Alberto Contador (Astana) is set to win the Giro d?Italia in Milan on Sunday after comfortably defending his pink jersey during the final mountain stage over the Passo Gavia and the Passo del Mortirolo on Saturday.

After the attacks by Danilo Di Luca (LPR) and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) on Friday, Contador was under intense pressure but never seemed in trouble and followed a perfect race strategy.

Going in to the stage, Ricco was only four seconds behind overall and Di Luca was at 21 but the big-mouthed Italian failed to land a knockout punch on the Mortirolo and Di Luca was dropped and did not get back on during the final 50km to the finish in Tirano. Di Luca finished 5-27 behind stage winner Emanuele Sella (CSF Navigare), and Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) moved up to take his third place in the overall classification, two minutes behind Ricco and Contador.

NO MAJOR ATTACKS ON THE GAVIA AND MORTIROLO

The Gavia and the Mortirolo were the last chance for Ricco and Di Luca to attack but both disappointed and were clearly tired after their efforts 24 hours earlier.

The leaders climbed the Gavia together as Julio Perez Cuapio (CSF Group) went on the attack alone. The summit was covered by low cloud and snow lined the roadside, but the dramatic scenes of 1988, when Andy Hampsten set up overall victory, were only a fading memory. As a result the Cima Coppi ?the highest climb of the 2008 Giro had little effect on this year?s race.

Ricco tried several short-lived accelerations on the Mortirolo but he not on a good day and Contador and other riders, easily got on his wheel. A group of six riders rode to the summit together and Di Luca was the only big-name contyender who failed to get back on the descent.

The final fast climb to Aprica and the descent to Tirano became a battle for the stage victory.

Emanuele Sella produced another late attack and escaped from the leaders, opening a 1-04 gap to win his third mountain stage at the Giro. His success was a reply to the accusation of Ricco that he worked for Contador during Friday?s stage.

Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) finished second after chasing Sella for 30km in one last attempt to win a stage in probably hi last Giro.

Contador comfortably controlled Ricco behind, letting Bruseghin lead the chase as the Lampre rider battled to set up a possible third place in Milan. Contador let fellow Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse D?Epargne) go off the front on the descent so that he could take the eight-second time bonus and stop Ricco taking the pink jersey.

Ricco claimed the Giro is not over until after the time trial on Sunday and Contador refused to say he had won the maglia rosa but the Spaniard is set to extend his lead on Ricco during the flat and fast 28.5km time trial to Milan.

CONTADOR: “I RACED DEFENSIVELY AND USED MY HEAD”

?I am very happy how things are now. To wear the pink jersey on the last day of the race and be about to win the Giro is amazing. It?s something that was unimaginable a month ago,? Contador said.

?I never really thought it was possible to win the Giro. I was at home when the team called to tell me I was riding. I wasn?t convinced that riding the Giro was the right thing to do, but my pride helped me and pushed me on every day. I didn?t climb one mountain before I came here and I had to try to do the best I could with the form I had. I rode defensively and use my head.?

After 20 stages of racing at the Giro, the only question now left unanswered is how much Contador will win by and who will finish third.

Contador?s final winning margin is likely to be over a minute, while Bruseghin is favourite to finish a surprise third place.

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008 STAGE 20: RESULTS

1. Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Navigare

2. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Diquigiovanni-Androni at 1min 4secs

3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse D’Epargne at 1min 22secs

4. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval at 1min 30secs

5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana

6. Antonio Colom (Spa) Astana

7. Fortunato Baliani (Ita) CSF Navigare

8. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre

9. Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Ag2r

10. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas all at same time.

British

41. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 15min 28secs

74. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 35min 20secs

123. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 37min 19secs

125. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road

135. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road all at same time.

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 20

1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana

2. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval at 4secs

3. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 2min

4. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 2min 5secs

5. Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Navigare at 2min 35secs

6. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2min 47secs

7. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR at 4min 18secs

8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence-Lotto at 4min 26secs

9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) CSF Navigare at 5min 25secs

10. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Diquigiovanni-Androni at 6min 40secs

British

69. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 2hours 21min 4secs

95. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 2hours 56min 47secs

97. Steve Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 3hours 50secs

118. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 3hours 23min 38secs

133. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 3hours 54min 26secs

134. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 3hours 58min 18secs

Giro d'Italia 2008 stage 20Charly Wegelius out on the Gavia

Giro d'Italia 2008 stage 20David Millar on stage 20

Giro d'Italia 2008 stage 20The awesome Gavia

Giro d'Italia 2008 stage 20Grin when you’re winning: Alberto Contador

Giro d'Italia 2008 stage 20Riccardo Ricco (r) couldn’t do enough to take the race lead

Giro d'Italia 2008 stage 20Astana drive the pace up the Gavia

All photos by Graham Watson

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 19: Contador hangs on to race lead

Stage 18: Voigt wins Giro d’Italia ‘Worlds’ stage in Varese

Stage 17: Cav gifts Greipel the stage

Stage 16: Pellizotti wins mountain time trial

Stage 15: Sella strikes again in the mountains

Stage 14: Sella wins first Giro mountains stage

Stage 13: Easy victory for super-fast Cavendish

Stage 12: Bennati gets photo finish verdict over Cavendish

Stage 11: Bertolini wins hilly stage

Stage 10: Bruseghin wins Giro d’Italia time trial

Stage nine: Cavendish misses out in sprint

Stage eight: Ricco wins again

Stage seven: Di Luca, Ricco and Contador gain time on rivals

Stage six: Italians clean up

Stage five: Millar denied by snapped chain

Stage four: Cavendish wins

Stage three: Bennati romps home

Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage

Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS

Ricco and Di Luca talk tough [stage 19]

Contador, Ricco and Simoni to face off in final Giro d’Italia mountains

Six Brits finish mountain time trial [stage 16]

Cavendish disappointed after missing out in Giro sprint

Can Cavendish win the Giro today? [stage 12]

Aggressive Cummings comes away empty handed [stage six]

Millar speaks out after missing out in Giro [stage five]

Reaction to Cavendish’s Giro stage win

Cav hits back at Pozzato’s snipe

Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]

Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success

Bettini looking for final Giro glory

Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro

Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive

Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS

Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week three – new photos added daily

Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week two

Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week one.

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES

Five days to go, what’s in store?

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)

Cycling Weekly’s all-time list of British pro winners

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)

Rest day 1: How the favourites are doing

Giro Britannia part two: From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia

Tuesday Comment (May 13): Why Cavendish is a bona fide world-class star

Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy

Giro d’Italia 2008 preview

Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?

Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming

Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule