Italy's Nizzolo ends Giro hoodoo before race heads for mountains

·3-min read

Italian champion Giacomo Nizzolo finally got a win on the Giro d'Italia after 11 second-place finishes with a well-timed sprint finish on Friday's stage 13.

The Qhubeka rider had held the record for the most podium finishes with 16 in total over seven previous appearances in the race around Italy.

But the 32-year-old sprinted to victory at the end of a flat stage before the race heads for the feared Monte Zoncolan on Saturday with Colombian Egan Bernal still wearing the leader's pink jersey.

"This win gives a lot of meaning to my career," said the 32-year-old European champion.

"On several occasions I thought I could have won and I made mistakes but I knew I had the potential to win at the Giro d’Italia as well as elsewhere."

On Friday, the sprinters had their last chance to impress on the flat over 198km from Ravenna, to mark 700 years after the death there of Italian literary giant Dante Alighieri.

Breakaway riders Simon Pellaud, Samuele Rivi and Umberto Marengo were reeled in with 7km to go.

Jumbo Visma's Edoardo Affini made a break with 300 metres to go but Nizzolo chased him down to snatch his first stage win under the Porta Nuova in Verona.

"Finally!" he shouted after his 27th career victory and first on a Grand Tour.

It was his team's second win in three days after Swiss Mauro Schmid.

Slovak Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe rounded out the podium to retain the the cyclamen jersey for the points classification.

"Today it wasn't the most suitable finish for me," continued Nizzolo.

"Edoardo Affini was my point of reference for this 3km straight line at the finish.

"As he moved to the right side, I reacted. I took the risk of losing in order to win."

- 'Long way to go' -

Bernal finished among the leading group including Russian rival Aleksandr Vlasov, who remains second overall, 45sec behind the Colombian.

For the 2019 Tour de France winner it was s fifth pink jersey.

"Finally an easy day, tomorrow we have a hard day," said 24-year-old Bernal.

"It would be special to win atop the Zoncolan but that means controlling the whole peloton, so I'd be happy if I just keep the Maglia Rosa."

He added: "In my opinion, the Giro still has a long way to go. I have a little bit of an advantage but everything can happen in this race.

"It's necessary to keep my feet on the ground. I have to stay calm to not lose the top spot.

"I just know about the Monte Zoncolan that anyone who’s got the legs can make a difference in the last 3km."

The 14th stage covers 205km from the medieval walled town of Cittadella, in the province of Padua, to Monte Zoncolan in the Carnic Alps.

Zoncolan is one of the toughest climbs in Europe, featuring a final kilometre with a 14.7 percent gradient to the finish line complicated by forecasts of rainy and cold conditions.

Meanwhile, the Jumbo team's Dutch riders Dylan Groenewegen and David Dekker both pulled out of the race before the mountains.

"The reservoir is empty for them," said team sporting director Arthur van Dongen.

For the sprinters, just one favourable day remains, next Thursday's stage 18 at Stradella in Lombardy before the race finishes in Milan on May 30.