Etixx - Quick-Step rider Iljo Keisse earned the 30th victory of the road season for the team on Sunday, winning a two-up sprint against Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) after the duo escaped with 30km remaining in the conclusive 21st Stage of the Giro d'Italia, from Torino to Milano. Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling) was 3rd out of the field sprint behind.
Keisse and Durbridge had as much as a minute advantage over the peloton during their effort to stay away. The field reduced the gap to 27" with 4km to go, but there was soon confusion on the front as to who would lead the chase. There also were several punctures on course during the pursuit. The gap ballooned to 41" as a result of the peloton's hesitation.
Keisse and Durbridge played cat and mouse in the final few hundred meters, with Keisse choosing to stay 2nd wheel as it was clear they had enough of a gap to decide the stage winner.
Durbridge launched his sprint first, but Keisse, known as the "King of Cool" after his solo victory at 2012 Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey Stage 7, came around him in time to raise both hands as the victor of the 185km stage. When Keisse crossed the line he pointed his fingers to the sky to dedicate the win to his teammate and friend Wouter Weylandt.
Rigoberto Uran wrapped up the Giro in 14th place overall (+28'26"), with a pair of podium places in the final two mountain stages after struggling with bronchitis in the first week of the grand tour. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the Giro d'Italia overall. Fabio Aru (Astana) finished 2nd, 1'53" down, and Mikel Landa (Astana) rounded out the podium in 3rd, 3 minutes and five seconds down.
"The team decided this morning that it would be up to either me or Fabio Sabatini to try and get the gap," Keisse said. "But even last night we talked about it with our team directors, and we wanted to finish the Giro by trying our best until the very last moment. This was a parcours that could be won without a sprint. It's a tricky circuit with a lot of corners. I'm a road rider with a track background, and can take corners pretty well. For sure I was going to try something. Maybe in the last two kilometers, maybe in the final corner, but I knew I would try. I thought there was a little bit of hesitation when we entered into the final circuit. The sprinter teams weren't controlling yet. I had a feeling that was a good moment to go. I went at a certain point and I had Durbridge as my breakaway partner in crime. We worked perfectly together and took every corner full gas. We had a pretty big advantage in the last lap, and I knew the move was likely for the win. I counted on my sprint and didn't do any more pulls in the last kilometer. I took my last pull with one and a half kilometers to go. I heard we still had more than 30 seconds with a kilometer to go. So I put a little bit of pressure on Luke's shoulders and it became a cat and mouse game. He stayed in front, and then inside the last 200 meters I went. I've learned a lot from Mark Cavendish of course, how he does the sprint, so I used some experience from watching him to get the victory, my best victory ever. I'm so happy for this win not only for me, but also for my team Etixx - Quick-Step. We had some bad luck and health in this Giro compared to the last two years. Rigo was struggling with a sickness and we lost two guys in the first week. But we really fought this week to try and get a good result whenever we had a chance. I'm proud to get a victory for Etixx - Quick-Step to conclude the 2015 Giro d'Italia. This is my first WorldTour win with the team finishing my third Giro d'Italia in a row, and I want to celebrate it tonight with my teammates after three weeks of hard racing. This race was really hard. There was always hard fights. Every moment, from the first to the last day was horrible, but also very beautiful. I'd like to congratulate Alberto on his win. I do my Giro a bit backwards. The other stages I always finished way behind, but this stage was mine."