Giro d’Italia: Stage 20 reactions

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), new race leader: “It was a draining Giro”

“I only believed it after the finish,” Nibali said. “I was there, listening to the speaker counting down the seconds. It was only when I understood I’d pulled it off that I could start to celebrate.”

“Yesterday I realised that I was going very well at altitude and I was confident for today. On the Colle della Lombarda we kicked off our forcing. The entire team was magnificent. I was feeling good and in the finale, I asked Michele to up the pace. I’ll have to build a monument to him. I didn’t even believe it myself that we would manage it, but thanks to some great teamwork, we defied a lot of predictions.”

“This morning when I started, I wasn’t afraid to win and I wasn’t afraid to lose. After yesterday, I understood that I was going better than everyone else at high altitude. These last few days were very important. It was a draining Giro. I started with the pressure of being favourite, but once I said to myself: ‘Whatever happens, happens’ I felt more free.”

“I spoke a lot with Michele [Scarponi] in my room and I began to realise that people loved me all the same, beyond what happened in this Giro”.

“That’s what made me go well in this Giro. In my head, I set out with the desire to do too much and I was expecting something straightaway. I was too focused and I wasn’t riding well. But then we realigned ourselves and we rode well this last week.”

Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge): “I didn’t have the legs, that’s life”

“We’re still happy, we gave our very best but Nibali, Scarponi and Astana showed they’re the best. I didn’t have the legs, that’s life. There’s nothing else to say”.

The Colombian climber has been struggling with bronchitis in the last few days, with a blocked nose revealing he was not at his best. He is apparently also taking antibiotics but he refused to say that his illness cost him the maglia rosa.

“It’s not an excuse. I’m not the kind of guy to say I was ill or I had cramp. I just didn’t have the legs and that’s it,” he said. “When you’re heartbeat is at 200, you don’t think about anything, about illness, you just try your best.”

“This is the first time that my parents have come to Europe, it was my first time in the maglia rosa. I lost the jersey today that’s not important. It’s more important that they were here. I’ve only lost a bike race.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “Being on the podium of all three Grand Tours is a phenomenal achievement for my career”

“I’m really very happy,” Valverde said. “I think you could see that from how I punched the air when I crossed the line, it was as if I had won. We placed third overall and even almost second in the end.”

“There were so many tifosi on the final climb that I couldn’t hear the time gaps in my earpiece, but I knew I was putting time on those behind. We were climbing strong and I could see Nibali, and see that I was even taking time back on him.”

“It’s nothing short of incredible for me. Being on the podium of all three Grand Tours is a phenomenal achievement for my career. In the end, after struggling so much at altitude, it seemed like I got used to it, because my legs during the final climbs were fantastic,” Valverde said. “The job we did all day, from the first attacks in Vars, with the whole team helping me out in the Col de la Bonette, plus that final hand from Visconti here at Sant’Anna, was marvellous.”

Rein Taaramae (Katusha), stage winner: “I stayed six weeks in altitude training camp – I could get a Colombian passport, maybe”

“Yesterday was really a hard and sad day for us. The team worked for three weeks for the GC and I know how motivated Ilnur was. Everything ended in one sudden second. That’s why I was so motivated today to go in the break. The second reason was that I wanted to prove myself I can do a good race. I worked so hard in the beginning of the season and I hoped this work would pay off one day.”

“I don’t know if it’s my best win, I also won a stage in the Vuelta, but a dream comes true when you win a stage in the Giro. It was my personal target. When Zakarin crashed yesterday, I was really scared for him. It happened at 70-80kph. I was really scared he’d lose his life. I turned around to see, and when I saw that he sat up I realized he survived. It was really hard morale-wise to continue the race,” Taaramae said at the finish line.

“This morning I didn’t feel very good, I caught the breakaway very late at the top of the climb, and it was really difficult. Once we crossed 2,000 metres, it suited me – yesterday was the same. I’ve stayed here for training camp three times, and I knew if I survived in the front when we got to 2,000 metres nobody could beat me. I know the reason – I stayed six weeks in altitude training camp – I could get a Colombian passport, maybe.”

Alexandre Vinokourov, team Astana manager: “This is the best Grand Tour we’ve ever won”

“It’s a special day for Vincenzo and all the team. We again showed that team work can make a big difference. We were united together, right to the end and so this is a team victory,”

“We worked hard as a team to make it possible, both today and yesterday. Then Vincenzo finished it off and proved yet again that he’s a ‘grande campione’. It’s a great day for him, for Sicily and for Italy. It was a nerve-wracking race and perhaps especially for the Italian cycling fans. There was always a lot of intrigue but I think it’s great for cycling.”

“If someone had said a week ago that’d we’d win the Giro, I’d have struggled to believe them. We said we’d try everything but things were against us. It’s a great victory. I think this is the best Grand Tour we’ve ever won. We’ve won the Tour with Vincenzo but taking the leader’s jersey on the last climb of the last mountain stage is incredible.

“The time trial was a disaster, it was a really bad day for us. But I gathered the team together on the rest day and said we had to put it behind us and start all over again. That’s what we did. Vincenzo changed mentally after that. The mind controls the legs and Vincenzo proved that again.

“Even when Vincenzo had lost time, I told him that the Giro d’Italia only finished in Turin. Some people said that 4:40 was impossible to pull back but we never stopped believing that it was possible.”

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo): “It was a big chance for me to win a Grand Tour”

“I was on my limit today and I couldn’t do any more than I did. This was it. Last night I didn’t expect to start or that I’d be able to follow the guys, so in the end I have to be satisfied after what happened yesterday,” Kruijswijk said, looking to put a brave face on a trying 48 hours. “I had a sleepless night, it was three or four o’clock before I fell asleep. I tried to hold on, but it was too hard. I’m still disappointed after Risoul.

“The only thing that was possible was to try to hold my top three spot because I lost the Giro yesterday. It’s a shame that I’m standing here without the pink jersey now.”

“It was a big chance for me to win a Grand Tour, and I think I was one of the best in the race,” Kruijswijk said. “But staying on your bike is also cycling and that’s what I lacked yesterday.”

Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale): “I wanted to win really bad today but it doesn’t always work out”

“I felt like I could win and I’ve wanted to win a mountain stage in this Giro since the start of the year. And this was really the one because it I know all the roads, my family was there with a kilometre to go. I wanted to win really bad today but it doesn’t always work out,”

“We came here riding for Rigo (Rigoberto Uran) and that was the main thing and then as a secondary thing, if I could go for a stage that’s what I wanted to do: to try to win a mountain stage. But you know… on almost every mountain day I’ve been up in the front doing something or trying something. Today was the closest I came to actually taking a stage.

“If you want to win, unless you are going to win out of the GC group and follow the GC group, you have to try a lot. For me at this point, I can’t take off from Nibali so I have to take my opportunities when they come and tried to do that every day that suits me.”