Angelo Zomegnan?s great gamble paid off. Although it?s not the first time in recent years the Giro d?Italia has concluded with a time trial, it is the first time in years the destiny of the pink jersey has hinged on the final day.
The organiser of the Giro d?Italia has been criticised for asking too much of the riders in his race. Long stages, difficult, time-consuming transfers, a ridiculously tough final week, the riders weren?t even allowed the luxury of a ceremonial run into the centre of Milan en masse.
Instead the race is still up for grabs, as are some of the other places in the top ten. However soporific Saturday?s stage was, Friday?s was packed with intrigue and the race finishes on a knife-edge with the time trial to Milan on Sunday.
The last time the race ended with a solo race against the clock, in 2003, Gilberto Simoni already had big lead over Stefano Garzelli going into the final time trial. This time just four seconds separate Alberto Contador and Riccardo Ricco going into the 28.5 kilometre test.
The final two mountain stages were like chalk and cheese. One explosive, in which Ricco sliced a great chunk out of the Spaniard?s advantage, the other not so simply cautious, just a long slog for some very tired men.
Aprica, the last climb of a very difficult Giro, was never going to provide the springboard for Ricco to take the pink jersey because it was not severe enough to put Contador in difficulty.
On paper, Contador has to be the outstanding favourite now. The margin may be tight now but the Astana rider is a much better time triallist on the flat than Ricco.
The 39-kilometre time trial from Pesaro to Urbino on stage ten saw Contador put 1-56 into Ricco.
Although the lure of a possible overall victory in his home tour will give Ricco an extra edge, it?s difficult to see him doing enough to beat Contador.
Ricco will ride out of his skin, no doubt, but if he gets within 20 seconds of Contador on the day he?ll have done a fantastic ride. It?s Contador?s to lose now.
The 39-kilometre time trial to Urbino was draggy and uphill for the second half.
1 Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) in 56-41
2 Alberto Contador (Astana) at 8sec
16 Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) at 2-04
Mountain time trial at Plan de Corones
1 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) in 40-26
4 Alberto Contador (Astana) at 22sec
5 Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) at 30sec
A BRITISH SHOWDOWN: COULD IT BE WIGGINS V MILLAR IN MILAN?
The pink jersey is up for grabs but the battle for the stage honours may be fought out between two British riders a long way down the overall classification.
Both Bradley Wiggins and David Millar have spoken in recent days of their desire to win the final time trial. Millar even went as far as saying: ?It?s mine.?
Wiggins of High Road is 134th overall and so will be one of the earliest starters, setting off eighth. It will be a shock if he doesn?t set the best time and then he will have to wait to see whether Millar, who stands 95th overall, can better it.
David Millar in action during the stage 10 TT
After that the men to watch will be former Italian time trial champions Marco Velo, then Marco Pinotti, Christian Vande Velde, Millar?s Slipstream team-mate, Vladimir Gusev of Astana, Evgeni Petrov of Tinkoff and Levi Leipheimer before the top riders overall go.
Millar and Wiggins? biggest challenge will probably come from Marzio Bruseghin ? he?s only won two professional races, both of them time trials in the Giro, including one earlier in this race.
AND A BRITISH RECORD
Barring an unthinkable disaster all six British riders who started this Giro will reach Milan, making it a grand tour record.
Never before have six Brits finished the same grand tour, so count them in as they safely cross the line in Milan ? Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings, David Millar and Charly Wegelius ? and raise a glass to toast their achievements.
|THE CLOSEST EVER|
In the race?s illustrious history, the Giro d?Italia has been decided by less than a minute no fewer than 15 times.
The closest Giro ever was in 1948 when Fiorenzo Magni beat Ezio Cecchi by just 11 seconds.
Fiorenzo Magni beat Ezio Cecchi in 1948
Eddy Merckx beat Gian Battista Baronchelli in 1974
Fiorenzo Magni beat Fausto Coppi in 1955
Felice Gimondi beat Johan De Muynk in 1976
Gastone Nencini beat Louison Bobet in 1957
Paolo Savoldelli beat Gilberto Simoni in 2005
Jacques Anquetil beat Gastone Nencini in 1960
Costante Girardengo beat Giovanni Brunero in 1923
Giovanni Battaglin beat Tommy Prim in 1981
Fausto Bertoglio beat Fancisco Galdos in 1975
Gino Bartali beat Fausto Coppi in 1946
Learco Guerra beat Francesco Camusso in 1934
Luigi Marchisio beat Luigi Giacobbe in 1930
Miguel Indurain beat Piotr Ugrumov in 1993
Johan De Muynck beat Gian Battista Baronchelli in 1978
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage 20: Contador sets up Giro victory
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: 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