Giro d’Italia: Stage 5 – Pedara to Messina (159km)
With just 300 meters to go on a lap of Messina, Luka Pibernik of Bahrain Merida looked up. Ahead of him there was nothing but open road, just the camera bike ready to capture the moment, and the finish line in the distance. He dared look behind him at the peloton, some 30 yards away and for some reason unable to catch him. It must have been an almighty burst of speed.
Such a scenario is why you can only really have great pity for Pibernik, who had victory snatched from him today in the most surreal, painful, and well, embarrassing way possible.
With what must have seemed a peculiar ringing in his ears, Pibernik looked back one last time. He knew he couldn’t be caught so he did what came naturally, raised his arms in triumph as he crossed the line.
It’s worth pausing for moment to wonder what exactly was going through Pibernik’s mind.
Had he really been so fast, powerful enough even to outwit the sprinters and their hell for leather teammates travelling at 60 kph? Had he really caught everyone by surprise, even the cameramen of the press who were nowhere to be seen, or the soigneurs for that matter, usually on hand to catch their riders?
Where were they? And what the hell was that blasted ringing noise all about?
Then, as if looking at the subtitle that had just appeared on the screen, the horrible, wincing truth hit him hard enough for his arms to fall back onto his handlebars. “Last lap”, said the subtitle on screen.
What exactly do you do now?
The only way he could really rectify the… crushing humiliation, would have been to somehow try and win again on the next lap, but he must have known his fate was sealed.
He slunk back into the pack, as the sound of the one-lap to go bell gradually faded. He knew now that he had a lap to think about how he would face his teammates, explain himself to his Director Sportive, let along the press, and all while getting back to his actual job of looking after Vincenzo Nibali at 60 kph. He knew one thing though. There isn’t enough chutzpah in the world to “style out” a mistake like this
A lap later Fernando Gaviria did things properly, beating Jakub Mareczko by about a length and a half, in front of a bank of cameras, and welcomed into the arms of his smiling soigneur. If looking for some consolation, Gaviria’s winning distance was nothing like the 30 yards of Pibernik.
It was painful to watch, but not as painful as Pibernik’s evening right now. Were reports to come through that he had decided to swim the Straight of Messina to the Italian mainland, rather than face his teammates, the press, or distraught loved ones, we’d do well to believe it.
True or not, Pibernik will hear that bell in his sleep.