You can never take anything for granted at the Tour of the Alps, and it proved it again in today’s final stage of the 43rd edition, running through Südtirol from Caldaro/Kaltern to Bolzano/Bozen (147,8 km). At the end, Pavel Sivakov of Team Sky deservedly achieved his first career GC win, and his rivals made sure he had to earn every bit of it, ending Team Sky’s legacy in stage races on the highest possible note.
The biggest threat to finalize his dream was an unexpected one: Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec Fausto Masnada did much more on the day than just securing a second stage victory with a gutty attack from distance but has been virtual leader of the race well into the final 20 km of the Tour of the Alps.
A 18-man action got away in the early race, then splitting into two as the Collalbo/Klobenstein ascent started hitting hard on the legs of the escapees. The rain factor in the first half of the race induced Team Sky to a more cautious approach, that eventually led a 9-man selected group – Cataldo, Stalnov, Masnada, Cuadros Morata, Thalmann, Quintero, Bizkarra, Velasco and Vuillermoz – to gain over 7 minutes, giving Masnada (back 3.37 at the start) a virtual 3.30 advantage in GC over Sivakov. Masnada himself attacked and left the company along with Colombian Quintero
That’s when Team Sky had to pull out a joker, and they found it once again in Chris Froome. The four-time Tour de France leader pulled the leaders’ group through the whole San Genesio/Jenesien climb, cutting down the gap to 4 minutes. There again, it was Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) who pulled the trigger and attacked twice, and only Sivakov remained in his wake. Geoghegan Hart, Cattaneo (Androni-Sidermec) and Vuillermoz (Ag2R-La Mondiale) got back on the two rivals, but the gap was already back under the risk threshold, and the quintet eventually remained together until the finish. Meantime at the front, Masnada used a late attack with 1 km to go to distance Quintero and taking a second stage victory. Velasco (Neri-Selle Italia) was third at 1.30, whilst Nibali and Sivakov’s group ended at 2.14. The final podium was a mix of talent, perspective and class: Sivakov 1st, Geoghegan Hart 2nd and Vincenzo Nibali 3rd.
“That’s incredible,” said Pavel Sivakov, “I must say I feel this like a team victory rather than mine. My teammates were amazing throughout the week, and helped me hugely once again today, when we were put under big pressure. Even when we were seven minutes down, I just remained confident that we would have made it back, not contesting the stage maybe but enough to defend this victory. I am delighted to have won this great race: I enjoyed it very much, though it was full-gas really from start to finish. That’s a success that rewards me of every effort.” Sivakov was the first ever Russian to win the Tour of the Alps, and even one of the youngest at 22 years of age, that meant he also won the Youth Classification’s white jersey. Spaniard Sergio Samitier (Euskadi-Murias) won the best climber’s classification, whilst Felbermayr-Simplon-Wels Austrian Matthias Krizek was the winner of the Intermediate Sprints’ red jersey.
From his side, Masnada was rightfully delighted with his second win of the week: “I am very happy that the stage went exactly to plan for me. I hoped to be in a big breakaway, and I found the right one. Even when I knew we had a big gap, I still thought that the GC would probably be still out of reach, so I focused only on the stage victory. Now I am heading to the Giro with increased confidence – both for a GC placement and a stage win.”
Once again, the Tour of the Alps succeeded in bringing five days of great cycling show, powered by the top names in the sport, on the Euregio roads: “We are delighted by the feedbacks we are receiving from the territorial boards of Tirol, Südtirol and Trentino, the key partners of this experience along with the Euregio,” GS Alto Garda President Giacomo Santini said. “In the years, the Tour of the Alps is getting more and more recognized for its identity, and that’s big for us. We are incredibly proud of the way the greatest champions in cycling come here to compete at the best of their possibilities, as the likes of Nibali and Froome showed also today, and that huge talents like Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart keep revealing themselves on our roads.”
“I really wish to credit and thank all the elements of this great organizational group, from the board of directors to all the volunteer that help us making this race safer, better and more beautiful. This edition has been another success – now we switch focus to number 44.”