It's all over, baby. Three weeks around Italy, and if it's felt like about three months as a fan watching on, no doubt the riders must be ready to drop. They will head off for some much needed rest, as we look back and reflect on what has been a memorable, if not quite unusual, Grand Tour.

Reflections and summaries and heroes and awards will follow, but for now, here's one last bulletin to take you through the day's action. Thank you so much for following our work during this Giro - if you have enjoyed it please consider subscribing - the Tour de France is just a few weeks away, and it's going to be epic. For now, sit back and prepare for some emotions...

Today in review
Talking Tactics
Italian to go
Canzone dell'Amore Infinito
The Watch Zone

Today in review

After the drama and spectacle of yesterday's time trial, and the coronation of the maglia rosa in waiting, Primoz Roglic, writing a report about today's stage felt a little empty. At least, it did, at the beginning.

Not that Rome isn't charming, because of course it is, but the processional nature of the stage combined with the ridiculous transfer distance added to the feeling that the peloton would just be phoning it in, aside from the sprinters teams, who wouldn't need to go to work until later in the stage.

Top to bottom: first and last in the general classification standings, Lanterne Rouge Nicolas Dalla Valle (Team corretec-Selle Italia) and maglia rosa Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Earlier there were the photo moments, and quite a turn of pace set by Team Jumbo-Visma, clearly keen to be done with the race and to begin the party.

Around half the total distance of the stage had elapsed before the first attack was launched, and when it was, it was Arkea-Samsic's Maxime Bouet who tentatively struck out away from the custodianship of the Jumbo bees, with Cesare Benedetti (BORA-hansgrohe) and Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) following after.

The intermediate sprint competition is currently the only classification being led by Derek Gee, but Skujiņš and his teammates worked hard to peg him back at the first of two opportunities, leaving it finely poised with just 2 points in between Gee and another second place.

It's a poignant irony given that two of the riders who have offered their thoughts to us at points during the Giro, are Skujiņš and Gee - they sent us some three-word stage summaries earlier in the race and before today's stage in Rome, both Toms and Derek updated us with their final summary of how they have found the race. Here's what they had to say:

Toms Skujiņš:

Derek Gee:

The sprinters' teams took up the chase and unsurprisingly, kept the break on a tight leash - it's been a hell of a Giro for the breakaway but this one would not be allowed to go any way other than according to the script.

Skujiņš wrapped up the intermediate sprints competition, condemning Gee to yet another second place, and it's peak Giro d'Italia 2023, and you could only shake your head and hope that Derek wasn't too upset about it. Derek Gee - four second places on stages, second in the points, KOM, intermediate sprint and fuga classifications, leaving only the GC where he wasn't 2nd... G was. (Gee was 22nd).

The kilometres ticked away, and Magnus Cort launched a speculative attack but he and the rest of the break were quickly swept up as the business end of the stage drew rapidly closer.

With 5km to go, it happened, because of course it did... ATTACK FROM DEREK GEE! It was as delightful as it was brief, a spin of the Giro's Greatest Hits, and no sooner had that attack been neutralised than Ineos took up the pace, and Geraint Thomas drove the peloton into the finale, serving as lead-out for Mark Cavendish perhaps with Luis Leon Sanchez and the Manx Missile on his wheel, an incredible nod to the friendship and history between the two and a foreshadowing of an ending written in the stars.

The long, wide boulevard led the riders to the end of the 2023 Giro at high speed, with first Movistar and then Bahrain Victorious piloting their men into the final, but it was Gaviria who launched first, with Cavendish on his wheel, exiting the slipstream in time to hit his top speed and pull clear. Milan was out of the running and a nasty crash hampered Pascal Ackermann amongst others, as the riders at the front tore after Cavendish, but the veteran Manxman was away and clear. He powered over the line clear by over two bike lengths and punched the air, a beautiful victory rendered all the more meaningful by the manner in which it unfolded.

It was the fairytale ending that many predicted, but with many other fast men still in the running, nothing was set in stone. But on the day it was pure narrative perfection. Cavendish's first win of the season and first for Astana, and his 17th stage victory at the Giro, at the final time of asking. Poetry.

Afterwards, Cavendish hugged everyone, his teammates, riders from other teams, Geraint Thomas, Adam Blythe, as the praise and plaudits rolled in on social media and among the pundits and commentators.

How else could this mad, chaotic, yet ultimately memorable Giro d'Italia end? There was no other denouement that would have been so beautiful, so fitting, and so bloody perfect. Mark Cavendish; cycling legend.

Talking Tactics

by Tom Portsmouth

Excuse my French, but Mark Fucking Cavendish. I’ve been watching this guy, intent on learning his skills for twelve years now. I can’t promise this won’t turn into an appreciation post for Mark Cavendish.

You might be forgiven for thinking you were watching a highlight reel from the 2011 Tour de France. The dynamics of the closing kilometres were almost a carbon copy of several of Cavendish’s wins during that Tour de France. The inter-team alliances in play between then Team Sky and HTC were apparent.

The same culprit in Geraint Thomas would just happen to find himself on the front of the peloton when HTC were in their trademarked elite lead out train. This was due to Project Rainbow, the long term plan to get a British rider back into the UCI world champion rainbow stripes. Team GB riders who would be selected, were working, practising, ahead of Project Rainbow in September 2011.

Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish very much rolled back their years today, with Geraint of Ineos clearly indicating to Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) to get onto his wheel, with Cavendish subsequently in his. In recent sprints, Cavendish’s team hasn’t had the horsepower to keep him at the front of the peloton, so his many friends paid dividends today.

Cavendish, though, did have to finish off all his friends' work. Initially looking like he was again dropping back; it became clear that he had made the decision at one kilometre to follow Jonathan Milan, the fastest man on paper. However, Jonathan Milan had been riding uncharacteristically in the wind from over five kilometres out. Given his big frame, the watts pushed in those instances would have undoubtedly stunted the legs.

When it became clear Milan wasn’t the one, and by following him would have surely shut the door on another historic Cavendish victory. Cavendish, always the quick thinker, then recognised the predictable early sprint of Fernando Gaviria would keep that door open, literally creating a pocket of air for the British Champion to be sucked into. Mark made the decision to jump into the slipstream of the Colombian, which provided a huge gap to rush into – remember that technique in stage 17. It’s almost poetic that Gaviria, who put Cavendish into question back in 2015, was rinsed by Cavendish for today’s final before sitting up and rolling into the finish.

It showed how many friends Mark Cavendish has in the peloton. Jake Stewart kept his sprint clean by holding his line. A few other sprinters might have closed the door on Cavendish to get into the slipstream of the Colombian. Having said that, you feel the peloton as a sprinter. Almost like having a sixth sense for who is around you, so it might well have been natural for Stewart to hold his line, no matter who was on his right side.

Finally, Cavendish is the king of sprinting on cobbles. Four consecutive sprints on the Champs Elysées shows he knows what to do on an unfair section of road. He again chose the right hand side of the road, which proved to be the smoothest. Again this reminded me, clear as day, of the sprint Cavendish put in to win that fourth time in the unofficial sprinters championship in France. The British National Champion added to his win tally, making it 162 wins in his entire career, with his first being in 2008 Giro d’Italia. In all those victories though, Cavendish likes a story, and what better way to hit the audience than to make us reminisce on his previous victories in more ways than one. Mark Cavendish, you’re a true champion. I’m grateful I got to talk to you on the bike at least once in my career.

Canzone dell'Amore Infinito

The 106th Giro is done. It was, if anything, a wild ride.

This playlist ended, coincidentally, on 106 songs and is also a wild ride.
So that feels fitting. Something something about how it all made me feel, but honestly, I’m not sure yet. That will come later.

For now; a soundtrack to the final stories and themes of a Giro that started out looking like it was gonna be a mainstream blockbuster, then turned into a bleak thriller noir, then a Kafka-esque arthouse non-linear narrative with no clear protagonist or villain, then an excessively referential and chaotically stylish action romp ala Tarantino… Just to turn it around and become a box office sports movie anyways and… Disney! Yeah. I spent 6 years getting a film studies degree to make this analysis. Academics, y’all!

…And as the DJ gets ready for the end of the party, she plays this, with short notes…

94: Stage 21: Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy (12” version)

No other reason than the fact that the Giro used it for a reel the other day and it feels fitting for a Giro with a podium defined by riders who’ve had to go against the odds and redefined themselves more than just once.

95: Stage 21: Morcheba - Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

It took a while for the battle to get started, it sometimes felt like we’d never make it to the end with something resembling a peloton. And would we ever get a proper GC fight when several of the top riders seemingly riding themselves into form along the way, and yet… here we are.

96: Stage 21: Calvin Harris & Rihanna - This Is What You Came For

Cav. Roglič. Chapeau.

97: Stage 21: Dean Martin - Arrivederci Roma

Time for the podium, goodbye to the race. Was happy to see that the route was surprisingly safe today as well, at least until the final meters. Commiserations and drinks to the crashed riders.

…and after the podium and champagne - time for the liner notes…

98: Stage 21: Toto Cutugno - Insieme:1992

When the dust settled, we had a GT GC with 10 different nationalities on it. All European, so this old Euro-celebratory track gets dusted off and paraded out for this first time occasion.

99: Stage 21: JAY-Z - 30 Something

João Almeida is the only rider in Top 5 under the age of 32. And today’s sprint finale featured a surprising lead out and stage winner composed of G (37), LL Sanchez (39) and Cav (38).

In a sport that has been dominated by the white jersey generations for a good while, this feels really really positive to me. Who’s also in my 30s, but probably still not doing lead-out rides anytime soon…

100: Stage 21: Imagine Dragons - Second Chances

Skujins and Gee going in the breaks AGAIN. Pinot. The entire Top 3 has so many stories of close-but-yet-so-far between them… It’s been a race of second chances. And I love that.

101: Stage 21: Spice Girls - Never Give Up on the Good Times

G and Stewart leading out Cav and then celebrating his win ecstatically is probably the best example of “do it for the joy” racing I’ve ever seen. It’s good for the soul, and we need it.

102: Stage 21: Ex Hex - New Kid

The coolest part about the slow burning GC battle has probably been HOW many breakaways have made it, and how this meant we got to see a huge array of different and new exciting riders! To the new kids who made it through their first GT! Congratulations to everyone!

103: Stage 21: Donny Osmond - I’ll Make a Man Out of You

To every rider who made it through the madness - and to everyone who didn’t. This race repeatedly tried to beat you to a pulp, and yet, so many came out stronger, and the ones who fell still put up one hell of a fight.

104: Stage 21: Dua Lipa - No Goodbyes

We’re not even in June yet. I refuse to mourn any retiring riders until the season is done! So much more to achieve, experience and enjoy for everyone until the racing is over for the year.

…Encore - Final Thoughts…

105: Full Race: Sex Pistols - My Way

This race honestly felt a bit like this song.

It looks familiar on the surface, you know how it goes. And yet… for a good long time in the beginning it is jarring, bordering on horrible, painful to experience and it’s tempting to skip to the next. And then it picks up, gets really really energetic and starts resembling the original you expected… just… hectic, frantic and tinted with madness.

106: Full Race: The Cure - Just Like Heaven

Another shout out to the Giro SoMe team for using one of my all-time favourite tracks in the celebration video from yesterday. It did get rather good and emotional by the end, and I absolutely REFUSE to let the previous track be the final one, so to the joyfully melancholic tones of Robert Smith & co I just want to say thank you to everyone who made the race what it became!

The Watch Zone

We began this Giro by watching one team, EF Education-EasyPost, and one young rider, Matthew Riccitello. EF took home two stages courtesy of Magnus Cort and Ben Healy, so it wasn't a bad Giro at all as far as they were concerned, despite suffering a few losses along the way. Riccitello completed his first ever Grand Tour, an incredible achievement in and of itself, but all the more so given the conditions - he'll be unlikely to go through one quite like this again.

How many more riders have we taken to our hearts following this race, though? It's testament to the power of a Grand Tour that characters rise up and claim a part of the storyline, and remain in your memories for a long time to come. I'd like to raise a glass to ALL of the 125 riders who made it to Rome - simply doing so was in itself quite the feat. But to name a few names... Israel-Premier Tech, and all their breakaway shenanigans -  Marco Frigo, Seb Berwick, and DS Sam Bewley, the other breakaway regulars, Laurenz Rex, Toms Skujiņš, gentle giant Jonathan Milan, the ebullient Alberto Bettiol, ever-smiling Pascal Ackermann, overjoyed Nico Denz, and many more who I am sure we will reflect upon in the coming weeks.

But the real Giro MVP, the one who went from zero to hero in the eyes of the viewing public, was this man Derek Gee - he finally got his chance to stand on the top step of the podium, winning the super combativity prize - a fitting end to his first Grand Tour, on a day when everyone's new second team, Israel-Premier Tech, flew his parents and his girlfriend over from Canada as a surprise - heroes, every one of them.


And that, as they say, was that.

The streamers will be brushed up, the Prosecco will dry on the cobbles, and the stage will be dismantled. The streets of Rome will ebb back to normality as the fans drift away, mechanics load bikes back onto trailers and the riders head out to celebrate three weeks of hard work.  

What a three weeks it was. Without fail, cycling gives so much to anyone prepared to invest in it. A stunning spectacle, a vast array of storylines, a lifetime of memories, from just three weeks. So much more than just a sport.

Here's a gallery of a few of the day's celebrations...

It's been a wild ride bringing you this daily content; a great deal of time, effort and love has gone into it, so I'd like to thank my co-conspirators - you haven't heard the last of us yet, and there will be reflections and reviews in the coming days and weeks.

And finally to you out there, wherever you may be - thank you for coming on this journey with us, thank you for reading, and for giving meaning to this mad endeavour of ours, to create fun, insightful, entertaining and informative free independent content - THANK YOU! Plenty more where that came from... Over and out... Ciao!

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