BRESCIA, Italy (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lived his sogno rosa, or pink dream, in Brescia on Sunday when he secured the Giro d’Italia title. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the stage, but The Shark from Sicily won the overall.
“It was very emotional, the whole stage today was a celebration,” Nibali said with the podium girls’ kisses fresh on his face.
“This win is a dream realized. I’m still trying to come to terms with its significance.”
Nibali, 28, finished with nearly five minutes to spare over runner-up Rigoberto Urán (Sky). He gained his advantage in the time trials, in the mountains, and with experience.
The Astana captain established himself with the 50km time trial to Saltara at the end of the first week. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) went faster, but Nibali had staying power.
The Giro then became an elimination race. Wiggins and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) abandoned mid-week, while Nibali went on to conquer the uphill Polsa time trial and Tre Cime di Lavaredo’s snowy ascent.
He drew on his experience. In 2010, he placed third and helped Ivan Basso win the Giro. Later in the year, he won the Vuelta a España. And last year, he placed third behind Sky’s Wiggins and Chris Froome in the Tour de France.
“The Giro d’Italia is more special than the Vuelta a España,” Nibali said, “but the Vuelta and my third place at the Giro taught me that I could win the Giro one day.”
After seven years with the Liquigas team, Nibali left over the winter to join Alexandre Vinokourov’s team, Astana.
Team manager Giuseppe Martinelli, who had already guided five other riders to grand-tour wins, decided with Nibali that it would be best if they stayed at home this year to focus on the Giro instead of the Tour.
Martinelli’s idea was that with a Giro win under his belt, Nibali would race the 2014 Tour with greater confidence.
“I wanted to come here this year and win with a big team at my back,” Nibali said. “We haven’t spoken about the Tour de France, or a Giro-Tour double. It is not in my plans or thoughts. I want to race it again in the future, one race at a time. I need more time to prepare for the longer climbs that require a different rhythm.”
Surviving the coldest Giro in recent history — stage 19 was canceled due to snow and stage 20 to Tre Cime di Lavaredo was ridden in whiteout conditions — was not easy. Nibali passed several pitfalls to arrive on the podium in Brescia’s Piazza della Loggia as Giro king.
“The snowy day to Galibier and Tre Cime di Lavaredo was epic, it recalled another time,” he said.
“The most difficult moment was when I crashed twice in the wet stage to Pescara. I thought my Giro was at risk. Nobody really saw it, but after my second crash in Pescara, I suffered. It was difficult to get back on my bike.”
For the moment, Nibali will set that bike aside, having made a promise to his new wife, Rachele. Mrs. Nibali is waiting for The Shark to hang some curtains at their home in Lugano. The Giro celebrations, plans for the future, and everyone and everything else can wait.