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Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 21; Gemona – Trieste, 169 km. Luka Mezgec Takes the Finale

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Giro d'Italia logoIt’s over – and Monday will feel empty. First things first; Luka Mezgec (Giant & Slovenia); and again we proved we’re not bad a spotting the ‘hot ones’ – we were one of the first to talk to the new sprint sensation, interviewing him here on VeloVeritas back in April.

VeloVeritas friend and pundit Ivan – a man with great knowledge of East European cycling – commented thus;

“A cracking result for Luka Mezgec to win in Trieste; Trieste has always been a city the Slovenes regard as being Slovene, in Slovene it is called Trst.”

Reminding us that it’s not so long since cycling and politics were inextricably linked in the East, he continued:

“One of the first ever stage races after the war was the Trst-Varna stage race, Varna is in Bulgaria on the Black Sea, the race was run only once, in 1945, from Trst to Varna across the Balkans, Varna was called, literally, Stalin, from 1948 to 1956.”

Luka Mezgec
Luka Mezgec took the final stage. Photo©Marco Alpozzi

And on the subject of Trst; Dave Duffield was stationed there just after the war (WW2 that is) and I remember his ramblings about his days there during his commentary on the 2009 Giro as we awaited Ale Jet destroying everyone at the line – sometimes I miss old Duffers.

Mezgec’s sprint was timed to perfection in what was a real free-for-all of a finish.

And isn’t that Giant jersey livery just so effective? – there was no doubt about which kind of bike had just won as Big Luka crossed the line.

Luka Mezgec
Nacer Bouhanni. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Nacer Bouhanni (F des J & France) didn’t seem his usual desperate self, he said later he was too concerned about crossing the line upright and preserving his red points jersey; Tyler Farrar (Garmin & USA) simply isn’t as rapid as he once was and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek & Italy) must be wondering what he has to do to get a win – four second places.

It’s always good to have a demented/cool/outspoken Italian sprinter on the race – Marino Basso, Paolo Rosola, Mario Cipollini and Ale Jet Petacchi in his prime are all sadly missed here at VV.

Luka Mezgec
Nairo Quintana with his prize for the overall victory. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

The finishing circuit was a good one, exciting and challenging – but fortunately the rain stayed away until the jersey presentations or it could have been a blood bath.

As I said, the finish was a real dog fight with really only Bouhanni having a proper lead-out.

Sky were drilling it earlier – with Phillip Deignan in particular looking very good – but it was too much, too soon just like on Stage 10 when they wasted their sprinter Ben Swift as well as most everyone else on the little ‘lump’ in the closing stage.

Luka Mezgec
Phillip Deignan. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

It was a poor last stage and Giro in general for Cannondale with their fast man Elia Viviani coming away with nothing; Moreno Moser invisible and Ivan Basso sadly on a ‘season too many.’

But good to see GreenEdge’s Svein Tuft (Canada) and Michael Hepburn (Australia) off the front, showing the team colours and ‘honouring the pink race’ despite being on their knees.

Luka Mezgec
Quintana messes around with his teammates. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

On the subject of colour, Ivan suggested that Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Colombia) be face painted pink and also that little bit of leg which shows between his over-long shorts and knee-length overshoes.

We emailed Movistar head man Eusebio Unzue with this suggestion but haven’t had a reply, yet…

Seriously, a sensational Giro for the men from the Southern Hemisphere with Quintana’s GC win and two stage successes; Rigoberto Uran (QuickStep) in second spot with a stage win and the King of the Mountains and a stage going to Trek’s Julian Arredondo.

Luka Mezgec
The jersey winners; Aru, Bouhanni, Quintana and Arredondo. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

And let’s not forget the Aussies – three stage wins courtesy GreenEdge and Michael Matthews (GreenEdge) and spells in pink from Matthews and Cadel Evans (BMC).

Whilst Evans rode an excellent first half of the race he was found out in the high mountains and maybe it’s time to think about spending more time driving that lovely old Ford Mustang which he has in the garage?

Luka Mezgec
Cadel Evans. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

But despite Quintana making it clear eventually that he was ‘the man’ – and also well capable of the Monkeydom that’s sometimes required to win big, remember the Stelvio ? – the race didn’t have an air of inevitability about that fact until well on; for spells it looked like Evans and Uran would take a bit of shifting from the jersey.

Luka Mezgec
Quintana’s bike is pink, naturally. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

It wasn’t a bad Giro for the home nation either – with Fabio Aru (Astana & Italia) a real revelation and white hope for the future.

He’s no flash in the pan – his progression up through the U23 ranks was solid and his feet seem to well rooted to the Sardinian soil.

Luka Mezgec
Fabio Aru and Rigo Uran. Photo©Daniele Montigiani

But let’s not forget Bardiani’s role in preserving Italian honour; three stage wins – respect, gentlemen.

And despite the fact that I keep getting told that cycling is now a major sport in the UK and a Media favourite, Monday’s Guardian managed the first ten on the stage and GC – not a word of reportage or comment.

I know, ‘it’ll all be different come the Tour!’

But the Tour de France will have to go some to match the 2014 Giro – a wonderful bike race.

Next up we have the Dauphine and Suisse; but they’re just not the ‘pink race’ are they?

Luka Mezgec
A great race for the Movistar team and Columbia (the country). Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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