For the most successful runner-up in Giro history, the most decorated of all the losers, today was the day for Giacomo Nizzolo. After nine years and eleven second place finishes he has Team Jumbo Visma’s Italian time-trial specialist Edouardo Affini to thank.
Twelfth time lucky.
On a day as flat and straight as a Grand Tour stage can be, that we would get a sprint finish in Verona was a certainty. Until five hundred metres to go, that is, when Affini pulled a massive spanner from his jersey pocket and flung it exuberantly into the works.
Launching a random flying attack off the front, within fifty metres he’d sprung a sprint spoiling gap. A stage-win threatener. Off script, to say the least.
“Affini is clear…they’re not gonna’ catch him,” warned Eurosport’s Rob Hatch, alarmed.
But Nizzolo, current Italian and European Champion, was clearly at the end of his otherwise successful and well decorated tether with this whole plucky loser malarky. Perhaps sensing Hatch’s high pitched vibe he locked the crosshairs from a mile back (ok, maybe thirty metres) and launched.
He swept around a gaggle of rivals, clipped briefly onto the wheel of Gaviria for a final slingshot, then shot into the gap like a savannah lion with the scent of gazelle in his nostrils. Gaining. Gaining.
“Here comes Nizzolo, HERE comes Nizzolo,” said Hatch, “Ohhh he’s done it, Giacomo Nizzolo is going to catch him…today is the day!”
The rest of the sprinters? Who cares. If you’re going to leave it nine years to win a Giro sprint then THAT’s the way to do it. Long range. Dramatic and chaotic. Made for TV.
And maybe Affini taking a flyer made the difference? By forcing the issue and disrupting what promised to be a standard issue sprint he removed all the options. Nizzolo had nothing more to think about. He could only act.
“My goal this morning was to be second,” said Nizzolo, with a glint in his eye post-stage, “maybe this was the trick to get the victory?”
Maybe Giacomo. Or maybe Edouardo Affini was the trick. And maybe you should sign him up as a single-pronged long-range lead-out man?
(Top Image: Kevin Poh CC via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinpoh/5749303217)