Team CSC's Ivan Basso justified his decision to remain in the Giro after suffering stomach problems by winning the 17th stage atop the Colle di Tenda in Limone Piemonte. Basso attacked with 20 km to go in the company of his team-mate Frank Schleck, Dario Cioni (Liquigas), Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval), Paolo Tiralongo (Panaria), and Giampaolo Caruso (Liberty Seguros), before leaving them all behind with 6 km left to win the stage by over a minute from Jose Rujano (Selle Italia) and Gilberto Simoni (Lampre).
Although he came to the Giro d'Italia with the ambition of winning it, Basso succumbed to stomach problems at the end of the second week, and rode himself out of the maglia rosa in last Saturday's stage to Ortisei. He was much worse in Sunday's Stelvio stage, where he lost 42 minutes and all hopes of finishing on top of the podium. But, he vowed to stay in the race to try to win a stage, and succeeded in doing so today.
"Today I proved that we meant business, when we made the decision for me to continue in this race," said Basso on team-csc.com. "I've known all along that I'm a strong climber - maybe the strongest one here. And today I wanted to win without having to sprint for it. After my bad luck, I had only one thing on my mind: to win in Limone Piemonte. I said this to Bjarne already on the Stelvio. Now I did it, and it's a big relief both for me and my team. The whole group did a tremendous job for me today, and they all deserve a big thanks."
Maglia rosa Paolo Savoldelli admitted he hadn't been able to counter when Simoni and Rujano attacked. "It was a hard stage and I couldn't go with Simoni when he accelerated but I'm pleased I didn't lose too much time," said Savoldelli. "I'm not a great climber but I think I'm defending my lead quite well. I started the Giro hoping for a top-five placing, so I have to happy with my performance."
Savoldelli is now looking to the time trial to increase his lead by enough that he has a buffer for Saturday's final mountain stage. "In theory I should be able to gain something in the time trial and then I'll try to defend whatever lead I have on Saturday," he said.
The other winners today were climbers Rujano and Simoni, who slotted themselves into third and second on GC behind Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel). Il Falco conceded 42 seconds to the two mountain goats, while Danilo Di Luca lost another minute. The gap between the top four on GC is now 1'27, and with a time trial and a very tough mountain stage to come, it's still anyone's race.
Could Jose Rujano become the first non-ProTour rider to win a ProTour stage race?