This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Giro d’Italia 2013 leader Vincenzo Nibali has battled through appalling weather conditions on today’s last summit finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo to claim a spectacular second stage victory and stomp his authority over the race for one last - and impressive - time.
Barely visible through the teeming snow as he approached the finish line at the summit of the seven kilometer climb, in the closing metres Nibali raised first his right arm in triumph then his left, kissing his wedding ring as he did so: 17 seconds ahead of his closest pursuer Fabio Duarte (Colombia), his second stage win of the Giro in the bag and last but not least, the Giro 2013 itself all but inescapably his.
Barring absolute disaster on the last flat 197 kilometres to Brescia on Sunday there can surely be no way that Nibali will lose the Giro, his second Grand Tour after the Vuelta 2010 and fifth finish on the podium of a three week stage race in his career.
The Giro, though, is yet to finish - and given the exceptionally appalling weather conditions, with around a metre of snow on the ground at the finish and yet more pouring out of the sky, regardless of what happens on Sunday Nibali’s victory, though, was more than memorable in itself.
Having taken Thursday’s uphill time trial, win number two of 2013 came when the 28-year-old Sicilian attacked some 2.5 kilometres from the summit from a front group of around 30 riders, first using Estonian team-mate Tangel Kangert (Astana) for a few metres worth of support before breaking away solo, with only the mountain - and a near-blizzard - left to beat.
Within seconds Nibali had both caught and passed the last survivor of an earlier breakaway, Eros Capecchi (Movistar) and left the main group reeling. Only Urán, Carlos Alberto Betancur (Ag2R) and a third Colombian, Fabio Duarte (Colombia), managed to hold the Italian’s back wheel briefly before with a second acceleration on the steepest segment of the climb - averaging 12 percent but with segments of 18 percent - Nibali had gone for good.
His helmet and gloves caked with snow, Nibali nonetheless battled steadily onwards despite the steadily worsening storm - and despite the idiotic spectators (always a tiny minority, but always, regrettably, there on the climbs) who considered it amusing to hurl themselves forwards and run alongside the Italian for a whole few seconds of television glory. Nibali, thankfully, was able to brush them aside and plough onwards and upwards in the last two kilometres, with a gap of nearly 30 seconds at one point, although he faded slightly in the final metros, the victory - and the Giro - was safely in the bag.
Behind, meanwhile, the battle for the podium was raging at full blast, as Evans struggled badly, seemed almost able to regain contact with the Colombian trio ahead, then fell back for good. The differences were fairly small at the finish, given the leader’s group had remained intact until relatively late and the 2011 Tour winner finished 14th, 1-30 back.
Australia's Cadel Evans (BMC)
But with Urán in third place and just ten seconds separating the two before the sage, Evans has slid back a spot to third overall. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), the other big podium favourite, fared marginally better than Evans, finishing in 13th spot. But with too much time to make up the 2011 Giro winner is now forced to settle for fourth in Brescia.
The day, though, really belonged to Nibali: effectively finishing the race on such a high note, and giving Giro fans something to cheer about. Beating such difficult weather - perhaps his most serious rival this year - was a triumph that will be remembered for a long time to come.