Danilo Di Luca won the Giro d?Italia cycle race in Milan on Sunday after dominating the race for 13 of the 21 stages and controlling his rivals thanks to his strong Liquigas team.
Di Luca beat 21 year-old Andy Schleck (CSC) ?the revelation of this year?s Giro, by one minute and 55 seconds, with Italy?s Eddy Mazzoleni third at 2:25.
Alessandro Petacchi Milram) won the final stage in Milan ahead of Ariel Richeze (Panaria) and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). It was his fifth stage victory in this year’s race, a return to form after breaking his kneecap last year.
DI LUCA GOES THE DISTANCE
In the past Di Luca always struggled in the third week of the Giro, but this year he was clearly the strongest rider in mountain stages and secured the first Giro victory of his career in Saturday?s individual time trial to Verona. His winning margin was one of the lowest for several years but he won two key stages and his Liquigas team mates Enrico Gasparotto and Andrea Noe also enjoyed moments of glory in the pink jersey.
Di Luca had the extra satisfaction of being the first rider from the central Italian region of Abruzzo to win the Giro.
?Winning the Giro d?Italia is the biggest possible achievement for any Italian rider and I?m especially proud to be the first rider from central Italy to have won it,? Di Luca said with pride.
?A lot of people didn?t think I could ever win the Giro, but I always knew I could and now I?ve proved my doubters wrong.?
?To win the Giro you have to start off well because it?s always difficult to pull back time later in the race. We won the team time trial and gained vital seconds on all our rivals. That was a clear signal of what we could do and a clear signal we had a strong team. I first started to think that I could win the Giro when I won the mountain stage to Briancon. The most difficult moment was the steep finish at the summit of Monte Zoncolan last Wednesday, but I never panicked and that was important.?
Di Luca has won several of cycling?s biggest one day races during his ten-year career, including Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April this year. He will not ride the Tour de France but has set the ProTour title and world championships in September as his next major objectives.
?I?m going to take a break and I won?t ride the Tour de France, but I?ll be back for the second half of the season and want to do well at the world championships in Stuttgart. I won the season-long ProTour in 2005 and now it?s an objective again this year. This is my first Giro victory but I want to continue winning to make 2007 the best season of my career.?
DI LUCA NOT WORRIED ABOUT DOPING INVESTIGATION
Di Luca insisted he is not worried about being implicated in a doping investigation carried out by Italian police in 2004.
Di Luca, his former coach Carlo Santuccione and former team mate Eddy Mazzoleni were all implicated in the ?Oil for Drugs? investigation. Di Luca was forced to miss the 2004 Tour de France because of the investigation but has always affirmed his innocence, and was allowed to race because the case was never closed.
The 14,000 pages of evidence have now been handed to the Italian Olympic Committee?s doping investigators and Di Luca could be summoned for questioning in the next few weeks. If found guilty he could face a ban from racing.
“I’m not at all worried because it’s related to 2004 and my lawyer has already asked that my case be closed. If I?m called for questioning I?ll answer what I?m ever I?m asked,? Di Luca said after winning the Giro d?Italia in Milan on Sunday.
?I had nothing to hide three years ago during the police investigation, and I?ve got nothing to hide now. There won?t be any problem.?
GIRO D?ITALIA STAGE 21 RESULTS
|1||Alessandro Petacchi||(Ita)||Milram||185km in 5-18-54|
|3||Paolo Bettini||(Ita)||Quick Step|
|4||Guiseppe Palumbo||(Ita)||Acqua & Sapone|
|5||Stefano Zanini||(Ita)||Predictor – Lotto|
|6||Lloyd Mondory||(Fra)||AG2r Prévoyance|
|7||Aliaksandr Usau||(Blr)||AG2r Prévoyance|
|10||Matti Breschel||(Den)||CSC||all same time|
|119||Steven Cummings||(GBr)||Discovery Channel||at same time|
FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION
|1||Danilo Di Luca||(Ita)||Liquigas||92-59-39|
|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)||Liquigas||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|
GIRO D’ITALIA 2007: STAGE 21 PHOTO GALLERY, by Luc Claessen
Overall winner Danilo Di Luca rolls into Milan on the final stage of the Giro
The stars of the Giro d’Italia 2007 line up in Milan
Paolo Bettini was happy at the finish despite not winning a stage
Alessandro Petacchi wins the final stage
Danilo Di Luca and his Liquigas squad celebrate
A Damiano Cunego look-a-like parades around Milan
Click here to view the full gallery from stage 21