The final stage to Breschia must have been a relief for the riders still left in this year's Giro, offering up warm weather, if not some sun, and a flat route full of festivities and celebrations. The first 150 kilometers of the stage unfolded as a coronation of Vincenzo Nibali as this year's Giro champion, his Astana team setting a steady tempo on the front as everyone behind chatted and waved at the TV cameras. Oh, and there was plenty of video looking at Nibali, finally wearing all pink with pink accents on his bike, because this is the Giro after all and there must be a long look at the winner's fashion.
Once the race entered Breschia for seven finishing circuits the mood changed. Mark Cavendish and Elia Viviani were still in the bunch, and they hadn't ridden over so many snowy mountains just to fool around on the final stage. For added incentive, Cavendish was now trailing Nibali by 11 points in the maglia rosso passione competition - a margin he could easily make up by placing well on the stage, but certainly wide enough to provide ample motivation to win.
The change was not instantaneous - the gruppo put on a good show for the crowds packed around the twisty 5km circuit, and Stefano Garzelli even jumped ahead to wave at fans on the side of the road while pedaling none too hard yet. Steadily, though, Astana jerseys at the front were replaced by the blue of Omega Pharma - Quickstep and white of Argos - Shimano. Racing began once Mark Cavendish took the intermediate sprint uncontested - or so he thought, for he was a lap too early -with 25km to go as Androni's Ermetti launched off Cavendish's wheel and began a solo foray off the front.
Ermetti almost ended his chances before Cavendish's teammates did, outriggering his way through a tight turn, and then he was back in the fold and the real question was whose leadout train would pilot Cavendish to victory. Quickstep looked outnumbered with only two men on the front some 1.300 meters from the finish, but once Gert Steegmans latched himself onto the back wheel of the Cannondale leadout train things seemed back in order. Viviani and Cavendish's final leadouts opened up on opposite sides of the road and from the beginning it was clear Cavendish would win. Sacha Modolo came across the line in Cavendish's draft for a well earned second place. No changes on the overall and Cavendish back in the maglia rosso - all according to plan, right?
- Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quickstep)
- Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox)
- Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling)
- Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack - Leopard)
- Luka Mezgec (Argos - Shimano)
- Roberto Ferrari (Lampre - Merida)
- Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Belisol)
- Manual Belletti (AG2R La Mondiale)
- Giovanni Visconti (Movistar)
- Luca Paolini (Katusha)
- Uran +4:43
- Evans + 5.52
- Scarponi + 6.48
- Betancur 7.28
- Niemec 7.43
- Majka 8.09
- Intxausti 10.26
- Santambrogio 10.32
- Pozzovivo 10.59
- Cavendish 158p
- Nibali 128 p
- Evans 111 p