Primoz Roglic's first Giro d'Italia victory Sunday has eased the bad memories of his painful collapse at the Tour de France three years ago, even if 'the big one' is still missing from his long list of honours.
Jumbo Visma rider Roglic, 33, added this year's Giro to a trio of victories in the Vuelta a Espana and the manner of his win was redemption for the late 2020 Tour collapse.
On Sunday, Roglic topped the general classification after a 126-kilometre cruise around the Italian capital, his triumph effectively earned after snatching the lead from Geraint Thomas in Saturday's gruelling mountain-top individual time trial.
The cool way the Slovenian earned his win, quickly dealing with a mechanical problem on Saturday and calmly avoiding the carnage from a crash near the finish, came in stark contrast to his meltdown in similar circumstances at the 2020 Tour.
Then it was Roglic who conceded the lead to Tadej Pogacar, who overtook his compatriot in the penultimate stage time trial and stormed to the first of his two triumphs at La Grande Boucle.
"Obviously it's a more happy ending this time. I guess we all learned a bit from 2020. This time it went well and I'm just enjoying it," Roglic told reporters before suggesting he may ride this year's Tour.
"I don't know. Obviously we all know what things are still missing from my Palmares (Trophies)... We'll see, I'm not stressed about it. Let's see what life brings us."
Roglic made no mistake after holding on to his 14-second lead on Thomas gained on Saturday, easing to victory on the cobbled via dei Fori Imperiali which leads from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum.
?? Little Rogla looks clearly ready for this moment
?? Il piccolo Rogla era chiaramente preparato per questo momento#Giro #GirodItalia @JumboVismaRoad @rogla pic.twitter.com/IXhS7KY7gE — Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 28, 2023
"It's been great, it's been emotional. It's been a great race," said veteran Ineos rider Thomas despite the disappointment of defeat.
"I've really enjoyed it. I might be 37 but I feel at least 27."
Roglic won a Giro blighted by bad weather and Covid-19, with dozens of riders dropping out over the three-week tour around Italy.
?? Today's last kilometre is the crowning of a legend ??
?? L'ultimo km di oggi è la consacrazione di una leggenda ??#Giro #GirodItalia @Expo2030Roma pic.twitter.com/8n2kgXtS0u — Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 28, 2023
CAV'S 'BUCKET LIST' WIN
Overall favourite Remco Evenepoel exited with the virus after claiming the pink jersey with a time-trial victory in the ninth stage, while 2020 champion Tao Geoghegan Hart crashed out in the second week.
Cavendish ended his final ever Giro with a comfortable stage victory to take his tally of wins to 162, his 17th at the Giro.
The Briton, who will retire at the end of the season, was congratulated by riders from across the peloton after bursting over the line in classic style.
"I'm super happy. It was a long hard slog to get here to the end of the Giro. We were close a couple of times before," said Astana's Cavendish after his 54th Grand Tour stage win.
"To win here in Rome is incredible. That's a bucket list to win outside the Colosseum."
Cavendish won a stage which was designed as much to showcase Rome's beauty in gorgeous late Spring sunshine than test the peloton, claiming his first win of the season after being led out by Thomas even though they race for rival teams.
"I was just there and saw he only had Luis Leon (Sanchez) with him. I thought I'll help him out," Thomas said.
No real moves were made until the riders began their six circuits of Rome after going to and from the seaside suburb of Ostia.
Maxime Bouet, Cesare Benedetti and Tom Skujins made a break which extended to 41 seconds with 50km remaining.
That gap was slowly chipped at until the final lap of central Rome when the sprinters began jostling for position and Cavendish made a move which suggests he can still pretend to claim a record-breaking 35th stage win at this year's Tour.
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) Astana - Qazaqstan Team 2:48:26
2. Alex Kirsch (LUX) Trek - Segafredo "
3. Filippo Fiorelli (ITA) Green Project - Bardiani - CSF - Faizanè "
4. Alberto Dainese (ITA) Team DSM "
5. Alexander Krieger (GER) Alpecin - Deceuninck "
6. Jake Stewart (GBR) Groupama - FDJ "
7. Fernando Gaviria (COL) Movistar Team "
8. Michael Matthews (AUS) Team Jayco - AlUla "
9. Arne Marit (BEL) Intermarché - Circus - Wanty "
10. Campbell Stewart (NZL) Team Jayco - AlUla "
11. Simone Consonni (ITA) Cofidis "
12. Stephen Williams (GBR) Israel - Premier Tech "
13. Charlie Quarterman (GBR) Corratec - Selle Italia "
14. Jonathan Milan (ITA) Bahrain Victorious "
15. Eddie Dunbar (IRL) Team Jayco - AlUla "
16. Vincenzo Albanese (ITA) EOLO - Kometa Cycling Team "
17. Lorenzo Rota (ITA) Intermarché - Circus - Wanty "
18. Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Team DSM "
19. Ilan Van Wilder (BEL) Soudal - Quick-Step "
20. Lennard Kämna (GER) BORA - hansgrohe "
1. Primož Roglic (SLO) Jumbo - Visma 85:29:02
2. Geraint Thomas (GBR) INEOS Grenadiers +14
3. João Almeida (POR) UAE Team Emirates +1:15
4. Damiano Caruso (ITA) Bahrain Victorious +4:40
5. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) Groupama - FDJ +5:43
6. Thymen Arensman (NED) INEOS Grenadiers +6:05
7. Eddie Dunbar (IRL) Team Jayco - AlUla +7:30
8. Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Team DSM +7:31
9. Lennard Kämna (GER) BORA - hansgrohe +7:46
10. Laurens De Plus (BEL) INEOS Grenadiers +9:08
11. Einer Rubio (COL) Movistar Team +10:43
12. Ilan Van Wilder (BEL) Soudal - Quick-Step +11:58
13. Santiago Buitrago (COL) Bahrain Victorious +12:21
14. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo - Visma +13:09
15. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (FRA) AG2R - Citroën Team +14:13
16. Bruno Armirail (FRA) Groupama - FDJ +17:16
17. Warren Barguil (FRA) Team Arkéa - Samsic +24:06
18. Filippo Zana (ITA) Team Jayco - AlUla +33:22
19. Jack Haig (AUS) Bahrain Victorious +34:46
20. Patrick Konrad (AUT) BORA - hansgrohe +37:57