By Ben Abrahams
Sunday's weather in Milan is likely to be dry and a little cloudy, with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Celcius, and race leader Alberto Contador will surely be hoping the weather forecasters are telling the truth. Going on past and present form, second placed Riccardo Riccò will need to produce a minor miracle over the pan flat 28.5 time trial kilometre course, or hope the Spaniard suffers some kind of crash or mechanical failure.
After all, Contador isn't likely to just bottle it. The 25-year-old faced arguably a much more nerve-wracking prospect on Stage 19 of the Tour de France last year, when going into the Tour's final time trial, the then Discovery rider held a 1'50 advantage over Cadel Evans, but faced an undulating 55.5 kilometre test between Cognac and Angoulême. On that day in July, Contador lost 2'18 to stage winner Levi Leipheimer and 1'27 to Evans, both regarded as time trial specialists.
Sunday's situation is markedly different in that Riccò has just a four-second deficit to make up, but the precocious Saunier Duval rider has never showed the kind of raw power in a flat time trial that could see him overhaul Contador. On Stage 10 of this year's Giro - a gradually uphill 39.4 kilometre time trial between Pesaro and Urbino - Riccò lost more than two minutes to Contador, on a course that arguably favoured his characteristics more than Sunday's will.
The rider who won that day, Lampre's Marzio Bruseghin, sits exactly two minutes behind Contador in the overall standings, and turning round such a deficit would be a massively tall order even considering the Italian's time trialing credentials.
The final question is that of motivation. Riccò's internal anger appears to have been boiling up inside him for nearly three weeks now, leading to regular tirades whenever a microphone or television camera is nearby. If that anger could be chanelled into speed on Sunday we could maybe have a race on our hands, but otherwise it appears the maglia rosa will stay firmly on the shoulders of Alberto Contador.