Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) managed to defend his second place overall in the Giro d'Italia despite Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) beating him by ten seconds in the final time trial to Milan.
Scarponi finished 1:28 behind David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) and 52 seconds behind overall winner Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard). He ended the Giro second overall 6:10 behind Contador but was 46 seconds ahead of Nibali.
There is much debate about whether Contador could lose his 2011 Giro d'Italia victory if he is found guilty of doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But if he does, Scarponi will be declared the winner of the Giro.
Scarponi finished the time trial tired and empty after three weeks of intense racing. But true to character he still found a way to laugh at all the pain and suffering.
"This was the hardest Giro I've ever done but if you let your head drop and you can't see the funny side of things then you're in big trouble," he said after climbing on the podium with Contador and Nibali in the centre of Milan.
"There were several stages, especially during the last week, when I had no legs left and the only thing that kept me going was my head and my morale. It was a really hard Giro but after finishing second in Milan and holding off Nibali, I'm really happy for myself and for the team."
Scarponi lost precious time when he went into the red trying to follow Alberto Contador on the slopes of Mount Etna and then became locked in a battle of nerves and strength with Nibali. He managed to finish ahead of Nibali but conceded that Contador was unbeatable.
"I rode the Giro with the goal of finishing on the podium and with the dream of winning it. Unfortunately Contador proved he was the strongest and there was nothing I could do about it," he said.
"There's always something you wish you'd done differently, especially the evening after the stage when you watch in television and reflect on your tactics or the results. There's always something you can do better or a mistake you can avoid making. But if you look at the whole Giro, I have to be satisfied. I finished second behind Contador but I've finished ahead of a very strong Nibali. I don’t honestly think I could have done better."