MARK Cavendish sprinted to victory in the final stage in Brescia to take the red jersey in the Giro d’Italia and become only the fifth rider to win the points classification in all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
The Manxman edged out Sacha Modolo and Elia Viviani to take the red jersey back from overall winner Vincenzo Nibali, who had claimed it during his race-defining victory in the mountains on the penultimate stage on Saturday. Cavendish, who won the points classification in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and 2011 Tour de France but finished second by a single point here last year, took both of the intermediate sprints on yesterday’s final stage and the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider then positioned himself perfectly for one final burst to the finish line .
Astana’s Nibali, who has been the class of the field after the early exits due to sickness of Sir Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal, finished the race four minutes 43 seconds ahead of second-placed Rigoberto Uran of Team Sky.
Nibali’s epic stage victory amid blizzard conditions on Saturday had effectively sealed his place as this year’s winner and he was applauded by the crowds all the way along today’s flat 197-kilometre run from Riese Pio X to Brescia – an unfamiliar finishing point for an event which usually ends in Milan.
The Sicilian put considerable time into both Uran and Cadel Evans, with the Australian Evans slipping into third place behind Team Sky’s Colombian, and there was no change in the overall standings yesterday.
“I’m very happy,” said Nibali. “It was such a great crowd and there was a lot of joy for me. It was very emotional, very moving, beautiful. The whole team was very strong, they’ve done a great job and today really is a beautiful day for me.”
It is the high point of Nibali’s career to date. The 28-year-old, known as “The Shark”, won the 2010 Vuelta a Espana but victory in his home Grand Tour takes priority. His previous best was a second-place finish in 2011 after Alberto Contador was disqualified for doping.
Uran’s second place was a major achievement for a rider supposed to play a supporting role to Wiggins, but who took over leadership of Team Sky as last year’s Tour de France winner battled illness and withdrew.