Nibali triumphs at Tirreno-Adriatico
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) delighted his home fans by winning the overall general classification at the 2012 Tirreno-Adriatico, overturning a six-second deficit between him and overnight leader Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) in the final stage time trial at San Benedetto del Tronto on Italy’s eastern coast.
Nibali finished the 9.3km time trial in 10:56, which was good enough for ninth place on the day. The Italian went out first of the three men who were in with a chance of winning the overall GC and used it to his advantage. His sub 11:00 time turned the screw on his rivals and neither Horner nor Roman Kreuziger, who started the day in second place, could rise to the challenge of sticking with Nibali.
The stage itself was won in a blistering time of 10:36 by Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) – the second consecutive final stage time trial victory here by the Swiss flying machine. His teammate Daniele Bennati finished in second place, 12 seconds back, with Australia’s Cameron Meyer (GreenEdge) back in third. Meyer’s performance is further proof of his time trialling strength, but it wasn’t enough to snatch back the white jersey for best young rider from Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM).
The flat, fast and furious 9.3km course featured a tailwind at the beginning and a headwind in the final few kilometres, which made the closing stages tough. Cancellara was out on the course at 2pm local time – almost two hours before the leaders – and it was obvious for most of the afternoon that his time wouldn’t be threatened. His performance featured an average speed of 52.64 km/h and nobody else could live with him.
It made for a lull in the action during the midway point of the stage but the crowd and the race came alive as we approached the start time for the leaders. Nibali was the first to finish and as he waited patiently amongst his fans, it was clear from a long way out that first Kreuziger and then Horner were struggling to match him. And so it proved as he was confirmed the third Italian winner in the last four stagings of this famous race. It was a deserved victory for the man from Messina, who had performed solidly all week and was victorious in stage five on Sunday.
“I’m very happy, I felt good all morning and was confident,” Nibali said. “This season I had a lot more races in my legs than a lot of riders going into Tirreno-Adriatico, and the team was perfect. It’s been a busy and difficult week for us as we were having to play catch up almost immediately. But everyday we have moved forward and yesterday was the crucial day as it put me in contention for the last stage.”
Horner was philosophical about failing to hang on to his overnight lead and stated he was delighted to stay on the podium for a race that doesn’t actually suit him that well.
“I have no mixed feelings about this,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic week. The team did a great TTT to set me up to take the jersey and I defended it for a few days. Tactically I think we did a brilliant race. This is not a course that is ideal for me, but to stay on the podium is good for me. I was concerned that I might not stay in the top three. The only feeling I have about this is one of feeling great – great about the way the team worked this week and great about the way my legs feel.”
Horner’s teammate Cancellara dominated the final day with a time trial perfomance that had people reaching for the superlatives for the umpteenth time in his career. And he claimed that he wasn’t disappointed to finish three seconds slower than he did when lifting the equivalent stage last year.
“It was a tough one,” he said. “Especially when I had in mind my best time from last year. But the conditions today were totally different. Today we had a tailwind to go out but a full headwind to come back. I see that I did three seconds slower than last year’s ride but I still think I did a great ride.
“Today was important for me to test my position, to get in another ride on the bike, and I wanted to provide good split times for Chris to compare. I didn’t feel under pressure to win this. I know where my form is now after 30 hours on the bike and I have a lot of confidence.”