By Jean-François Quénet in Verona
Before stage 20 of this year's Giro, Paolo Savoldelli had never won a long time trial. "Only under 10 kilometres," he remembered. "But I've come second to Gonchar a few times…" Had the Ukrainian not been prevented from starting Giro by his team because of abnormal blood values in an internal test conducted before the race, "the falcon" might have been second once more, but Savoldelli rescued his Giro with a win in the 43 kilometre long test.
Savoldelli, a two-time winner of the Tour of Italy, wound up acting as domestique to his Astana team-mate, Eddy Mazzoleni, after being involved in a crash in the sprint of Pinerolo on stage 11, and subsequently suffering on the Alpine stage to Briançon the following day, losing 5'49 to Danilo Di Luca.
"Danilo Di Luca has demonstrated to be the strongest anyway," Savoldelli analysed. "Had I been at my best, I would have lost time on him on the Zoncolan, but I would have invented a different tactic ahead of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. In fact Mazzoleni and I would have reversed our roles. I could have fought for the podium, but for winning another time, I would have needed a more balanced course. This one was really too mountainous for me. Remember that I have won the Giro twice thanks to the downhills and intelligent racing."
Savoldelli recalled the day he blew up. "My directeur sportif Giovanni Fidanza understood that my Giro was over, because I couldn't even hold the handlebar. When Piepoli attacked, he asked me what to do and we told Mazzoleni to do his own race without waiting for me. Hadn't Fidanza stayed with his car behind me, I probably wouldn't have finished in Briançon. I did it with a lot of suffering.
"I've kept going also because there was a stage finishing in Bergamo, my town. I could have gone home to prepare for the Tour, but in July, my work will be different than at the Giro. I'll do it as a domestique. With Vinokourov and Klöden, we have two of the strongest riders. I'm a professional, I'll work for them. Maybe I'll try and win a stage like two years ago. In life, you never know what can happen."