Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is set to win the 2007 Giro d?Italia after safely defending his overall lead in the 43km time trial stage to Verona on Saturday.
Di Luca was eighth in the time trial but only lost 29 seconds to Andy Schleck (CSC) and so is set to finish the Giro in Milan on Sunday with a winning margin of 1-55 on the 21 year-old rider from Luxembourg.
Astana duo Paolo Savoldelli and Eddy Mazzoleni finished first and second in the time trial. Savoldelli set a time of 52-20 in the rain, beating Mazzoleni by 36 seconds. David Zabriskie (CSC) was third in 52-58. Mazzoleni?s strong ride against the clock meant he moved past both Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) to take third place overall, 2-25 behind Di Luca.
Di Luca still has to ride the final 185km stage to Milan on Sunday but is already celebrating overall victory.
?I?ve don?t it. I?m really, really happy and this is an exception day in my life,? he said.
?For every Italian the Giro is the most beautiful race in the world and it?s difficult to describe what it feels like to win it. I?ve been racing since I was eight years old and winning the Giro is a dream come true.?
?Not everybody believed I could win a major three-week stage race but now I?ve proved that I can. That really boosts my self belief and I hope to carry on winning for the next four or five years.?
Di Luca dominated the three-week Giro d?Italia in the mountain stages and then carefully marked his rivals before securing overall victory in Saturday?s time trial.
?The time trial was the final decisive stage of the race and to be honest it went a lot easier than I expected,? he claimed.
?Being the last rider to start and having the split times of Andy Schleck was a big help. It meant I was pretty relaxed and could pace myself. I?m not a time trial specialist but having the leader?s pink jersey gave me an extra edge and eighth, two minutes down on Savoldelli is a good result for me.?
Di Luca will be crowned the overall winner of the Giro at the end of the 185km 21st stage from Vestone to Milan on Sunday. As tradition, with the podium places and special jerseys decided, the final stage will be a celebration for the 141 riders who made it through the three weeks of racing.
Britain?s Steve Cummings (Discovery Channel) can proudly join in the celebrations after finishing his first major stage race.
GIRO D'ITALIA: STAGE 20 RESULTS
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Astana 42km in 52-20
2 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana at 0-36
3 David Zabriske (USA) CSC at 0-38
4 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Credit Agricole at 1-08
5 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 1-16
6 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 1-28
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 1-44
8 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas at 1-57
9 Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 2-01
10 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 2-02
33 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 4-01
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 20
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 86-46-28
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 1-55
3 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana at 2-25
4 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval ? Prodir at 3-15
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 3-49
6 Riccardo Ricco? (Ita) Saunier Duval ? Prodir at 7-00
7 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 8-34
8 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 10-14
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 10-44
10 David Arroyo (Esp) Caisse d?Epargne at 11-58
110 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 2-52-46
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