France, the Giro and the Vuelta, and he's one of the best stage race riders in the world. To finish second to him is certainly no disgrace."

 

Kanstantsin Siutsou secures overall top 10 for Dimension Data at the Giro d’Italia

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Kanstantsin Siutsou and Igor Anton well positioned in the reduced peloton which went over the Coll de la Bonette together. Anton was doing a lot of the pacing though as Atapuma was threatening Siutsou's general classification position.

 

Siutsou was riding within himself in a group just behind the pink jersey, but with the break still well up the road, it was clear he would lose his 9th position overall. Siutsou would finish the stage in 19th place, just less than 4 minutes behind Nibali. The result saw the African Team rider end the day 10th in the overall classification.

 

Sports director Jens Zemke said:
 

“The 20th stage of the Giro d'Italia had everything cycling can offer. Beautiful landscapes, a lot of spectators and an exciting bike race. In the top 10, only the 5th and 6th placed riders kept their positions while everyone else ended the stage in a new position, so there was a complete reshuffling of the order really. We stayed in the top 10 with Kanstantsin, we are absolutely happy about that. The boys did a great job to protect him and Kosta had another fantastic ride and so we are proud of this result.”

 

Hubert Dupont takes over from sick Domenico Pozzovivo

Hubert Dupont moved into 11th overall as his leader Domenico Pozzovivo finished in the gruppetto.

 

"The stage was hard.The first eight kilometers on the Col de Vars were very difficult! I suffered all day and I finished as best I could. Domenico (Pozzovivo) has been sick for two days, he had no strength. I am in 11th place overall, like in 2011 but I am disappointed for the guys," he said.

 

Consistent Maxime Monfort secures top 20 at the Giro d’Italia

Maxime Monfort was Lotto Soudal’s best rider in 24th.

 

"Early in the stage, I had a little trouble getting into the rhythm and I could not join the break,” he said. “Later it was better and I followed as best I could with what I had of energy. But tonight, my thoughts go to Stig [Broeckx] who fell heavily in the Tour of Belgium. The rest does not matter.”

 

Giant-Alpecin: Tomorrow’s stage is very important for us

It was Tobias Ludvigsson to be home first for Giant-Alpecin in 35th place. The rest of the riders finished safely within the time limit.

 

Coach Marc Reef said: “It was a hard day with three big mountains in today’s stage. Our plan was to finish in a good way with all the riders.

 

“The day got off to a tough start on the first climb but after that, the race was under control. The good thing is that our guys came in on time and without any problems. Tomorrow will be an important day for us, it is the last chance for a stage victory and we will give everything to bring Nikias [Arndt] into a good position in the finale.”

 

Another breakaway for aggressive Diego Ulissi at the Giro d’Italia

The 8 LAMPRE-MERIDA riders finished the short and very demanding stage and once again Diego Ulissi was  very brilliant. The winner of the stages of Praia a Mare and of Asolo joined the breakaway again
 

Today’s presence of Ulissi in the breakaway was the ninth time that, at least, one LAMPRE-MERIDA athlete joined the main attack. This is a good feedback for sports directors Maini-Scirea-Righi who had announced before the start of the Pink Race that the team wanted to ride with a fighting spirit.

In the overall classification, Ulissi is 21st at 56.59. In the points classification, the blue-fuchsia-green rider is 2nd 32 points behind Nizzolo.

 

Race director pleased with final 2016 Giro d’Italia

”Today we reached the pinnacle of the sport,” race director Mauro Vegni told Rai Sport.” It seemed to be over, then it was re-opened and it came down to seconds. We could not have hoped for more.”

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