Alberto Contador (Astana) sealed overall victory the Giro d?Italia on Sunday with an impressive ride in the 28.5km final time trial to Milan.
The 2007 Tour de France winner was eleventh in the time trial, 39 seconds behind stage winner Marco Pinotti (High Road), who set a time of 32-45.
Contador finished the three-week race one minute and 57 seconds ahead of Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval). Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) was third at 2-54, just holding off Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) who finished fourth at 2-56.
?Winning the Giro d?Italia makes it worth interrupting my holiday,” Contador joked after pulling on the final pink jersey and kissing the special spiral trophy.
“I honestly prefer to have to won this Giro than a second Tour de France,” he said.
“I don?t think the Tour organisers will change their minds about inviting us. They took a decision I don?t like. After winning such a hard Giro I couldn?t go to the Tour anyway?.”
BRITS GIVE ALL IN FINAL TIME TRIAL
The six British riders all made it to Milan and used their last drop of energy in the time trial. It was worth it.
Bradley Wiggins (High Road) was the best placed in the time trial, finishing an impressive fourth in a time of 32-58. Steve Cummings (Barloworld) was eighth in 33-09, Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) was 12th in 33-24, one place behind Contador.
David Millar (Slipstream) was 13th in 33-27. Mark Cavendish (High Road) started fast but finished 36th with a time of 34-35. Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) was 60th at 35?08 but was best placed Brit in the final overall classification.
CONTADOR: “I KNEW I’D HAVE TO FIGHT ALL THE WAY
Contador is only the second Spaniard to win the Giro after Miguel Indurain won in 1992 and 1993.
Although not everyone believed him, the 25 year-old from Madrid came into the Giro without any specific training and did not know any of the key stages. He was on holiday in Cadiz when Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel called him a week before the Giro to tell him to head home, pack his bags and get on a plane for Palermo.
Astana were only seventh in the opening team time trial and rode a defensive and prudent first half of the race, but were always with a threat with Contador, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer.
Contador showed that he was coming into form in the first time trial on stage to Urbino. He gained time on all his rivals and a massive 1-56 on Ricco and 2-03 on Di Luca. He suffered on the first mountain stage to Alpe di Pampeago but pulled on the pink jersey the day after in the Dolomites and never lost it again.
Ricco tried to crack Contador mentally with a war of words, and physically with attacks on the climbs but never toppled Contador.
Di Luca and Ricco pulled back big chunks of time on Friday?s mountain stage to Monte Pora on Friday with impressive attacks but Contador held on by four seconds.
He cleverly neutralised Saturday?s last mountain stage that included the Passo Gavia and the Mortirolo by letting Emanuele Sella (CSF Group) go clear to win his third stage. While Ricco was arguing with half of the gruppo and accusing them of taking money from Astana, Contador sat comfortably in the bunch and let fellow Spaniard Joaquin Rodriquez (Caisse d?Epargne) go clear to take the last time bonus and stop Ricco pulling on the pink jersey even for the last stage to Milan.
The time trial was all about controlling Ricco and Bruseghin and he did that with relative easy to become the first foreign rider to win the Giro d?Italia for 12 years.
?The hardest day for me was the stage to Alpe di Pampeago (stage 14 on May 24). I didn?t feel good that day, I got cold on the descent and felt very bad on the final climb.?
?I only began to think I could win the Giro when I took the pink jersey the day after to the Passo Fedaia but I knew I?d have to fight all the way.?
?Every day of the final week of the Giro was a step forward towards overall victory. Friday?s stage was very hard, there were more climbs and the stage was longer than it said in the race manual. It felt as if I was racing with the brakes on.?
?It was a delicate moment of the race because I could have lost the Giro. Fortunately I used my head and managed to keep the pink jersey despite the attacks by Di Luca and Ricco.?
?On the last mountain stage on Saturday I knew I only had to stay with Ricco. I struggled on the Mortirolo climb but I felt a lot better than on Friday and rode well.?
Contador will not be at the Tour de France in July after the organisers announced that his Astana team will be left at home as punishment for their doping problems of the past. However, Contador will target the Olympic Games and the Vuelta Espana.
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008 STAGE 21 ITT: RESULTS
1. Marco Pinotti (Italy) High Road in 32-45
2. Tony Martin (Germany) High Road in 32-52
3. Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia) Tinkoff in 32-55
4. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road in 32-58
5. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream in 33-07
6. Danny Pate (USA) Slipstream in 33-09
7. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas in 33-09
8. Steve Cummings (GB) Barloworld in 33-09
9. Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Astana in 33-16
10. Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC in 33-18
11. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 33-24
12. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld in 33-24
13. David Millar (GB) Slipstream in 33-27
36. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road in 34-35
60. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas in 35-08
FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 89hours 56min 49secs
2. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval at 1min 57secs
3. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 2min 54secs
4. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 2min 56secs
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 3min 37secs
6. Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Navigare at 4min 31secs
7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence-Lotto at 6min 30secs
8. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR at 7min 15secs
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) CSF Navigare at 7min 53secs
10. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Diquigiovanni-Androni at 11min 3secs
69. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 2hours 22min 48secs
94. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 2hours 56min 50secs
96. Steve Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 3hours 35secs
118. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 3hours 23min 38secs
132. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 3hours 55min 37secs
134. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 3hours 57min 52secs
Steve Cummings riding to eighth place in the final TT
Bradley Wiggins places a fantastic fourth on the stage
David Millar gave Britain its fourth rider in the top 15 of the stage
Another grand tour completed for Geraint Thomas with a fine 12th placing in the TT
Marco Pinotti wins the stage for Team High Road, who had three in the top ten
Job done: Alberto Contador put more time into his rivals in the final TT to secure the 2008 Giro d’Italia
Photos by Graham Watson
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES