Cycling Italy
Guide Books


Post Stage Analysis

"Il Finale Thrilling"
Di Luca takes every risk, but Menchov prevails, despite last kilometer crash

9 Big Photos from Stage 21sirotti

May 31 update: The Giro Centenario came down to 14.4 kilometers against the watch. Raced through the heart of Roma in wet conditions, the stage provided "il finale thrilling," in the words of Auro Bulbarelli, the Italian television commentator. In the end, Denis Menchov successfully defended his Maglia Rosa, despite the best efforts of Danilo Di Luca and a crash in the finishing straight. The final podium included Menchov, Di Luca, and Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo. Ignatas Konovalovas, a 23 year old Lithuanian from Cervélo TestTeam, meanwhile, celebrated his first grand tour stage win.

The Story

As the early riders came through the finish, Ignatas Konovalovas of Cervélo TestTeam held the early lead. The young Lithuanian had the advantage of riding on relatively dry roads. Passing through the first two time checks, British crono specialist Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream looked set to overtake Konovalovas and give Garmin-Slipstream its first stage win of the Giro. But then, the rain began. Wiggins finished just 1 second down on Konovalovas. With only the general classification riders left to start, the young Lithuanian was in the hot seat.

Many of the general classification riders chose not to take any chances in the rain-slick streets of Roma. One after another, they passed through the finish, offering no challenge to Konovalovas and bringing no change to the standings. Still, the anticipation built toward the main story of the day, the duel between the two leading riders in this Giro Centenario. Denis Menchov began the day just 20 seconds ahead of Danilo Di Luca with 14.4 kilometers left to race.

With the general classification on the line, Danilo Di Luca set out on the sprint. To add to the drama, because really, we needed more drama in this race, it began to rain more heavily. Di Luca chose to ride a regular road bike to gain more agility in the many corners of this crono through Roma. He added only small clip-on extensions for an aero advantage in the straights. It quickly became clear that that Italian intended to take every risk in pursuit of victory. Through the opening curves, he used every centimeter of road, nearly running into the crowds lined up to watch his progress. Denis Menchov, by contrast, rode a crono bike with a full disc in the rear.

After 3.3 kilometers of racing, Di Luca led Pink Jersey Denis Menchov by 5 seconds. It was a cunning tactical ploy from Di Luca. The Italian went out hard in an effort not only to win the stage, but also to try to rattle his Russian rival. Constantly out of the saddle, accelerating from the corners, Di Luca used his acrobatic bike handling to every possible advantage. With both riders on course, the rain intensified.

But Menchov was showing yet again in this Giro Centenario that he has nerves of steel. Riding steadily and using the straightaways to his advantage, Menchov began to take back the race. By the second time check, Menchov had reversed the situation, and led Diluca by 14 seconds. Now, every turn of the pedals and every tick of the clock put the Maglia Rosa further out of the reach of Danilo Di Luca. The outcome appeared inevitable, the Giro finished.

Inside the final killometers, the course crossed a section of cobbles, which by now shown glassy slick from the rain. The road ran straight here, but the cobbles gave it an eneven surface. Here, Menchov's Giro nearly ended in disaster, as his tires slipped on the cobbles. Down he went, his bike sliding ahead of him just out of reach. Even as he fell, he was already running after his bike, scrambling to remount. A Rabobank mechanic, who must surely deserve an extra bonus, gave Menchov the fastest bike change in the history of the world. Still, there was a seemingly endless delay as Menchov struggled to clip in and get back up to speed.

Di Luca, meanwhile, sat at the finish, watching the drama and surely wondering if he really wanted to win a Giro this way. He need not have worried. Menchov quickly brought his bike back up to speed, forcing the big gear to turn over. Forcing his way to the line, Menchov finished 21 seconds ahead of Di Luca. The crash meant an end to the Russian's hopes for a second stage win, but not to his Giro triumph. Denis Menchov of Rabobank won the Giro Centenario by a 41 second margin. The shortest margin in Giro history was 11 seconds and came during the era of Fausto Coppi. From the coincidences department: The 1975 and 1921 Giri were won with the same advantage, 41 seconds. In 1975, Fausto Bertoglio beat Francisco Galdós, in 1921, Giovanni Brunero overcame Gaetano Belloni.

In a post-race interview, Menchov called this Giro victory "the most important win of my life" and the race "spectacular." He explained that the cold and stress had led to his crash. "I am very very happy." Di Luca conceded, "at the end, the best rider won." "I tried everything and so did my entire team. We simply could not distance Menchov," he explained. The Russian "earned this Giro," in the estimation of Di Luca. Of today's crono Di Luca said, "I did everything I could and in the last kilometers I didn't have any more legs."

In the battle for the stage win, Ignatas Konovalovas of Cervélo TestTeam won the stage by just 1 second over Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream. Wiggins beat Konovalovas through the second and third time checks. At the final time check, Wiggins held a 1 second advantage over the 23 year old Lithuanian. But the wet conditions proved decisive, and Wiggins could not hold his advantage in the final 3 kilometers. Today marks the first grand tour stage win for Konovalovas, who is a two-time Lithuanian National Champion in the crono.

Edvald Boasson Hagen of Columbia-High Road, who won a stage in the first week of this Giro, finished third on the stage, 7 seconds behind the winner. Jaroslav Popovych of Astana finished fourth 11 seconds down, Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre-Ngc, who is a former Italian National Champion in the crono, finished fifth at 16 seconds down.

Today's victory gave Cervélo TestTeam four stage wins for this Giro: Carlos Sastre on the Monte Petrano and Vesuvio stages, Simon Gerrans in San Luca, and Konovalovas in Roma. Cervélo ties with LPR Brakes and Columbia-High Road for the most victories in this year's Giro.

Further down the general classification, many of the riders decided not to take any risks on the wet cobbled roads of Roma. Though the time gaps shifted around a bit, there were no changes in the finishing order.

Here is the final general classification for the Giro Centenario:

Denis Menchov
Danilo Di Luca 0:41
Franco Pellizotti 1:59
Carlos Sastre 3:46
Ivan Basso 3:59
Levi Leipheimer 5:28
Stefano Garzelli 8:43
Michael Rogers 10:01
Tadej Valjavec 11:13
Marzio Bruseghin 11:28

Interviewed after yesterday's stage, Ivan Basso, who entered this Giro as a favorite for the general classification, said he was "satisfied" with his Giro. Liquigas-Doimo entered the Giro with the ambition to win with either Basso or Pellizotti, he explained. "We were forced to recognize the superiority of Di Luca and Menchov," he conceded. In terms of his own performance, Basso refused to comment, saying "I don’t think that now is the time to determine the balance," and explained that he needed some time for reflection. Next week, Basso will travel to France to contest the Dauphiné Libéré with team-mate Vincenzo Nibali.

Facts and Figures

From the statistics department, Menchov today became the third Russian in the Giro's 100 year history to win the Maglia Rosa. Evgeni Berzin won in 1994, and Pavel Tonkov in 1996. Menchov now also has wins in two of the three grand tours in cycling. He has won the Vuelta twice and now has a Giro d'Italia victory to his credit. Carlos Sastre just missed earning a podium position in this Giro to match his podium finishes at the Vuelta a España and his win at the Tour de France.

This Giro Centenario also had the fastest average speed in the history of the race. Indeed, throughout the Giro, many riders have commented about the speed of the stages. In part, the high average speed reflects the absence of the traditiional high mountain stages. Only the stage finishing on Monte Petrano followed the usual pattern of a high mountain stage, summiting multiple passes before the finale. Missing from this course were some of the iconic climbs of the Dolomiti, names like Gavia, Stelvio, Fideia.

The riders raced this Giro hard, perhaps knowing that they did not face any truly monstrous mountain stages. Rarely did an early break go and survive to the finish. Instead, the speed stayed high for much of the stage as riders tried constantly to escape, while teams not represented in the break chased. This pattern made for unusually fast and nervous racing, and perhaps also explains some of the complaints about the course design in the early stages of the race.

Today the race organizers announced that next year's Giro d'Italia will depart from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Next year will mark the 9th time the Giro has began outside Italy. The first three stages will take place in the Netherlands, and include stops in Utrecht and Middleburg.

That's all for now. Watch for a stage previews for the Dauphiné Libéré here at in the coming days.


Course Preview

Stage 21: Roma Individual Time Trial
Date: Sunday, 31 May
Distance: 14.4 km.
Terrain: Flat. A fairly technical course with numerous corners.
GC Importance: Potentially decisive for some general classification placings, but should not overturn the hierarchy completely.

Stage 21 Start Time: Sunday 13:45 CET ();
Earliest live video: 14:45 CET ();
See all the live video, audio and text options
Approximate Finish: 17:20 CET () Rome ITT Start Order and Times
Current Time, Weather and Wind Direction in Rome, Italy
  Rome: The Ancient Forum (travelogue side trip) — ricksteves

Roads: Via dei Fori Imperiali, Piazza Venezia, Via del Quirinale, Via 20 Settembre, Porta Pia, Corso Italia, Via Vittorio Veneto, Piazza Barberini, Via Due Macelli, Piazza di Spagna,Via del Babuino, Piazza del Popolo, Ponte Regina Margherita, Via della Conciliazione, Castel Sant’Angelo, Lungotevere dei Mellini, Piazza del Campidoglio, Via del Teatro Marcello, Piazza Bocca della Verità, Via del Circo Massimo, Viale Aventino, Via di San Gregorio, Piazza del Colosseo, and Via dei Fori Imperiali.

The Giro Centenario comes to its grand finale in Roma with this short individual time trial. The first Giro d’Italia included a stage from Napoli to Roma, and the city has often hosted Italy’s grand tour. The time trial course twists and turns through icons of antiquity, finishing in the shadow of the Colliseo. Gazzetta punches the prose meter to eleven in their description of this stage. Read along with me, my friends:

Roma offers an extraordinary stage-set from which to say good-bye to the Giro d’Italia, which celebrates the 100 years of its first edition. Its absolutely exceptional and unique scenery is what the Eternal City gives to the protagonists of the corsa rosa, as well as its magnificent history and its monuments, which belong to the universal patrimony and are recognized and dreamed of in every part of the world. This is a stage of inestimable value and unique significance which, certainly, will stimulate all of the riders to give their best in such an atmosphere of unmatchable prestige.

The Giro concludes at last with an individual time trial of 14.4 kilometers which starts and finishes on the Via dei Fori Imperialii, in the Piazza del Colosseo. The “gladiators” of the pedals will no doubt offer a spectacle, not deadly and ferocious like the gladiators of antiquity, but of grand technique, of color and speed, all along the route, a route suited to developing a close relationship and whose interesting sites and roads will recall to memory all the grandeur of the capital of Italy. The variation in the elevation is practically inappreciable.

After all the prose both lyrical and grandiose, the note that the profile is flat comes as something of an anticlimax. All the same, they are clearly very excited about this final stage in Roma. And who am I to quibble? The finale in Roma offers a fitting ending to the three week journey through the history of Italy and the Giro d’Italia.

Profile Details. The first 5 kilometers include a few rolling hills, but they never gain more than 40 meters in elevation. From kilometer 5.5 to the finish, this course is flat. There is a small divet at kilometer 12, but it shouldn’t influence the outcome at all.

Though the course is flat, the many corners will make it challenging. It looks like a can of silly string exploded on a map of Roma. I count 25 corners at or exceeding 90 degrees, and there are a number of other bendy spots. Just before kilometer 5, there are two 180 degree hairpins one placed directly after the other.

The road surface varies from pavement to cobbles, though the cobbles are smooth, like those found on the Champs Élysées. So long as the weather is dry, the cobbled surface should not present a problem. The good bike handlers will thrive on this course, while the less sure-footed may put themselves in difficulty.

Tactics Talk. At less than 15 kilometers, this crono should not overturn the general classification, but it could decide a few of the placings, where the time gaps are close. Depending on the outcome of the final mountain stages, the maglia rosa could remain in play. The flat course will suit the specialists just fine, though everyone will need to bring his best bike handling to the party.

The non-specialists with good acceleration may prove able to use the corners to their advantage, though they still need to churn out the wattage in the straights. There is nothing especially unusual about this course, and a specialist should win. On the final day of a grand tour, the riders who have recovered best over the course of the three weeks will ride best. No doubt there will be at least one upset on this final day of the Giro Centenario.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)

Italy Cities DVD

Italy Countyside DVD

Europe through the backdoor

Italy Travel Book

Learn to speak
and understand