The Giro d'Italia race leader says he has to put in the performance of a lifetime to defend his lead in the final time trial

Giro d’Italia race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has never been able to beat Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) when the two face off in important time trials, but he says will need to pull off something special if he wants to win the overall in Milan.

Quintana lead the race after stage 20 with 39 seconds on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), 43 on Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), 53 on Dumoulin and 1-15 on Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin).

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“Maybe it’s not sufficient, but it could be just enough,” Quintana said after rolling into the press room. “We will try to defend in the best way possible – the most important thing is to have the motivation to try it.

“We’ve made good time trials before – tomorrow has to he best that I’ve ever done, it’s the last day and it’s the pink jersey, and I will give everything to defend it.”

Vincenzo Nibali attacks on stage 20 of the Giro d’Italia (Sunada)

The 2014 Giro winner sets off at 16.56 local time from Monza for the 29.3-kilometre ride to Milan. He not only will want to know the time splits of Dumoulin, but those of Nibali and Pinot in this tightly packed top five.

“I’d love to finish on the top step of the podium,” two-time victor Nibali said. “If only it was easy.

“It all depends on everyone’s strength. The level of performance is very high this year, just look at the average speeds. We raced really hard in the first hour today, we were flat out on the Monte Grappa and then the race exploded again on the final climb.”

Nibali and Quintana combined as they had in other stages to try to drop Dumoulin and add enough time to their lead to be safe for the final time trial.

They rode clear on the Foza climb with Pinot today, but never gained enough with the gaps hovering between 20 and 10 seconds. At the line, Dumoulin had them at 15 seconds.

“We gave everything,” continued Quintana. “I would have liked to have taken a little more time… The other rivals that we were with me, we also had interest to pull hard, and they want to be on the podium, and we don’t know if they will be… just like me.”

“This has been a really hard race and so the energy left is what it is,” Nibali said looking back over the week in the Alps.

“Today we all tried to gain some precious seconds because the time trial is in Dumoulin’s favour.

“It’s a difficult time trial, I’ll make a good recon tomorrow, try to ride it well and then add up the numbers. For sure, in this Giro, the time trials have balanced out things.

“Dumoulin showed to go very well in the time trial, showed that he can defend it, but I think that the others did their part as well.”