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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews’ coverage from the Giro d’Italia.
You join us in the fair city of Verona for today's final stage, a 15km time trial. The first rider will roll down the start ramp within the next 8 minutes.
Vertical climb: 220m
Highest point: 277m
Category: Individual Time Trial
Denied by Cervélo's Ignatas Konovalovas by just a second on a flat TT in Rome last year, Bradley Wiggins will be a strong bet on this more testing course after three weeks of brutally hard racing. Although unlikely to be in the overall running, the Team Sky leader will relish this test with just five weeks to go before the Tour de France. We caught up with Wiggins here.
Wiggins is certainly a strong favourite for the stage. Even ex teammate Christian Vande Velde agrees - according the Garmin-Transitions man's twitter. And remember you can flick your thought to me via twitter here . twitter.com/dnlbenson
Let's have a look at the course, hey.
A final time trial that gives a nod to Francesco Moser's Giro-winning time trial performance into Verona in 1984, when runner-up Laurent Fignon maintained a race helicopter had ‘blown' the Italian to victory. The 1999 and 2004 World Road Race Championships took place on this course, although in the reverse direction. It was won on both occasions by Spain's Oscar Freire. The course includes the 5km climb of the Torricelle and finishes in the Roman arena in the heart of Verona.
Anyone remember the 99 Worlds when a young pup called Oscar Friere stole the show with a stunning victory ahead of Jan Ullrich Frank Vandenbroucke and other more established stars?
Marco Corti will be the first man to start today, seeing as he's last in GC. Ivan Basso will therefore and as per usual be the last man off later this afternoon. Will a helicopter 'blow' him to victory? We shall see.
A few notable early starters to watch out for are Cameron Meyer from Garmin, Svein Tuft, from the same crowd Marco Velo.
And Marco Corti rolls down the start line.
Riders will be going off at 1 minute intervals until we get to the top ten, at which point they'll be pinging off every ten minutes.
Watch out for Frantisek Rabon from HTC. He goes off in a few minutes and if I was a betting man, which I sadly am, he'd be my shout for a top early time.
While some of the early riders roll down the ramp let's have a look at the overall as it stands going into today's stage.
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 87:23:00
2 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:01:15
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:56
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:02:57
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:03:47
6 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 0:07:25
7 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:07:31
8 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:08:55
9 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas-Doimo 0:14:06
10 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia 0:15:00
11 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:16:45
12 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank 0:19:09
13 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:22:28
14 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha 0:25:09
The general consensus seems to be that unless Basso has a nightmare of a day, wakes up, has another nightmare, he's got this one in the bag. He's 1:15 ahead of Arroyo, he's a better TT rider, and he's going off last. Of course, this Giro has been totally unpredictable so anything 'could' happen.
But what's certainly up for grabs are the final two places on the podium. Can Nibali overhaul Arroyo? Possibly. Can Scarponi creep onto the podium? Can Evans pull something out of the bag and dislodge Scarponi? Porte trying to hold off Vino might be the closest battle on GC.
Back to the course for a second and there is the Torricelle climb. It's just over 4km long, and has a maximum gradient of 9.5 per cent.
GaborKiss1 via Twitter says watch out for Konovalovas. Good shout and well remembered. He of course won the final TT last year in Rome. He goes off at 15.00.
We seem to have someone trying to break into the blimp.
It's eh. Mark Cavendish.
CN: Hello Mark. what a pleasant surprise. Let me just clear some empty crisp packets out the way so you can sit down. How are you? Back from Cali now I see.
MC: Yes thanks, finally to day was the first day I felt the travelling out of my legs. nice ride in Tuscany in nice weather.
Times from the first split:
1 Meyer (GRM) 13:53
2 Frapporti (CSF) 14:45
3 Corti (FOT) 16:02
CN: Pleased with how California went for you?
MC: erm, yes it would have been good to finish, but it was amazing to see the guys ride so well the last days, and Mick put that gutsy ride in on the last day. I think we were very successful there.
Cam Meyer sets the new best time of 20:51.
CN: And you're off to Suisse next. You're form is coming together right at the perfect time...
MC: Yes it's really good. Ahead of schedule for the Tour I think. I am going to recce some of the Alpine stages with the team on Tuesday.
Meyer averaged over 43kph and still leads the stage.
CN: You had some problems at the start of the year. Did you always feel like there was time to pull things around in time for the Tour? Did you feel like you had to prove people wrong?
MC: Every interview I did in January, Daniel, I said that i had setbacks, so i will change my programme accordingly to be good at the Tour and thats what I did and its worked just how I said.
MC: I raced less sprints, and more climbs. Naturally I won't win as much then!! but people are ignorant to that. but me and my team aren't, and focused everything for the Tour.
CN: And you've got a book out now too.
MC: The paper back version is out, with an update of the last year, ummm, soon, and it's just been released in America too.
Meyer still leads but Ignatiev has slipped into second place.
CN: The Tour. How many stages can you realisticlly target? And is thor your number one rival?
MC: Realistically, there are 6 sprints, but possibly up to 9 there are many great rivals this year. Tyler is going well. I hope Thor has recovered too so that we can also have a good battle again. It was a great spectacle for the fans last year. Tommeke is also going good, I think he can ride like Thor did last year but even better. Without getting me disqualified, obviously.
Albasini finishes with 21:47 and cant get close enough to Meyer. Still, that a pretty good ride, he might have wanted to do better though.
CN: What kind of input do you have in the selection in the Tour team. Can you say, Bob I want him, I dont want him?
MC: We have a very diverse team, and everyone is committed to the success of HTC, so it's a difficult decision for us. But it's a good situation to be in.. It's not like we're struggling to pick riders to bring. We have the opposite problem, which is, which guys do we have to leave out. It's actually very disspointing because we have more than 15 guys who could do an incredible job at the Tour, and play many active roles between the sprints, stages, and GC. but like I said, that's kind of a good position to be in.
Van Emden sets the second fastest time at the intermediate but he can't touch Meyer's time.
Konovalovas is on the climb. Let's see what time he posts.
CN: Well thanks for joining us Mark.
MC: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Konovalovas sets the new best time at the split. Nine seconds ahead of Meyer.
Brent Bookwalter is now on the climb. He was a star of the prologue in Amsterdam as Sabatini comes up to the finish and slots into 20th.
Bookwalter on the descent now and he's closing in on the man ahead.
Bookwalter steams passed him.
Bookwalker crosses the line in 7th. 21.20
Russ hits the split in 3rd place, one second down.
Seb Lang is in the start house. Strong TT rider is Lang. Lotto/Evans signed him for the TTT at last year's Tour de France.
Grivko in is national champs kit rolls out from the start house, stamps on the pedals and very quickly sets into his tempo.
Greg Henderson now approahes the line. There are cobbles just before the final bend. 5th place for the Kiwi.
Lang now on the climb. Still on the TT bars as he crests the top. Russ crosses the line in a solid 5th. 22 seconds down.
Simoni now on the course. His final ever Giro stage. He'll get a standing ovation from the Italian fans when he comes home.
Craig Lewis now coming up the line and is 10th as Grivko reaches the climb. Gustave Larsson now rolls down the start line
Grivko looks good on the climb. Nice position on the bike but quite a lot of movement and shifting around.
Simoni is on the climb too but he's out of the saddle. I dont think he's been in the saddle since the climb started.
Jackson Rodriguez, a rider who has been on the attack so many times in this year's Giro now starts his 'race of truth'.
Simoni near the finish now. The crowds are giving him a warm reception. He's won this race twice before and this will be his final race. left hander over the bridge and now he just has 1km to go.
Simoni just has one final corner. There's an AG2R rider about to catch him but I think he'll sit up and let Gilberto take the applause.
He does and Simoni gives the crowd a smile and a wave.
Simoni now rides over the podium and salutes the crowd properly. A nice touch.
Wiggins is now in the start house. He's sitting down, eyes forward under his TT helmet. He'll be setting off in just a few minutes.
Meanwhile his teammate Steve Cummings goes over the top of the climb.
Now Wiggins. On the start ramp. 3, 2, 1, go.
He's straight into his position as he aims to win his second Giro stage of the race. He won the opening prologue in Amsterdam.
Larsson smashes the best time. 23 seconds up.
Wiggins has a new time to beat now.
The Brit is in full flight now as he rides along the flat roads of Verona. Martin is now coming up to the finish and comes home in 25th.
Tschopp - I finally got his name right - now starts the TT.
Wiggins now starts the climb. Still in the saddle as he powers up the climb. Will be post a new best time at the top?
Agnoli is the next rider to start.
Wiggins is 9K into the TT and he's looking good as Petrov now starts.
Gilberto Simoni I should add was wearing a collar and pink tie when he rode the the TT.
Wiggins catches his first man on the course as he weaves down the descent.
Pozzato comes up the finish. He's had a good race, winning a stage and competing well on a number of occasions. He crosses the line in 9th. Not bad Pippo.
Wiggins takes another corner flat out but keeps a perfect line.
Larsson is no slouch against the clock so his time won't be easy to beat. He's a perfect rider for the course too, strong, powerful and punchy.
Tight turn for Wiggins 20.19 is the time to beat and he's got less than a K to go. It's going to be so, so tight.
I'm not sure he's going to do it.
Wiggins is racing for second now.
Now for third.
Third fastest for Wiggins. 29 seconds down.
Disappointment for Wiggins. I guess the inner chimp just didn't want to come out and play today.
Jose Serpa crests the top of the climb now as Wegelius does the same, just a few seconds back.
Wiggins to be fair, isn't in top form now and he'll be looking to peak for the Tour of course in July. Uran crosses the line, arms in the air. I think he's happy to get the Giro out of the way.
Tschopp crosses the line but the big cheer is for Cunego who now starts the TT.
Sadly for him he has to listen to 90s techno as he rides down the line. Maybe that will make him ride faster? Maybe not.
Karpets on the climb now. Can the man turn anything but a huge gear?
'Must not change gear at all costs. Changing gears is weakness'
So an update on the best times so far:
1.Gustav Erik Larsson (Saxo Bank) 20:19
2.Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo) 20:42
3.Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 20:48
4.Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Transitions) 20:51
5.Tom Stamsnijder (Rabobank) 20:56
Voeckler now comes up to the finish as Marco Pinotti rolls down the start.
Pinotti is tenth overall but could slip into ninth today.
Pinotti the Italian TT champ could even take the stage today. He's had a really good Giro.
Kiserlovski now starts the race. Can he keep his ninth place? He's had a great Grand Tour, overshadowed somewhat by Porte but still he's ridden well, especially when you consider he's been riding for Basso the entire time.
Pinotti on the stage: "The Torricelle is a well-known climb in Italian cycling. This isn't an easy final time-trial, and it isn't one for the specialists. I can't see the pink jersey changing hands if there are any more than 30 seconds between first and second. This stage is above all a gauge of condition, so a guy who has been superior in the mountains will probably be superior here."
And Sastre is now setting off. A mixed race for the Spaniard.
Karpets coming up the finish, this is going to be a good time, even though he almost lost it on a corner. 13th, 54 seconds down.
Pinotti on the climb now while Vino is in the start house. 3, 2,1 go Vino!
Mollema now coming home. The skinny climber is 31st.
Evans will be starting soon. Remember in last year's Tour TT stage in Annecy he was the fastest up the climb, ahead of Cancellara and Contador. He'll really need to pull something out of the bag today if he wants that podium spot.
Porte now starts the race. What race he's had so far. What time could he post today?
Pinotti now with the best time at the first check as Evans starts the TT with Nirvana's Teen Spirit being played in the background.
Kiserlovski comes to the first check, around a minute down on Pinotti. Pinotti could be about to move up. Scarponi now starts the time trial.
Pinotti is flying along now. Into the final kilometer. He wants this stage. He could do it.
One more corner to go.
No! Two seconds back on Larsson.
Nibali rolls down the start ramp. He has to motor with Scarponi just one second behind him. Sastre now at the top of the climb. Just waiting for his time check.
Evans on the climb now as Vino comes to the time check, 17 seconds down on Larsson. Not bad.
Arroyo begins his time trial. No pink bike today but the Spaniard will be riding for a podium place today.
Kiserlovski coming to the line and he's well down today. Has he hung on to ninth place? No, he's down to 10th, and Pinotti moves up.
Porte is 4th at the top, 13:42 and two seconds down on Vino's time.
Basso in the start house. He looks calm, almost distant, not listening to the crowd as they chant his name. 3, 2, 1.
Basso is off! 15km away from glory.
Carlos Sastre is now coming to the line. 53rd place for him today.
Scarponi and Nibali are both on the climb now as Evans reaches the top. 5th at 4 seconds.
Vino over the line in 3rd. 20:36, 17 seconds back.
Nibali is 8 seconds up on Scarponi at the moment. Scarponi comes to the time check 4th, 13:42.
Basso is being roared on by the supporters on the climb as Porte comes up to the line. He'll get a top 15 finish today. 8th in fact. 20:58.
Just a handful of riders on the road now. Basso, Scarponi, Evans, Nibali and Arroyo. The Giro is coming to a close but what will the final podium be?
Nibali reaches the top of the climb and it's neck and neck with Scarponi. They're even for time!
Here comes Evans. Round the last corner. Evans is 4th, 22 seconds down. The podium out of reach now, surely.
Scarponi is having a great day but he's taking a lot of risks on the corners.
Scarponi coming to the finish now. He's powering out of the saddle.
8th. 20:54 for Scarponi. Now we need to watch the clock.
Nibali is motoring along. Basso on the top of the climb but let's stay on Nibali for now.
He's giving it everything. one more corner to come and it's looking good.
20:42. The descent sealed it for Nibali and he keeps his third place on the podium.
Basso on the descent. Arroyo already on the flat section before the finish.
Arroyo will be outside the top twenty today but he'll hang on to his second place in the GC. He deserves it to.
So now we wait for Basso. He'll get a huge reception from the crowd in the Arena.
1km to go for the Italian.
The time won't really matter here but Basso is still giving it everything on the road.
Here he comes. The 2010 Giro champion. Over the line in 15th. Ivan Basso has won the Giro. He's gets off his bike and runs straight for his kids to celebrate.
So Larsson takes the stage, Basso the overall as the crowd chant his name.
Thanks for joining us, not just today, but throughout the Giro. We hope you've enjoyed the coverage and we'll see you again soon. From me and the rest of the CN team, thanks.