George Bennett has completed New Zealand cycling history at the Giro d'Italia.

Bennett has negotiated the disjointed final stage of the 2018 Giro to finish eighth overall - the best result by a New Zealand rider in a Grand Tour.

He breaks his own record - previously, the best Grand Tour finish by a Kiwi was Bennett's 10th in the 2016 Vuelta a Espana, and it's a worthy reward for a consistent three weeks.

Despite the accolades, Bennett isn't completely satisfied, having aimed for a top five finish or a stage win. Both would have been in reach if Bennett hit his best form, but he was just slightly off the pace on the big stages - only finishing in the top ten twice - and also had some rotten luck, losing chunks of time due to mechanical issues.

Advertisement

"It has been three beautiful weeks, but eighth isn't enough for me," Bennett mused before the final stage, with the Kiwi rider now having finished in 11th or better in every stage race this year.

But, although his high expectations weren't completely met, the Giro can still be seen as considerable progress for the 28-year-old. It marks Bennett's first completed Grand Tour as a general classification rider, and he stayed solid when rivals such as Esteban Chaves, Simon Yates, Rohan Dennis and Thibaut Pinot completely cracked.

The last stage was somewhat of a damp squib - after three laps of the 10-lap course around Rome, the race was neutralised due to dangerous road conditions, meaning there would be no time gaps and the general classification riders could coast home.

The stage was eventually won by Sam Bennett - his third stage win - with his Kiwi namesake rolling home unbothered having already secured eighth spot, 13 minutes and 17 seconds behind winner Chris Froome.

Froome now currently holds all the Grand Tours, having won three in a row - a feat only previously accomplished by Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. He also becomes just the seventh person to complete the set of winning the Giro, Vuelta and Tour de France.

That's the case for now, at least. Froome's fate is still up in the air after testing positive for excess levels of salbutamol at last year's Vuelta, and with that case still unresolved, there is still the possibility that he is stripped of that title, and his Giro success.

As a result, just exactly how Froome's amazing Giro-winning attack on stage 19 will live on in history is yet to be decided.

"That's obviously something we're dealing with. I have a clear conscience," Froome said. "I have every confidence it will stand."

The other Kiwi to finish the Giro - (Tom Scully abandoned) - was Sam Bewley, who put in a mammoth effort in support of his teammates.

With his Mitchelton-Scott team dominating the first two weeks of the tour, Bewley was plucked from his usual role in the middle of the peloton to lead the way. As Yates held the race lead for 13 days, it was Bewley who set the pace at the front of the peleton, enduring mighty stints to help out his general classification contenders.

His final placing of 130th matters not one iota, with Bewley purely a team rider, and five stage victories for Mitchelton-Scott makes it a very successful Giro for the under-the-radar Kiwi.

Indeed, it was one of the best Grand Tours for Kiwi cycling. Rare is the Grand Tour where Kiwis play a major part in how the race is decided, but this year's script could not have been written without the contributions of the Kiwi duo.

With Bennett's next major target being the Vuelta in late August, the 2018 Giro could end up being a launchpad to a bright few years ahead.

Niall Anderson has - finally - covered every stage of the Giro d'Italia live for the Herald. Thanks to everyone who read or emailed - let's do it all again at the Vuelta.
All of Niall's Giro d'Italia wraps
Stage twenty
Stage nineteen
Stage eighteen
Stage seventeen
Stage sixteen
Stage fifteen
Stage fourteen
Stage thirteen
Stage twelve
Stage eleven
Stage ten
Stage nine
Stage eight
Stage seven
Stage six
Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one