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Giro d’Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan must be a very happy man. With a week to go, no one knows who will win the 2010 Giro, and that’s just the way he wants it.
“I don’t want this Giro decided until the final rider enters the Verona arena,” Zomegnan told VeloNews. “When we made this Giro course, we wanted a surprise every day. So far it’s been just like that.”
The Giro’s final time trial May 30 will conclude inside the first-century Roman arena, replete with live music and dancing girls, but exasperated riders within the Giro peloton would love to have things neatly wrapped up before then.
They shouldn’t bet on it. Even though Liquigas has dominated this weekend’s racing with back-to-back victories in the northern mountains, the final week of the Giro promises to deliver one surprise after another.
“I’ve been saying from the start that this Giro won’t be decided until the final time trial,” says Cervélo’s Carlos Sastre, who climbed to fourth Sunday despite losing time up Monte Zoncolan. “Liquigas has shown they’re the strongest team right now, but the climbs ahead of us are very demanding. There’s still a lot of Giro.”
Going into Monday’s rest day, nothing is decided.
David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne) widened his lead to second-place Ritchie Porte (Saxo Bank) to 2:35, but can feel the big names breathing down his neck. Zoncolan stage winner Ivan Basso (Liquigas) climbed to third at 3:33 back and Cadel Evans (BMC) is fifth at 5:51 back.
Arroyo has lost more than six minutes in two mountain stages, so he can read the writing on the wall.
“We’ll keep fighting all the way to the end, but I see it complicated to try to win this Giro,” Arroyo said. “The maglia rosa gave me extra legs on the Zoncolan today, I see Basso very strong and his team is also very strong. Maybe the podium is still an option.”
Basso has taken the initiative after two spectacular days of climbing. On Saturday, he and Liquigas teammate Vincenzo Nibali blew up the peloton before Nibali dropped like a rock off Monte Grappa to win the stage.
On Sunday, it was Basso’s chance to turn the screws. Evans stayed close until Basso spun away with 1.7km to go for an emotional victory that puts him within striking distance of the maglia rosa. Basso reduced the gap to Arroyo and widened the distance to the riders behind him.
“I have a very strong team at this Giro, the strongest. We have to be patient. We lost time at L’Aquila, but we’re taking it back piece by piece,” Basso said. “There are hard mountain stages to come. We hope things continue like this, but it’s better to look day to day.”
That mantra is repeated among all the favorites. This Giro has been so unpredictable and uncontrolled, that just about anything can happen.
With six stages to go, there’s plenty of road to keep things on edge, with two time trials, two hard mountain stages and two transitions well-suited for breakaways.
The GC favorites still need to shake off the riders who gained nearly 13 minutes in the L’Aquila stage last week. Out of the big breakaway, only five remain in the top 10.
Arroyo is clinging to the pink jersey, but quickly losing ground. Second-place Porte, who took pink into L’Aquila and is riding great for a neo-pro, isn’t expected to hang in the final week. Linus Gerdemann (Milram) and Robert Kiserlovski (Liquigas) are more than seven minutes back and sinking fast.
Then there’s Sastre, hovering in fourth at 4:21. The 2008 Tour de France champion has lost time on every mountain stage so far in this Giro, but he keeps preaching “tranquility and patience,” and seems to have something up his sleeve.
Evans has been the dogged of the favorites, with his ability to resist the attacks fully intact as he faces the final week with a weakened team.
“Everyone has discounted me (on GC), didn’t they?” Evans said Sunday. “Things are looking pretty good. If Basso continues like this, he’ll be the favorite because his team is very strong. Every day is important from here to the finish. I’ve always considered myself in the game.”
Discounting Arroyo’s and Porte’s chances, Basso now has the “virtual” pink jersey. Up next is the Plan de Corones climbing time trial, which could put Basso well on his way toward overall victory. Or maybe not.
The final story of this Giro is far from over. Zomegnan wouldn’t have it any other way.