Even before the epic stage to Sestrieres, Paolo Savoldelli's Discovery Channel team were quietly optimistic two minutes and nine seconds would be enough to see 'Il Falco' flying in Milano today.
"I think today's stage meant a lot for Paolo," said team manager Johan Bruyneel in a team statement after Savoldelli finished the Stage 18 time trial in fourth place, 23 seconds behind Basso, but more importantly, over a minute ahead of his most serious rival, Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta).
"My guess was he needed to take a minimum of one minute from Simoni and he did even better. I didn't think he would be in this position, but to take 1'11 out of Simoni means Paolo's not finished and he has something left. It was huge for his morale."
Assistant directeur sportif Sean Yates outlined the team's reasons behind their muted confidence: "He had to make hay while the sun shines. Simoni is a specialist in the mountains but when it all adds up, it's better to be a strong time trial rider and a reasonable climber than a super climber and a weak time trialist," he said.
Bruyneel added that regardless of the outcome, Savoldelli has already tackled his most significant milestone: "One thing he [Savoldelli] said was his biggest victory has already been achieved - and that's back to being a super bike rider after two years of a lot of problems. Being on this level again is his biggest victory and everything else is a bonus."
After what happened yesterday, it appears Bruyneel and Yates' words have held true, with just 119 kilometres remaining before Savoldelli claims his second Giro d'Italia.