By Alasdair Fotheringham
BRESCIA, Italy (Reuters) - Italian Vincenzo Nibali followed up his victory in the 2010 Tour of Spain by winning the Giro d'Italia in Brescia on Sunday to claim victory in cycling's second biggest Grand Tour.
The Team Astana rider's triumph came ahead of Colombian Rigoberto Uran with Australia's Cadel Evans third.
Following the withdrawal of Giro pre-race favorite and 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins due to illness, Nibali began to build toward victory. stretching his competitors to breaking point in the stage 18 time trial at Polsa.
On Saturday's final mountain top stage finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Nibali launched one last attack to stamp his authority and claimed his second stage victory of the race.
"I came here with a team that wanted to win the Giro, that was united with me from beginning to end and which really supported me all the way through," Nibali said after hoisting his trophy.
"And I knew from stage eight that I could win the Giro this year. And I have.
"My only serious difficulty came in the stage seven finish at Pescara, when I crashed twice on the descent, and I didn't know if I was going to recover from that."
Uran's runners-up spot is the best position for a Colombian rider in the Giro's history.
"I couldn't be happier, I came here with one job, which was to work for (leader and team mate) Bradley Wiggins, but when he had to abandon the team regrouped around me and I've got on the podium," Uran told reporters.
"If I can, I'm going to come back here and win the Giro next year."
Evans, at 36 years three months, is the oldest rider to make it onto a Giro podium since 1928.
"I came to this Giro with few reference points from earlier in the season and little by little I've come through," Evans told reporters.
"But I'll be back at the Tour, which is my team's biggest target of the season."
The 21st and final stage of the race, from Riese Pio X to Brescia, went to Briton Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint that handed him the red points leader's jersey.
After losing by a single point in last year's Giro, Cavendish becomes the fifth rider to claim the points jersey on all three Grand Tours.
"I lost it by so little last time and there was no way I was going home without it this year," a jubilant Cavendish told reporters.
(Editing by Mark Pangallo)