Alberto Contador locked up the 2011 Giro d’Italia with a strong third-place ride in the final-stage time trial in Milan, a stage won by Garmin-Cervélo’s David Millar.
Millar rode the final 26km individual time trial in 30:13, for a blazing average speed of 51.6kph.
Not a threat to the overall standings, Millar had to wait for the GC biggies to come down the start ramp and it momentarily looked like he might lose the distinction of winning the stage when Contador flew through the intermediate time check one second faster than the British time-trial specialist.
But with his Giro title more than secure, Contador covered the second half of the course 37 seconds slower than Millar, finishing third, behind HTC-Highroad’s Alex Rasmussen, who finished at 0:07
The expected duel between Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) for the second step on the final podium didn’t result in any changes. Nibali’s 31:31 was good enough for 10th place on the day, but it wasn’t good enough to take back the 56 seconds he had lost to the Lampre rider in the mountains.
Although Millar took the plaudits with his strong showing in the 26km final stage, the headlines will belong to Contador, who will now seek to add a fourth Tour de France to his glittering record.
Victory in the most prestigious of the three grand tours would make Contador the first man to achieve a Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.
With three grand-tour successes — including two in the Giro and one in the Vuelta a España ─ the 28-year-old now has six wins in the sport’s showpiece stage races.
He has to add another five to equal the record of legendary Belgian Eddy Merckx, however, but is only one behind seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.
For now he can bask in the moment, even though he could yet have his aura punctured if the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) finds against him in his ongoing doping saga.
The case concerning Contador was due to be heard before CAS June 6-8 in Lausanne in order to have the decision before the start of this year’s Tour de France on July 2.
But CAS announced last Thursday that it had postponed the hearing indefinitely to allow further preparation and to help guarantee the participation in person of witnesses and experts.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and world cycling’s governing body (UCI) are appealing the Spanish cycling federation’s (RFEC) decision to acquit Contador over a failed doping case.
Contador, who placed third on the final stage and gave his triumphant “pistolero” gesture of joy at the end, tested positive for a tiny amount of the banned muscle-building substance clenbuterol during last July’s Tour, which he went on to win.
But he was cleared to compete when the RFEC rescinded an initial decision to hand down a one-year competition ban, accepting the rider’s claim that he had unknowingly consumed drug-contaminated meat and was therefore not negligent.
Despite the complex legal wrangle, Contador has not let the issue affect his racing and appears to be in the form of his life, shrugging off all comers in a particularly tough and mountainous edition that saw eight stages finish atop significant climbs.
Once he finished first on the slopes of Mount Etna in the ninth stage to don the pink jersey Contador never looked back as he succeeded last year’s Italian champion Ivan Basso, who did not participate this time.
Millar at least had the consolation of signing off with a win as he edged out Dane Alex Rasmussen (HTC-Highroad) by seven seconds to win in 30:13.
The Scot spent a brief moment in pink himself but the day was darkened by tragedy after Belgian Wouter Weylandt died following a crash on stage three.
- 1. David Millar (GBR), Garmin-Cervelo, in 30:13
- 2. Alex Rasmussen (DEN), HTC-Highroad, at 7
- 3. Alberto Contador Velasco (ESP), SaxoBank-Sungard, at 36
- 4. Richie Porte (AUS), SaxoBank-Sungard, at 43
- 5. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR), Team RadioShack, at 55
- 1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spain), SaxoBank-Sungard, 84:05:14
- 2. Michele Scarponi (Italy), Lampre-ISD, at 6:10
- 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy), Liquigas-Cannondale, at 6:56
- 4. John Gadret (France), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 10:04
- 5. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spain), Team Katusha, at 11:05