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Giro d'Italia 2009: Stage 21


It's all over today, with this final time trial taking in the beautiful highlights of Rome. We expect to see Denis Menchov crowned as winner of the Centennial Giro d'Italia this afternoon. Let's just hope the weather doesn't do anything nasty today!

14:57 CEST   
All roads lead to Rome, and the Centennial Giro d'Italia finally has found the way to the Italian capital. Today is the crowning stage of the Giro and we expect to see Denis Menchov take the title he has earned over the last three weeks. We close things out with a 14.4 time trial through beautiful Rome, taking in many of the fantastic historic sites – at least we will see them, the riders won't have a an eye to spare for them as they negotiate the many corners and cobblestones.

The best time so far belongs to Tom Stamsnijder of Team Rabobank, at 19:28, with fifty riders in.

As usual, the riders are going off at one-minute intervals until we get up to the top fifteen. They will head out with three minutes in between.

There are three intermediate time checks, at 3.3km, 7.7km and 11.6km. At the first one, the best time is shared by Bartosz Huzarski (ISD) and Addy Engels (QuickStep), 4:27.

Maarten Tjallingii of Rabobank has the best time at the second time check, 10:19.

And to round things out, Stamsnijder had the best time at the third time check, less than 4 km before the finish line where he is currently the leader. His time at 11.6 km was 15.45.

Andrea Masciarelli of Acqua & Sapone takes off from the start house.

And he is followed immediately by Edvald Boasson Hagen of Columbia, who has a stage win in the Giro to his credit.

Slowest so far today is Thomas Fothen, the younger of Milram's Fothen brothers. He took all of 23:29 to cover the course.

Don't we recall hearing about the Seven Hills of Rome? We may be seeing them in the background today but our weary warriors won't be climbing any of them. There are a few bumps near the beginning of the circuit, with the riders going all the way from 20 to 62 metres – hope the sprinters get over those high hills!

The weather might play a role here today, although of course we hope it doesn't. The forecast is for a pleasant 24° C/ 75° F, but with a chance of light rain in the afternoon. The course is hard enough, with all those corners and cobblestones, and the rain could only make things worse. We don't want to think of what might happen with the combination of grime, oil and rain on cobblestones, with riders going all out. But we are happy to say that it looks like we just might be spared that precipitation.

Boasson Hagen was only second at the first time check, with a time of 4:23, which is four seconds behind Cervelo's Ignatas Konovalovas.

Dries Devenyns of Quick Step has set a new best time by one second, at 19:02

The first rider to go today at 13:45 was Evgeny Sokolov (Bbox) who came into the stage in 169th, and therefore last place, nearly five hours down on Menchov. He fell into that last place on Stage 12, which just happened to be the 61km time trial, so we guess that this really isn't his discipline. Still, he has held out all three weeks and is at the finish today in Rome, which is a major accomplishment in itself.

Konovalovas is really flying today, and looks like he will smash the best time.

The Lithuanian comes in at 18:42, which is 20 seconds faster than the previous best.

We are sorry to say that the clouds are gaining the upper hand and we may see some rain after all.

Bradley Wiggins of Garmin Slipstream is on the course now. He is considered to have good chances here and has put in a fine show at the Giro, having come over the mountains quite well. He is currently in 73rd place, as best of the American squad.

Boasson Hagen was second at the second time check, one second behind Konovalovas.

Speaking of Garmin, we have been asked to send some very special greetings today: Happy First Birthday to Waylon Zabriskie! Dad sends you all his love and will see you again as soon as he can!

Boasson Hagen can now see the Colisseum which is his goal.

Team Columbia has a few possibilities for today, too. How about former World Champion and current Australian champ Mick Rogers? Or Italian champ Marco Pinotti, who won last year's closing Giro time trial? And another name that seems to pop up is Edvald Boasson Hagen, who already has one stage win here to his credit.

The wind is picking up and it looks like we will have rain soon, unfortunately.

No best time and therefore no victory today for Boasson Hagen, who finishes seven seconds down.

So who else is the favourite to win the stage today? Levi Leipheimer's name had been bandied around for a long time, but he has looked a little tired lately. How about his teammate, who has won so many big time trials? Is Lance Armstrong finally going to explode onto the scene today?

Wiggins has set a new best time at the second time check, three seconds ahead.

A few days ago, Astana DS Johan Bruyneel seemed to think his seven-time Tour de France winner might shine here today. "He will show something special at the time trial in Rome. I am convinced of that," he said.

The sprinters ended their festival in Bayern today, with -- guess who? -- Columbia's Andre Greipel taking his third stage win. This time he beat Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) and Gerald Ciolek (Milram).

3 km to go for Wiggins!

The rain is coming down more now, as Visconti crosses the line in 19:00.

The rain has picked up even more, so things will start getting unpleasant.

Sprick of Bbox has crashed and looks to have a mechanical. Blame it on the weatherman!

NO! Wiggns didn't make it! He finished one second down. Did the rain slow him down?

We have a very hard driving rain right now, so that is very much to the disadvantage of the riders underway now and later.

Things haven't gone as planned for Team Silence-Lotto, which the Belgian team admits. Silence-Lotto has had not only a difficult first half of the season, but a rather anonymous Giro d'Italia. That all changed on Saturday when Philippe Gilbert salvaged the team's race with a perfectly timed move to take the stage win in Anagni.