There are five stages of the Giro d?Italia remaining. A flat one, a rolling ones, two brutal mountain stages and a final time trial to Milan.
If the riders weren?t so dog tired they?d be able to treat this as a mini stage race all of its own, but the pain deep in their muscles means they cannot.
Here Cycling Weekly assesses what the five remaining stages have in store. We also look back at our ten pre-race favourites and see how they?re getting on.
GIRO D?ITALIA OVERALL AFTER STAGE 16
Top 10, other favourites and British riders
1. Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana in 68-47-31
2. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval at 41sec
3. Gilberto Simoni (Italy) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni at 1-21
4. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy) Lampre at 2-00
5. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 2-05
6. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes at 2-18
7. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 2-47
8. Emanuele Sella (Italy) CSF Group Navigare at 4-25
9. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Silence-Lotto at 4-26
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) CSF Group Navigare at 5-25
11. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas) at 7-02
13. Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana at 8-44
17. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR Brakes at 14-28
20. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 16-41
23. Evgeni Petrov (Russia) Tinkoff at 22-30
32. Vladimir Karpets (Russia) Caisse d?Epargne at 32-33
36. Juan Manuel Garate (Spain) Quick Step at 37-56
85. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 1-39-52
93. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 1-48-35
118. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 2-14-14
123. Steve Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 2-17-28
137. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 2-43-37
139. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 2-46-28
|THE REMAINING STAGES|
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28
Stage 17: Sondrio ? Locarno, 146km
Terrain Lumpy but with no major climbs. Flat run-in.
What will happen It?ll most likely be a sprint between Cavendish and Bennati
THURSDAY, MAY 29
Stage 18: Mendrisio ? Varese, 147km
Terrain Very lumpy. Starts in Mendrisio, host of the 2009 World Championships and finishes in Varese, which is hosting this year?s championships. The latter part of the stage takes in some of the road race course.
What will happen It?s a day for the Bettinis of this world. The Classics riders will relish this and it could be a day for the break to succeed. If it?s a sprint Bennati should hang on. Cavendish may not.
FRIDAY, MAY 30
Stage 19: Legnano ? Presolana, 228km
Terrain A flat first half of the stage to lull everyone into a false sense of security. Brutal finish with a severe climb of the Passo Del Vivione then an up-and-down final 30 kilometres. Summit finish at Presolana. It?s long too. A real brute. Pretty unnecessary at this late stage of the race.
What will happen A break will go clear at the start, then it?ll be slowly reeled in. The favourites will wait as late as possible before using the final short climb to do as much damage as possible without hurting the legs too much, for tomorrow is a killer.
SATURDAY, MAY 31
Stage 20: Rovetta ? Tirano, 224km
Terrain The hardest stage of the race by a long way. Okay, so it?s not a summit finish but the Gavia and the Mortirolo are enough to put the fear into even the strongest. Low gears will be called upon and a lot of riders at the back may fear the time cut. Aprica is not to be taken lightly either.
What will happen The race will be won and lost here. At 224 kilometres this is an insanely long stage for the penultimate of the race. There is a danger that someone high up overall will crack and lose everything they?ve worked for in the previous three weeks.
SUNDAY, JUNE 1
Stage 21: Cesano Maderno ? Milan, 28.5km time trial
Terrain Net downhill so it?ll be fast.
What will happen Unless Friday and Saturday?s stages have been unbelievably close the Giro will already be decided and this will be a processional ride into Milan one-by-one. It begs the question, what?s the point? We?re never slow to praise imaginative route plotting but again Zomegnan has let his imagination run away with him. The mountains do not guarantee a close finish, they do exactly the opposite. Mind you, Bradley Wiggins and David Millar may fancy a crack at a good stage finish.
|CW’S PRE-RACE FAVOURITES|
How the ten we tipped for success have got on. Let’s not dwell too long on Andreas Klöden. What were we thinking? Six of our men are currently in the top ten, with one just outside. Not too bad…
1 Andreas Klöden (Germany / Astana)
Overall 13th at 8-44
Verdict Not as good as we thought he?d be, by a long chalk. Didn?t enjoy the first mountain stage and as soon as he was 30 seconds behind Contador overall, that was it, he?d be riding as a team-mate. May lose more time in working for the pink jersey in the final two mountain stages so destined to finish outside the top 10.
Prediction Outside the top 10
2 Danilo Di Luca (Italy / LPR Brakes)
Overall 6th at 2-18
Verdict Still in it. Just. But it?ll take a superhuman effort and in spite of how astonishingly well his team has been riding, Di Luca hasn?t been that good.
Prediction Somewhere between 4th and 7th
3 Gilberto Simoni (Italy / Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni)
Overall 3rd at 1-21
Verdict Cannot be discounted just because he?s a lot older than Contador and Ricco. But even if he were to overhaul them in the mountains, which is a big ask, he?d have to build a healthy lead because he?d still be vulnerable in the final time trial. Looks set to finish on the podium for the umpteenth time though.
Prediction On the podium ? but probably third
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Liquigas)
Overall 11th at 7-02
Verdict CW?s man in Italy, Stephen Farrand felt strongly that Nibali would be on the podium in Milan, but the big mountains have proved far too much for him. Looks like finishing just outside the top 10.
Predicition Outside the top 10
5 Riccardo Ricco (Italy / Saunier Duval)
Overall 2nd at 41 seconds
Verdict Obviously once he?d won two stages in the opening week he was always going to be a big threat overall. But our defence for only ranking him fifth before the start was that he had done so little racing in the six weeks before the Giro. Now he will look to exploit any sign of weakness in Contador.
Prediction 2nd ? although he may get the pink jersey briefly
6 Franco Pellizotti (Italy / Liquigas)
Overall 5th at 2-18
Verdict Just as he appeared to be slipping away overall, he pulled it out of the bag with a superb time trial at Plan de Corones. Still in the picture but realistically he?s going to struggle on Saturday.
Prediction Will be happy with fifth
7 Alberto Contador (Spain / Astana)
Verdict Before the race started we weren?t sure whether to believe the PR line that he?d been on the beach when he heard he was riding the Giro. Now we definitely don?t believe it. Okay, so he?s not at his absolute peak and he doesn?t have the Lance-esque auru Sean Yates seems to think he has but he?s looking very good at this stage. It?ll take him to lose it now.
Prediction The winner in waiting
8 Denis Menchov (Russia / Rabobank)
Overall 7th at 2-47
Verdict With five days to go, he?s running slightly ahead of where we thought he?d be. In terms of time, though, he?s a lot closer and could make the podium if he comes on strong in the final three days. That really would be excellent preparation for the Tour de France.
Prediction Could get as high as third but more likely to settle around fifth or sixth
9 Juan Manuel Garate (Spain / Quick Step)
Overall 36th at 37-45
Verdict To be fair, an awful lot of the time he?s lost was due to the work he had to do pacing erstwhile pink jersey holder Giovanni Visconti. He?d be a bit higher than mid-30s overall but for that, we?re sure.
10 Evgeni Petrov (Russia / Tinkoff)
Overall 23rd at 22-30
Verdict If we?re honest about this, when we were searching for a rider to round out our list of top ten favourites we just had a look back at last year?s results and Petrov?s name leapt out. He?s not been as good. Obviously we meant Sella, not Petrov.
|THE SURPRISE PACKAGES|
Marzio Bruseghin ? 4th at 2-00
The Lampre man will be a real threat for the podium if he is still in fourth place after the two mountain stages. The flat time trial won?t suit him as well as the one he took earlier in the Giro though.
Emanuele Sella ? 7th at 4-25
Just imagine if he hadn?t lost 18 minutes in that crash the other day. He?d be in Milan by now. Nearly won three stages on the trot. May go hunting again at the weekend.
Jurgen Van den Broeck ? 9th at 4-26
Silence-Lotto man will be very happy to still be in the top ten on Saturday night.
Domenico Pozzovivo ? 10th at 5-25
Likewise, although the CSF Navigare man has another role ? to support Sella?s bid for another two mountain stage wins.
Rest day review: CW looks back at week two
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
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
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 two – new photos added daily
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week one.
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
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