The 2012 Giro D'Italia was expected to be an open affair and it didn't disappoint. As many as ten riders were considered to be in with a shot at the Maglia Rose (Pink Jersey) and in the end it all came down to the final stage, with Ryder Hesjedal beating Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez in the time trial to claim the title by just sixteen seconds. The fact that prior to winning the race in Milan, Hesjedal had only led the General Classification for a total of four days shows just open this year's Giro was.
Despite the narrow margin Hesjedal was a deserving winner showing the necessary consistancy over all 3376.4 kilometers of this year's race. But much like Cadel Evans' 2011 Tour de France victory Hesjedal's win was just a small part of the story of this year's race. Which will go down as a very good, if not quite great, Giro D'Italia.
Hero of the Giro- Matteo Rabottini.
His Stage 15 win, in which he went off on his own having been in the break all day, survived a fall in the last 10k, before outsprinting Joaquim Rodriguez who had bridged the gap and passed him in the final kilometres, would afford him hero status alone. But he wasn't finished there, as he went on to claim the King of the Mountains classification. A great achievement for the 24 year old and his team Farnese Vini-Selle Italia.
Ride of the Giro- Thomas De Gendt, Stage 20.
Rabottini's Stage 15 win was excellent, but De Gendt's win on the race's penultimate day was arguably even better. The Belgian went off on his own with 16 kilometres of hard climbing still to go. And as he kept a chasing pack containing the race's main contendrers at bay, it seemed to most watching like the birth of a future serious grand tour contender. This was confirmed when he quickly recovered to put in a strong time trial performance the next day to take third place in the overall classification.
Disappointment of the Giro - Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi.
In any race there will always be as many disappointments as successes. But it was a shame that in such an open year neither Basso or Scarponi mounted a real assault on the race. Both remained in contention until virtually the end but neither ever looked like winning and De Gendt's late charge meant there was not a single Italian on the podium.
Sprint of the Giro - Mark Cavendish, Stage 13.
Cavendish's victory on Stage 13 was the Manx man at his very best. Blocked in, Cavendish jumped from wheel to wheel, even freewheeling to avoid a crash at one point ,before blowing away the competition with his trade mark accelaration. It was the high point of a strange Giro for Cavendish, that saw him taken out in two crashs, win three times, and beaten in a straight sprint by Andrea Guardini. The failure to hold onto the red jersey after racing all the way to Milan will have been a blow.
Suprise of the Giro - Andrea Guardini, Stage 18
With the other main sprint contenders out the race Mark Cavendish was an almost dead cert to be first across the finish of Stage 18. But Andrea Guardini suprised everyone to record Farnese Vini's second win of the Giro and ultimately do huge damage to Cavendish's sprint jersey hopes. It was a big statement from the 22 year old and it will be interesting to see if he can go on to establish himself as a genuine threat to Cavendish's domination of Grand Tour sprints.