Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) proved that he was the best climber at the Giro d'Italia on the steep slopes of Monte Zoncolan, but as two key mountain stages loom large on the horizon of the Giro d'Italia, and the moment for a final showdown approaches, he has admitted that the 42-second advantage he currently has on Cadel Evans might not be enough to guarantee victory in Verona after Sunday's time trial.
According to physiological calculations based on strength to weight ratio and VAM done by Aldo Sassi, who coaches both Basso and Evans, the two should be able to gain enough time on David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) and then go on to fight for overall victory.
Basso is 2:27 behind the tenacious Spaniard, with Evans fourth, at 3:09. Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) is third overall at 2:44 but like Arroyo, he is expected to crack on the Passo del Mortirolo and the Passo di Gavia and be satisfied with holding onto the best young rider's white jersey and a place in the top 10 overall.
"Forty two seconds might not be enough. I know I need to gain some more time on Evans, but it's difficult to start making calculations," Basso said.
"Things might be totally different after tomorrow and then change again after the stage over the Gavia. We've got to get rid of Arroyo first and then who knows? Perhaps, Cadel will drop me on one of the big climbs. I've got a lot of respect for him. This Giro isn't over yet."
Basso seems relaxed as the tension mounts. Whatever happens in the next three days, he has proved that he can compete for overall victory at the Giro and the doubts of last year, his first season since his doping ban, have disappeared.
The Liquigas-Doimo team announced that it will continue on with its sponsorship for another two years on Thursday, and Basso will share the team leadership with Vincenzo Nibali in 2011 and 2012. He will probably end his career with the best team in Italian cycling and knows he has the best support for a shot at victory at future editions of the Giro and at the Tour de France.
Basso's self-confidence is helping him keep a level head for the finale of the Giro.
"I think it's been a great Giro, whatever happens between now and Sunday - because we've fought it out every day," he said.
"Now we'll see what happens. It's important to get the tactics right so that we get the result right and end the stage as we hoped and planned. At Liquigas, we think we're in charge our destiny."
"Both of the stages to Aprica and Passo del Tonale are really difficult, where the Giro will be blown apart and probably decided. People keep saying that the expected bad weather puts me at a disadvantage, especially on the descents, but I honestly don’t see it that way. It's the same for everybody if the weather is bad."
"If we've got the legs we'll attack Arroyo and Evans. That's the way we've raced throughout this year's race and the way we think we can decide the race. I'm ready."