Alberto Contador (Astana) is 28.5km from winning a Giro d’Italia he never expected to start.
The Spanish climber deflected a flurry of last-gasp attacks from arch-rival Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) over the Gavia and Mortirolo in Saturday’s 232km mountain shootout to retain the maglia rosa and roll into Sunday’s final-day time trial with the narrowest of margins.
But four seconds might as well be four hours for Contador, who is favored to cement his lead in Sunday’s mostly flat race against the clock into Milano.
“I could never have imagined that I would be in the maglia rosa poised to win the Giro a month ago when my team called me,” a relieved Contador said. “To be in the maglia rosa in the last day of the Giro, playing in the time trial to win it all, it’s something unimaginable a month ago.”
Last day time-trials are always exciting, because you truly never know what might happen … just think about Greg LeMond’s performance in the 1989 Tour de France, when he was 50 seconds behind Laurent Fignon on the final day, with just 24.5 km to go until the finish. And yet, he managed to dig in and find 58 seconds, to win the overall by a mere 8 seconds. The closest, and the most exciting finish to the Tour de France ever, as far as I’m concerned.
While I don’t believe (at least at this point) that Alberto Contador or Riccardo Riccò are quite the same calibre of rider as LeMond and Fignon, despite VeloNews’ assertions that 4 seconds are as good as 4 hours, this Giro d’Italia is not yet over.
Contador could have an off-day … Riccò could put in the ride of his life to claw back those 4 seconds and all of a sudden, the accidental maglia rosa changes hands.
And maybe, just maybe, ASO will reconsider their ban of Astana from the Tour de France, which starts in just 5 weeks.