Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team) secured the most important victory of his career on Sunday, as the 28-year-old from Sicily triumphed in the Giro dâ€™Italia ahead of Colombian Rigoberto UrĂˇn (Sky ProCycling) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team). And in the World Tour classification, Nibali has made huge gains as well.
Only Classics star Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) remains ahead of Nibali in the WorldTour after the Italianâ€™s Giro dâ€™Italia win, in which he also took two stages. But a quick look back at the post-Giro classification in 2012 shows, too, that Cancellaraâ€™s advantage is much narrower than that held by the then leader Joaquim Rodriguez over his closest pursuer Tom Boonen back in May 2012. In fact, Cancellaraâ€™s margin of 29 points is nine less than that of Rodriguez over Boonen: a sign of how fierce the fight for overall leadership in the WorldTour has become.
Now second overall in the rankings - as opposed to third at this point in 2012 - Nibaliâ€™s second Grand Tour win after the 2010 Vuelta a EspaĂ±a is not the only factor behind his improvement in the WorldTour standings. This year Nibali has also taken the overall victory in the Tirreno-Adriatico for a second year running, where he claimed 106 points. Now, after the Giro dâ€™Italia, he has almost tripled that total to 322, whilst Cancellara, who did not race the Italian Grand Tour, remains with 351.
â€śOnly something really big could have been greater than my victory in the Vuelta a EspaĂ±a, and this Giro dâ€™Italia is exactly that,â€ť Nibali said afterwards. â€śIâ€™m very happy, but Iâ€™m going to need quite a while for it all to sink in.â€ť
â€śI have won the Giro, Iâ€™ve won the Vuelta and Iâ€™ve got good results [third in 2012] in the Tour de France, that shows I am a good rider of Grand Tours.â€ť
Apart from Nibali, who gained 18 places thanks to the Giro, the other new arrival in the top four of the WorldTour is Colombian Carlos Alberto Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale), winner of the Best Young Riderâ€™s classification in the Giro and fifth overall.
After placing well in the Vuelta al PaĂs Vasco and in the Ardennes Classics, Betancur is now fourth behind Cancellara, Nibali, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling), trailing the Slovakian by 57 points and pushing Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) down to fifth place. The final new entry in the top ten of the WorldTour is Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), fourth in the Giro dâ€™Italia - a race he won outright in 2011 - and now in eighth place on the individual classification with 213 points.
Whilst UrĂˇnâ€™s podium placing in the Giro dâ€™Italia is the first ever for Colombia in the Italian race, one other major knock-on effect - together with Betancurâ€™s excellent fifth place - is to help propel the South American nation to its first ever lead in the UCI WorldTour.
Previously second, Colombia have now moved into the top spot ahead of Italy with 766 points to Italyâ€™s 720, whilst Spain - previously leaders - have dropped to third overall with 707. Great Britain, previously third, now slide to fourth, whilst Australia, in large part thanks to Evans, move up from tenth to fifth.
The difference of 36 points is minimal compared to the advantage held by previous leaderâ€™s Spain over Italy: 208 points. The essential difference is that whilst before Spain was a standout leader, now three countries - Colombia, Italy and Spain - have a 200 point advantage over the rest of the field. What was a one-horse race, in other words, is now a three-way struggle.
The teams classification, in comparison, is relatively stable, with no changes in the top four spots overall and Sky ProCycling still leading with a very solid advantage. The British squad have, in fact, considerably doubled their margin over Russians Katusha from 86 points to 184, although Katushaâ€™s lead on Spanish outfit Movistar - the winners of four stages in the Giro - has shrunk by over a third, from 129 points to 79.
The most significant advance, unsurprisingly, is for Nibaliâ€™s Astana team up five places to sixth overall, whilst Lampre-Merida has gained two spots to move into the top ten.
Stage racing will continue to have a major influence on the WorldTour rankings in the months to come, with the CritĂ©rium du DauphinĂ©, from June 2nd - 9th, the next event on the calendar. Whether Fabian Cancellara can defend his number one spot as the stage race specialists continue have such a major impact on the classification, then, is just one of many issues that these upcoming events will resolve.