And then there were three! The final trio of stages at the 2014 Giro d’Italia would decide who would come out in Pink after this gargantuan, torturous and enthralling three week grand tour that started in Belfast and finished in Trieste on Sunday.
Stage 19 was be a mountainous Individual Time Trial that could make or break anybody’s Giro. There is no team to help you, no way to know how you’re doing until the end, and no way to control your rivals, the essence of every man for himself.
Nairo Quintana showed that timing is everything in the Giro winning only his second stage, and retaining the Maglia Rosa. He won the stage by 17 seconds from young Fabio Aru to cement his position as the best in the race.
This saw his advantage swell to 3’ 07’’ over fellow Colombian, Rigoberto Uran Uran. With only one ‘’real’’ stage left of the Giro, even then it looked increasingly likely that Quintana would finish top of the pile in Trieste.
The famous natural arena at the peak of Monte Zoncolan provided the backdrop for one of cycling’s most picturesque finishes. The 167km Stage 20 saw Australian, Michael Rogers arrive first to claim his second stage success.
Rogers was in a battle with Italian Francesco Bongiorno, however, 3km from the end, over-zealous spectators almost toppled Bongiorno in an attempt to help him on his way.
Race leader, Nairo Quintana comfortably stayed with his nearest rivals in a slightly anti-climactic finish to a very eventful race.
Ireland’s Nicholas Roche ground out a fourth place finish on this gruelling mountain stage to put a gloss on a disappointing tour for him. Quintana stayed in Pink and as long as he remained upright on Sunday, glory would be his.
With the general classification settled, Sunday’s focus was the point’s classification. The likes of Nacer Bouhanni, Giacomo Nizzolo and Elia Viviani would be challenging in the sprint finish in Trieste.
As has been the case with this Giro, nothing went to form and Luka Mezgec of Giant-Shimano crossed the line for the win.
So, after three weeks of tricky descending, bone-shuddering crashes, leg-burning climbs and scintillating sprint finishes, Nairo Quintana was undoubtedly the best of the peloton.
The 24-year-old said afterwards,
‘’ It is very difficult to explain how much happiness is inside me. It’s one of the happiest days of my life. Thanks to my family, thanks to my team and thanks to all the Colombians. It is fantastic that this dream has come true.’’
A gifted climber, Quintana stayed in touch when the terrain didn’t suit up and shot up the leaderboard on the mountains he ascended. A thoroughly deserved victory for one of cycling’s brightest talents in years.
1 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:02:58
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:04:04
4 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:05:46
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:41
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:07:13
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:11:09
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:12:00
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp 0:13:35
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory 0:15:49
Featured Image By Joseld-89 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.