Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) claimed a surprise victory on the final stage of the 2015 Giro d’Italia as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) sealed overall success.
On the largely processional final stage from Turin to Milan, Contador’s overall lead was never likely to be threatened, with the sprinters expected to play out the final fight for stage honours.
Six-day track star Keisse foiled them, however, outsprinting Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) as their two-man break succeeded on the final finishing circuit.
As ever, it was a typically celebratory feel to the stage – with Contador’s team owner Oleg Tinkov dying his hair pink to mark his star man’s seventh Grand Tour win – nine if you include the two stripped from his palmares because of his positive clenbuterol test.
Indeed, Contador raised his arms with three fingers outstretched on each as he crossed the finish line just behind the peloton, indicating that he still sees himself as the 2011 champion.
Regardless of the past, however, what is certain is the Spaniard has now won the last two Grand Tours he has finished – the Vuelta a Espana in September and now the Giro.
With the Tour de France next on the agenda, he could hold all three Grand Tours by the time July is out, despite losing some of his commanding overall lead in the final week.
That lead, which stood at more than two minutes before the stage, was never realistically in danger on the final day, however, with only the red jersey and the final stage still up for grabs.
When Durbridge and Keisse went clear after the first of the seven final laps of the Milan circuit there was no reason to suggest they would not be reeled back in.
With Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) keen to defend the red jersey, and the likes of Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) – who claimed the intermediate sprint points – looking to prise it from him the sprint teams were in control in the bunch.
But ill-timed punctures and discord at the head of the bunch meant a lead which never extended to more than a minute for the front two suddenly looked like being enough.
Knowing they were now bidding for the stage win, the two leaders cautiously watched and chased each other as they bid to seal the stage win.
Keisse doggedly stuck to Durbridge’s wheel, though, and passed him in the final sprint to take victory.
Contador, meanwhile, rolled in behind the bunch to celebrate another Grand Tour triumph and the first part of what he hopes will be a famous Giro-Tour double.
Giro d’Italia 2015: stage 21 – result
1) Iljo Keisse (BEL) – Etixx-QuickStep – 4.18.37hrs
2) Luke Durbridge (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
3) Roger Kluge (GER) – IAM Cycling +9”
4) Alexander Porsev (RUS) – Katusha – ST
5) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Trek Factory Racing
6) Luka Mezgec (SVN) – Giant-Alpecin
7) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Team Sky
8) Moreno Hofland (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo
9) Davide Appollonio (ITA) – Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
10) Elia Favilli (ITA) – Southeast
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 88.22.25hrs
2) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +1.53
3) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana +3.05
4) Andrey Amador (CRC) – Movistar +8.10
5) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Cannondale-Garmin +9.52
6) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team Sky +10.41
7) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +10.53
8) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing +12.08
9) Alexandre Geniez (FRA) – FDJ +15.51
10) Yuri Trofimov (RUS) – Katusha +16.14