Vincenzo Nibali destroyed his rivals to win the feared uphill time trial on stage eighteen of the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
The Italian, resplendent in the maglia rosa, charged through driving rain and the targets set by his rivals, all of whom started ahead of him, to record arguably the most significant victory of his career.
In an echo of Bradley Wiggins’ celebration on the stage 19 time trial at Chartres in last year’s Tour de France, Nibali punched the air as he crossed the line, rain streaming down his face and bare arms.
Nibali set an electrifying pace from the start house, swinging his aero bar-equipped road bike effortlessly through a sequence of tight corners early in the stage.
His victory was evident by the first time check, which he crossed an astonishing 1.23 up on his nearest challenger on GC, the 2011 Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
Of the contenders, only Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) was on the same page as Nibali, and long-time leader, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), looked increasingly nervous as the magnitude of Nibali’s early pace became apparent.
Evans trudged on in his bobbing style, the worsening rain seeming to dampen his spirits, while Nibali, by contrast, appeared to regard the moisture as a life-force.
The Australian was threatened with a repeat of his ignominious capture in the final time trial of the 2012 Tour, with Nibali in the role occupied last year by his young American team-mate, Tejay Van Gaarderen.
Evans bludgeoned his way through the final 450 metres to fend off the attentions of the rampaging Nibali, but short of a devastating performance in the final mountain stages, his hopes of adding a second Grand Tour to his palmares are over.
Today was all about one man. If Wiggins had remained in the race, even he would have struggled to contain Nibali today, one suspects, such was the relentless nature of the Italian’s assualt.
He leads Evans, his closest challenger on GC, but 4.02, and Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran, one of several top 10 contenders who could be considered to have delivered a good ride today, by 10 seconds more.
In any other race, the final stages would be considered a formality. Nothing can be taken for granted, however, when those that remaining at the Giro include the most feared climbs of the Dolomites: the Stevlio, the Giau, Tre Cime et al.
Bookmakers will be expecting little money to be placed against Nibali between now and Sunday.
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage eighteen – result
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 44.29
2) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +58″
3) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling +1.20
4) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +1.21
5) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +1.25
6) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +1.26
7) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.32
8) Stef Clement (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +1.36
9) Dario Cataldo (ITA) – Team Sky +1.41
10) Danilo Di Luca (ITA) – Vini Fantini +1.52
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 73.55.58
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +4.02
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +4.12
4) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +5.14
5) Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL) – Lampre-Merida +6.09
6) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +6.45
7) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +6.47
8) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini +7.30
9) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar +8.36
10) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +9.34