Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) pushed the limits in the Giro d'Italia's final day Sunday in Rome to try and eliminate his 20-second deficit to race leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank). The rain on the ancient cobbles and the crash of his Russian rival had created a dramatic ending, but Di Luca needed more.
"I took chances. I started with a normal bike because rain started to come down and I wanted to risk it. I gave it my all," said Di Luca.
It all came to a head after three weeks of racing in Italy's capital. Di Luca faced a 14.4-kilometre time trial, a specialty suited to Menchov. The afternoon rain added an additional element and a chance for Di Luca to win a second Giro title.
Di Luca closed the 21st stage with a time of 19:27, 45 seconds behind the winner. Surrounded by press, he watched Menchov ride the final kilometre towards his Giro d'Italia title.
The roar of the crowed signalled something wrong: Menchov crashed on the wet Via di San Gregorio within view of the Colosseum at 900 metres remaining.
"For me, to win the Giro like that because of a crash would not have been good. In the end the best rider won [the Giro]."
Menchov collected himself and finished the stage 21 seconds faster than Di Luca. The Italian lost the Giro by 41 seconds after 3453.5 kilometres of racing.
Di Luca plans to take a break and then return for a build up to the World Championship. He will race the Vuelta a España stage race as preparation.
He will aim for the Ardennes Classics - Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège - and a second Giro d'Italia in 2010.
"I have already won a lot in my career. There are few who have the wins like me. I will continue on my path, I have about three or four good years ahead of me."