Giro d'Italia contenders: Then there were four

Ivan Basso heads escape, Giro d'Italia 2012, stage 17

The Giro d'Italia's stage to Cortina d'Ampezzo, including a climb up the Passo Giau, developed into an elimination game. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) was the only one to attack, the rest of the favourites were happy to grind their rivals down.

"Tell me, how are we supposed to win this race?" Liquigas-Cannondale's team manager, Roberto Amadio asked Cycling Weekly. "Something will have to happen, but if we get to the end and Rodriguez still has his lead, we're okay with that."

Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) leads the race by 30 seconds over Hesjedal. Amadio's leader and two-time winner, Ivan Basso sits in third overall at 1-22 minutes.

Basso and his team controlled the race over the final climbs, the Forcella Staulanza and Giau. He was without his key lieutenant Sylvester Szmyd, but relied on Damiano Caruso and then Eros Capecchi. They succeeded in cracking pre-race favourite, Roman Kreuziger.

"If he lost over 10 minutes then he clearly had an off day," Astana team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli told Cycling Weekly. "I don't know what else to say, only he knows what was wrong."

Kreuziger wouldn't speak, preferring to take shelter in the bus.

Over the Giau, Rodriguez remained with Hesjedal, Basso, Rigoberto Uran (Sky), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox). They raced down and into Cortina d'Ampezzo.

"The picture's becoming clearer," Hesjedal said to a group of journalists while warming down on his bike at the bus.

Only four riders - Rodriguez, Hesjedal, Basso and Scarponi - are within two minutes of the overall win. Hesjedal was the only one to attack today, trying at 23.8 kilometres out or six kilometres from the top of Giau.

He arrived at the bus still recovering. He explained that he suffered cramps, but that he's confident he fights for the overall win.

"What can I say?" said Hesjedal. "I riding well I'm here and trying to take advantage of it. It's not the first time I have ridden over the biggest mountains with the best guys in the world."

He placed seventh at the Tour de France in 2009. His calmness was almost shocking considering the monster stage of around 4,500 metres of climbing.

"No sense being crazy and stressed out," he explained. "At the end of the day it is still a bike race."

Giro d'Italia 2012: Latest news

Kennaugh withdraws from Giro, next stop Olympics

Giro's Stelvio stage may be shortened due to weather

Izagirre wins on Grand Tour debut

Cavendish silences Cipollini

Sky tightens grip on white jersey

Rodriguez versus Hesjedal in Giro title fight

Cavendish's Sky lead-out still on learning curve

Orica-GreenEdge to strengthen sprint train in Tour de France

Schleck struggles on with dislocated shoulder

Rodriguez up against more experienced rivals in Giro

Bak from worker to winner at the Giro

Giro d'Italia 2012: Live coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012 live text coverage and schedule

Giro d'Italai 2012 stage 13 live text coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012 stage 12 live text coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012 stage 10 live text coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012 stage six live text coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012 stage four live text coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage reports

Stage 17: Rodriguez wins stage to consolidate lead

Stage 16: Izagirre claims Basque breakaway victory

Stage 15: Rabottini takes tough win in Giro

Stage 14: Amador wins Giro's first high mountain stage as Hesjedal reclaims lead

Stage 13: Cavendish makes it three

Stage 12: Bak attacks to win

Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption

Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take leadStage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall

Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win

Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead

Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win

Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win

Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead

Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash

Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning

Stage one: Phinney wins time trial

Giro d'Italia 2012: Photo galleries

Stage 17 photo gallery

Stage 16 photo gallery

Stage 15 photo gallery

Stage 14 photo gallery

Stage 13 photo gallery

Stage 12 photo gallery

Stage 11 photo gallery

Stage 10 photo gallery

Stage nine photo gallery

Stage eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Giro d'Italia 2012: Blogs

Charly Wegelius' Giro blog: Conserving energy for the final week

Charly Wegelius' Giro blog: Holding on to the lead

Charly Wegelius' Giro blog: Getting the team time trial right

Giro moto blog: Hurray for rest day

Giro moto blog: Stage 10

Giro d'Italia 2012: Teams and riders

Giro d'Italia 2012 start list

Giro d'Italia 2012: TV guide

Giro d'Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule

Related links

Giro d'Italia 2012: The Big Preview

Cycling Weekly's Giro d'Italia section

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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.