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>92nd Giro d'Italia - Stage 21: il Giro report Card
 
By Staff
Date: 5/31/2009
>92nd Giro d'Italia - Stage 21: il Giro report Card
 

92nd Giro d'Italia- Stage Twenty one: il Giro report card
The final stage time trial is run in intermittent rain which produced a drama filled race that had everything from unknown winners to leaders tumbling...

By Tim Lee

What a fitting way to end what has been the most highly anticipated Giro in recent memory! Taking in many of Rome's most iconic sights, the time trial today was run on cobbles and was quite technical to negotiate at speed, especially during the first half of the course. Thus the ensuing inclement weather only compounded the difficulty of an already tricky course. One by one the riders set off. Some in pursuit of simply getting to the finish while others were chasing much bigger fish, including the stage and overall victory.

The day started out dry but by the mid point had started to sprinkle. This sprinkle became proper rain for a period until the sun broke through the clouds before the heavens again opened as if preplanned by the organisers to add spice to the mix right about the time the heavyweights started their ride. With so much on the line the tension was high but we had to wait until the very last minute of racing in the 2009 Giro for the excitement and drama to reach heights not seen since Jacko announced his final world tour then 'rescheduled' it (umm...)

Today's report card will be a little different to usual. As opposed to looking at the winners and losers of the race today we will focus solely on the winners because to be fair, when a race has been going for three weeks and almost 3,500 kilometers, anyone who finishes it has accomplished something truly magnificent. Thus in an environment full of praise and reflection, there is no room in today's report card for dishing out any sort of criticism. So the winners are...


Stage 21 winner and Lithuanian Time Trial Champion Ignatas Konovalovas
  Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

A - Ignatas “Con man” Konovalovas (Cervélo TestTeam) stole the show from all of the big names today. He proved that the only thing harder to do than pronounce his name is to beat him against the clock. The lanky current Lithuanian time trial champion stormed the course prior to the rain falling but set a time that was going to be difficult to topple in any conditions. A solid pursuit rider on the track, Konovalovas's talent was unearthed by none other than Roger Legeay and his Credit Agricole team but much like several other riders who have joined the new Cervelo Test Team this year, he is blossoming and starting to show results that his talent is suggestive of. No doubt plenty more wins await this guy who is still only 24.

A - Bradley “Mop” Wiggins (Garmin/Slipstream) has enjoyed his best grand tour yet in terms of climbing and overall consistency. Adding weight to this suggestion was his ride today's time trial which came at the end of the fastest Giro in history. Wiggo was possibly the fastest man on two wheels in Rome today but the bad luck that seems to have plagued his Garmin team for the whole Giro turned its devilish spells on the Brit just when it seemed he was on his way his maiden grand tour stage win. He was fastest at the second time check by a sizable three seconds until disaster struck in the form of rain making the course too dangerous to negotiate at his speed to that point. He subsequently slowed to finish agonizingly close to the winner one second down in 2nd place in what was another hard luck story for the argyle boys. Look out Monaco.


2009 Giro d'Italia Champion Denis Menchov.   Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

A - “Dancing” Denis Menchov (Rabobank) had it in the bag. He was on target for one of the best (if not the best) times of the day. He had safely negotiated what many thought was the last major obstacle of the race which was the anticlockwise ¾ circumnavigation of the Coliseum. He was now on his way to the finish and something happened that got everyone out of their seats as we all gushed in horror. He had fallen on a straight forward section of road! There did not appear to be anything on the actual road where he went down but it just reinforced how twitchy those time trial bars can be to handle at speed. He never actually came to a standstill though as he rebounded back up to grab his machine almost as fast as he went down. By this time however the unbelievably efficient Rabo mechanic had jumped out of the team car, got Menchov's spare bike off the roof and delivered it to the wound-up Russian before any of us could blink and take in the full extent of what had just happened.

Wisely his mitts stayed firmly planted on the outer bars for the next few hundred meters and when he came to a standstill we got a glimpse of how the ecstasy of winning can transform a normally shy and introverted cyclist to become a hyper animated madman. He waved his arms around and pumped his fists so hard Lewis Lennox would be proud. The rare outburst of emotion was great to see. On the contrary the combination of a hideous pink skin suit matched to a bright orange helmet and chrono shoe covers was rather unsightly and probably the low fashion point of the Giro for all involved. But winners are grinners and despite the fall he still managed to put time into Di Luca!


Danilo Di Luca waves to his cheering fans from the podium.
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

A - Danilo “Killer” Di Luca (LPR Brakes/Farnese Vini). From a viewer's perspective, perhaps the only thing that could possibly rival watching the last two minutes of Menchov's ride was watching Di Luca's face as the drama unfolded. Talk about mixed emotions! The Killer had given his all throughout the Giro and left basically every inch of his being out on the roads of Italy. He started off strong today but faded significantly when in the end his legs simply could not push him any faster. 17th place was probably where he was expected to finish but given how valiantly he has fought for the past three weeks it would be fair to assume that most hoped he had one last special effort to give to make Menchov really earn his title. Still, he can walk away and hold his head high that he rode an outstanding Giro full of panache and kept it interesting right until the very end.


Franco Pellizotti celebrates his stage 17 win.   Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

A - Franco “Perminator” Pellizotti (Liquigas) rode a sensible time trial to finish one place ahead of Di Luca to confirm his podium place. He just got stronger and stronger as the race went on and in the end had Basso working for him. All he had to do today to protect his provisional 3rd place was finish with a semi respectable time which he did without fuss. His job was made that much easier by Sastre placing 65th and a further 45 seconds behind the Italian. His steady progression through the ranks of the Giro over the years has finally bought him right up to the podium where he and those great golden locks thoroughly deserve to be.

Well well, that is all folks. With the Giro coming to an end so too are the report cards that accompany it. The race has set the benchmark for other tours in 2009, in particular the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, to follow and attempt to improve on. It has been a magical three week journey around one of the most spectacular countries the world has to offer. Through all the highs and lows there have been some very memorable moments throughout the race that definitely lived up to all of the hype prior to the start. Thanks to all those who have read and followed the report cards. Hopefully you have found them informative and thought provoking. They are not intended to as the be all and end all of race reports, but rather a light hearted look at each day's action condensed into a digestible and interesting format. Until next time, keep pedaling, stay safe, and never ever try to match light pink and bright orange in the same ensemble for any occasion.

Cheers,
        Tim

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