The fight between Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) for second place overall in the Giro d'Italia behind Alberto Contador will go down to the wire and be decided in Sunday's final time trial in Milan.
Nibali snatched 13 seconds on the finish in Macugnaga on Friday but Scarponi dug deep on the final climb to Sestriere and took back 18 seconds.
Scarponi now has a 56 second advantage on Nibali but knows that the Sicilian is a far better time trialist and perhaps slightly fresher after three weeks of intense racing.
At the finish in Macugnaga Scarponi reacted angrily and brushed off the media but he was happier, if very tired, in Sestriere after gaining some precious seconds.
"I get angry really quickly but I calm down really quickly too. Today I'm not either, I'm just totally empty and cooked," he said, struggling to breathe and wipe the sweat from his eyes.
"It was really, really hard. The stage was very hard and it was a huge effort. I really suffered on the Colle delle Finestre because the Liquigas-Cannondale team set a really high tempo. In the finale me and Vincenzo attacked each other but I came out on top today. Yesterday he struck a blow but today I gave it him back."
"It would have been better to end with a road stage and a sprint finish for me but it's a time trial, so we'll see what happens. I won't give up without a fight," Scarponi warned.
Nibali: The Giro ends in Milan
Nibali refused to talk immediately after finish in Sestirere, angry that an early crash had made the long stage even more painful for him. He rode to the team bus and then told Gazzetta.it about his difficult day.
"I was caught up in an early crash when I was having a drink. I managed to stay up but I broke my brake and someone hit me in the calf and it hurt for a while. But it didn't affect my ride."
"We rode well as a team on the Finestre to try and put Scarponi in the red. I attacked near the finish because I thought that he was suffering. But then when I was caught, he went and he got some help from the other riders, including Contador. The climb to Sestriere is easier in a small group and so they gained sometime on me."
Defiant to the last, in his attempt to snatch second place overall, Nibali promised to try and cancel his 56 second deficit on Scarponi in the final time trial in Milan.
"The time trial has been shortened by five kilometres and that hasn't done me a favour because the seconds I could have gained there could be the difference between second and third. But believe me, the Giro isn't over until Milan."