Ten years ago, Stefano Garzelli won the Giro d'Italia. On Tuesday, he added a seventh stage win with the time trial up Plan de Corones. His win came in the absence of two Italian specialists: Marzio Bruseghin, who pulled out of the Giro after crashing and Franco Pellizotti, who was denied a start due to irregularities in his biological passport.
"When I saw my time at the finish, one minute behind Pellizotti's two years ago, I thought I had done really well," said Garzelli. In 2008, Pellizotti won the exact same stage, which was also on day 16 of racing. He rode the 12.9km in 40:26 ahead of Emanuele Sella, who finished only six seconds back though later ended up being banned for doping.
Except for the headwind in the first two kilometres, the road and weather conditions were better today, and yet, with his time of 41:28, Garzelli would have been classified only seventh two years ago, behind Pellizotti, Sella, Gilberto Simoni, Alberto Contador and José Rujano.
Garzelli didn't compete in the Giro d'Italia two years ago because his team Acqua e Sapone didn't get an invitation. "I wanted to honour this edition of the Giro because we've been invited this time," said Garzelli. But Plan de Corones isn't where he had hoped for a stage win.
"I normally go well in time trials when they contain hills," he said. "I had a great ride in the Cinque Terre last year."
"I also usually go well the day after the rest day. I got my best result at the Tour de France with a third place at L'Alpe d'Huez in 2006, and I rode well last year at the Giro during the stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo. But I didn't expect to win today. This is one of my nicest victories."
The 36-year-old Italian reckoned that experience had helped him to ride well. "I had reference times, so I knew what to do on that climb. I took it easy when it wasn't steep, and I sprinted when it was hard. For the gravel road, I used the smallest possible gear: 34x29. Maybe the GC contenders started too strong on the Passo Furcia?"
Cadel Evans (BMC) had the best time at the 7.6km split (the Passo Furcia), with four seconds over Michele Scarponi and 12 seconds over Garzelli, but the latter dominated the Australian by 54 seconds from km 7.6 to km 12.9, which was the gravel section.
Garzelli admitted he lost a lot of time on purpose over the Monte Grappa and didn't pressure himself on the Zoncolan when he lost contact with the best riders that day. Saving himself on those days may have helped him to victory in stage 16.
His aim is to win another mountain stage before the end of the week. "I'm not sure how much longer I'll keep racing," he said. "I'll probably do 2011, and then we'll see."
"I'm still here! I'll enjoy this win and try to get one more before considering the future."