Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) claimed his fifth victory of the 2013 Giro d’Italia on the final stage in Brescia to win the red jersey.
Cavendish went into the stage 11 points adrift of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who secured overall victory, but won both intermediate sprints before beating Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling) to the finish line.
The Manx Missile joins Eddy Merckx, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert and Alessandro Petacchi as only the fifth rider in history to win the points jerseys in all three Grand Tours, having won the equivalent classifications at the Vuelta a Espana in 2010 and the Tour de France in 2011.
Home favourite Nibali finished safely in the peloton to win the race by four minutes 43 seconds from Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky), with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) a further one minute and nine seconds back in third.
Bad weather has dogged this year’s edition of the Giro but stage 21 was played out under blue skies on a 197km route from Riese Pio X to Brescia.
The opening half of the stage became a procession with Nibali, who took the red jersey off Cavendish’s shoulders after an imperious victory on stage 20, opting not to contest the two intermediate sprints, with Cavendish duly winning both, despite having to sprint for the second twice after a change in the stage distance led to confusion as to which lap of the 4.6km finishing circuit would count.
“I’m so, so happy,” Cavendish said. “It couldn’t have been any closer on the last day. Everyone knew I was going for the intermediate sprints. I’m lucky, the peloton is full of gentlemen that were content to let me fight for the punch (red jersey). Nibali could have fought for it, but he was content to go for the maglia rosa.”
With eight points awarded to Cavendish for each of the intermediate sprints and the red jersey secured, the 28-year-old turned his attention to winning another stage of the race having previously been victorious on stages one, six, 12 and 13.
Orica-GreenEDGE, Cannondale Pro Cycling, Radioshack-Leopard and Lampre-Merida all joined Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad at the head of the peloton in a bid to set up their respective sprinters as the race came to its crescendo.
But Cavendish once again proved too fast for his rivals, coming round Modolo to secure the 102nd victory of his career and become the first sprinter in five years to win the red jersey.
“What keeps me always motivated is I just want to win,” Cavendish added. “I’ve always just wanted to win, I’ve been addicted to it since I was a child. Just wanting to win brings the best out of everyone. Especially when you have a team built around you, you have to deliver 100 per cent.
“That’s what I try to do. If someone comes along who is faster, I’ll go home, work harder, and come back faster the next year. It’s as simple as this.”
While the final stage was Cavendish’s, the race belonged to Nibali and the Italian crossed the line a few seconds later to add a second Grand Tour to his palmares having won the Vuelta a Espana in 2010.
The Astana team leader moved into the pink jersey after the stage eight time trial and has only extended his lead since, recording stage victories in the mountains, first on stage 18’s uphill time trial, before all-but sealing the title with a superb victory in a snowstorm on stage 20.
Meanwhile, Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) finished fifth overall to win the best young rider’s white jersey, while Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) won the King of the Mountains classification.
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage 21 – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 5:30:09 hours
2) Sacha Modolo (ITA) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox – same time
3) Elia Viviani (ITA) Cannondale Pro Cycling
4) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Radioshack-Leopard
5) Luka Mezgec (SLO) – Argos-Shimano
6) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
7) Kenny Dehaes (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
8) Manuel Belletti (ITA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
9) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar
10) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha
Final general classification
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 84:53:28 hours
2) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +4’43”
3) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +5’52”
4) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +6’48”
5) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +7’28”
6) Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL) – Lampre Merida +7’43”
7) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +8’09”
8) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar + 10’26”
9) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini +10’32”
10) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +10’59”