Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali secured his maiden Giro d’Italia title on Sunday as Britain’s Mark Cavendish took his fifth stage win on the 21st and final stage into Brescia.
Nibali, of the Astana team, finished the weather-hit 96th edition with a 4 minute, 43 second lead on Colombian Rigoberto Uran of Sky Pro Cycling, with Australia’s Cadel Evans of BMC finishing third, 5:52 back.
After negotiating the final stage successfully, an emotional Nibali said: “I’ve achieved one of my lifetime dreams. It’s unbelievable.”
“Today, it was incredible to race these 200 kilometers. People were congratulating us all along the way, and it was great to ride into Brescia and see huge crowds,” he said.
It was Nibali’s first victory on the Giro, in which he finished third in 2010 and runner-up in 2011. Last year, he finished third overall on the Tour de France.
Nibali succeeds Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal as the winner of the maglia rosa after the Garmin-Sharp rider dropped out before the final week due to illness.
The 28-year-old Nibali is the first Sicilian winner of the Giro and the first Italian to win since Michele Scarponi, who was handed the 2011 title following Spaniard Alberto Contador’s disqualification for doping offenses.
Nibali took possession of the maglia rosa after the stage eight time trial won by Britain’s Alex Dowsett and despite a strong challenge from Evans, he took a massive step toward overall victory with his victory in Thursday’s 18th stage, a 20.6km uphill time trial.
It took his lead over Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, to more than four minutes.
After the first of two consecutive days in the Dolomites mountains was canceled on Friday due to snow and sub-zero temperatures at high altitude, Nibali capped his campaign with a second stage win atop the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Saturday, when Evans dropped to third.
Having crashed twice on stage seven, Nibali then had to endure, with the rest of the peloton, a rain-lashed and snow-hit second half of the race.
“Can you remember a Giro that’s finished without the riders coming home with a tan?” Nibali asked. “The weather made the race all the more difficult, but I sincerely believe that if there had been more climbs the result would have been the same. I felt I had the edge over the others.”
Evans’ BMC team blamed a “technical” hitch for his inability to follow the pace on Saturday, when the Australian was ultimately overtaken by Uran in the overall standings, but the 36-year-old Australian said Nibali was a worthy winner.
“Beating Nibali with the kind of form he was in was always going to be difficult,” said Evans, who was called into the race at late notice.
He will now continue building his form for the Tour de France, where bigger challenges await in the shape of Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins.
“Now I’ll prepare for the Tour. That’s the big objective of the team this year,” Evans said.
Meanwhile, Cavendish finished a triumphant campaign in style by dominating a hectic sprint for the finish on a tight circuit to take his victory tally on the race to 15.
The Isle of Man rider came into the race expected to dominate most of the five sprint finishes, especially in the absence of a number of top rivals.
He won the opening stage in Naples and stages six, 12, 13 and 21.
Asked what made him consistently ambitious, Cavendish said: “I’m addicted to winning.”
The Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team sprinter, who also has 23 stage wins on the Tour de France and three from the Vuelta a Espana, also secured the maglia rossa for the points competition.
Colombian Carlos Betancur, meanwhile, secured the maglia bianca for the best-placed rider aged 25 or under. Betancur finished in fifth place overall with a 41 second lead on main rival, Saxo-Tinkoff rider Rafal Majka.