Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto) is holding tight to his general classification lead in the Ruta del Sol. The 32 year-old Italian took the lead on day 1 after a 111 kilometre escape and has held on, just barely, since. Just like the finish on that first day, he has Oscar Freire (Rabobank) nipping at his heels. The Spaniard won stage 2 and helped his teammate, Max Van Heeswijk (Rabobank), take stage 3, and would dearly love to overhaul Cioni before the race ends today, Thursday, in Antequera.
Yesterday on the finish into Córdoba, won by Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic), Cioni almost saw his race unravel. Despite falling after the red triangle, he holds on to a one second lead over Freire, Tadej Valjavec (Lampre-Fondital), Antton Luengo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Francisco José Ventoso (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
At 500 metres to go, Cioni went down, but due race rules he was given the same time as the leaders. "Here they are risking it all, and, of course, I have to be at the front in the finale," explained the Tuscan to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "A Spaniard took a tumble in front of me, and then I plunged into him. It should not be anything serious, let's hope." Cioni came away with some scrapes on his left knee.
Thursday's finale will not be a walk in the park; the riders will face five category 3 climbs, with the last coming at 20 kilometres to the line. Besides the top five being within one second of each other, the are another 23 all within five seconds of taking the jersey that Cioni wears.