Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) lost some time to main Giro d'Italia rival Cadel Evans (BMC) but as ever, the Italian played things cool, preferring to play a long game, knowing this year's Giro could be decided in the final mountain stages and perhaps even in the final time trial to Verona.
Basso lost 28 seconds to Evans but gained time on maglia rosa David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) and moved past Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) into second place overall. Basso is now 2:27 behind Arroyo and 42 seconds ahead of Evans.
"Considering that this is an uphill time trial and came after the rest day, it's a good result for me," Basso said.
"I'm a long distance rider and I'm not really suited to short intense efforts like that. I knew I'd lose something [to Evans] but I expected to lose about 40 seconds. This is a positive result for me. I've gone pretty well."
Basso admitted he was unable to get out of the saddle on the dirt roads and claimed it cost him a few seconds.
"You've got to give it absolutely everything on the dirt and I think I did pretty well," he said. "I stood up but had to sit down because I could feel my wheel slipping. My usual style is to sit in the saddle but I could have earned a few seconds more if I'd been able to get up on the pedals. But I think I still did a good TT.
"I gained some time on some of my rivals. Now we'll take things day by day and see if we can gain more time. There will be other occasions later this week. I've gained time on Sastre but he's still dangerous, and so too is Scarponi. He did a good ride."
Basso admitted he would not be ashamed if he lost the Giro to Evans, describing him as 'a great world champion'. However he seemed happy that, despite Arroyo still wearing the pink jersey, the Giro is gradually coming down to a head-to-head battle with the Australian BMC rider.
"There are still three hard stages to go until the final time trial. Now the race is between the favourites," he said with a smile.