The 2012 Giro d'Italia was a fight between two men, Team Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez and Garmin-Barracuda's Ryder Hesjedal. Rodriguez is a stronger climber and Hesjedal a stronger all-around rider, and once it became clear Hesjedal could hang in the mountains, there was a sense of inevitability to his Giro win. He was betting everything on the final day's time trial, and entering that day even Rodriguez admitted he would need a miracle to hang on to the Maglia Rosa. Hesjdeal was 31 seconds behind Rodriguez to start the stage. By the time Rodriguez had reached the first time check, he had lost 29 of those seconds to the Canadian. He would finish the course 45 seconds behind Hesjedal, handing over the overall lead and victory in the 2012 Giro d'Italia.
Rodriguez did earn a consolation prize: Thanks to his stage wins in the mountains, he took home the Maglia Rossa, the points competition victory, beating Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling) by a single point. It's very likely that poor course design cost Cavendish the points jersey; sharp bends in the final 500m of a sprint are difficult to navigate at high speed, and stages nine and three saw crashes that left Cav cut off from the final sprint. There's luck involved in any sport, but these were preventable crashes and it's a shame to see the contest decided by the route and not the riders. Ryder Hesjedal finished third in the points competition. Cavendish also earned the Azzurri d'Italia, another award based on points given to stage winners, and the Most Combative Rider award, a combined award based on points from stage wins, intermediate sprints, and King of the Mountain points.
The Maglia Azzurra, the pure mountains competition, went to Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia). The Italian won stage 15 in a heroic solo effort, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by cutting inside a corner around a stronger Joaquim Rodriguez and sealing victory in a stage where he spent about 145 of 175 kilometers alone, off the front of the race, climbing mountains in the rain. Stefano Pirazzi of Colnago - CSF Inox was a distant second and Andrey Amador of Movistar Team came in third.
Rigoberto Uran (Sky) takes the Maglia Bianca, the young rider award. This is given based on time, not points, and Uran was the fastest man under 23 years of age. Sergio Henao (Sky) was second, and Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago) came in third. Team Lampre-ISD had the fastest cumulative time, followed by Movistar Team and Sky Procycling.
Team BMC Racing, based out of Santa Rosa, had a few good results but an overall disappointing Giro. Taylor Phinney spent a few days in the overall lead after winning the opening time trial, but a crash in stage three put a hamper on his efforts and within a few days the Maglia Rosa was on another man's shoulders. The team capped the Giro with another time trial win, this time by Italian Time Trial Champion Marco Pinotti. Inbetween those two time trials the team didn't have much luck, their main contender for sprint stage wins, Thor Hushovd, abandoned the race due to illness in stage six. Still, Phinney is the team's biggest prospect, and he completed the race and said that it felt less difficult than previous grand tours. Their attention now turns to the Tour de France.
Hesjedal is the first Canadian in cycling history to win a grand tour. He shares the podium with Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez and Belgium's Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), making it the first time in several years to not feature at least one Italian. 2011 champion Michele Scarponi was in contention until the very end but couldn't hang on, and the other Italian GC contender, Team Liquigas-Cannondale's Ivan Basso, never found his legs when the opportunities presented themselves. Scarponi was looking good for third place, but a spetacular effort in stage 20 by De Gendt saw him make up several minutes on the slopes of the Stelvio. He took another 53 seconds in the final time trial, and that was enough for the podium. Scarponi finished in fourth.
A complete listing of GC Standings, the winners and standings from each individual stage, as well as maps and profiles can be found at the official Giro d'Italia site.
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