Contador claims second Giro d'Italia victory

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) sealed overall victory in the Giro d'Italia on Sunday with a third place finish in the concluding time trial in Milan, won by David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo). In the battle for second place, Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) held off the challenge of a flagging Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), on a day that saw few decisive brushstrokes added to the Giro's overall picture.

Although Contador didn't add to his tally of stage victories on the race's final day, his performance encapsulated the unnerving ease with which he has governed this year's corsa rosa. The Spaniard roared out of the start house to post the quickest time at the first intermediate check, but then once the pink jersey was emphatically secured, he relented over the remainder of the course to come home 36 seconds down on Millar.

By the time he reached the finish amid the grandeur of Milan's Piazza del Duomo, Contador had long since forgotten about trying to win the stage and he was careful to take time to savour his overall victory as he cruised to the line. Underneath the race's final Arrivo banner, he even sat up and delivered the trademark pistol celebration, the final shot of a Giro resoundingly dominated, albeit against a background in which the ruminations of the ongoing Clenbuterol saga were never quite drowned out.

"This piazza is fantastic, it was a dream finale for the Giro," an emotional Contador said on crossing the line. "I didn't win this race alone, the whole team did."

It is hard to gauge how close the rampant Contador could have come to Millar's time had he not taken such a conservative approach to cornering once he entered the more intricate section of the course in the streets of Milan. That said, Millar was just ahead of Contador at the last time check, and the Scot hurtled around the course at an average speed of 51.627kph to take the win.

The hard luck story of the day belonged to second-placed Alex Rasmussen (HTC-Highroad), who was among the earliest starters. His last intermediate time check remained unbeaten for the whole afternoon, but unfortunately for the Dane, the time that counts is the one taken at the finish line.

Inside the final kilometre, he suffered a most untimely puncture and the time he lost in negotiating the closing section on a flat tyre would ultimately prove costly, and he lost out to Millar by seven scant seconds.

An Italian battle for second

Many of the tired legs remaining in the 2011 Giro will doubtless have been pleased with the late alteration to the course of Sunday's final stage that saw the distance reduced from 31km to 26km. Local elections in Milan meant that the Giro did not have full licence to asphyxiate city centre traffic, and so instead of starting from the picturesque surrounds of the Castello Sforzesco, the riders set off from the rather less glamorous Fiera exhibition centre near Rho on Milan's northwestern fringe, before the grandstand finish in the outside the Duomo.

The early pace-setter was the flying Rasmussen, but he was already shaking his head even as he crossed the line with the best intermediate time, frustrated by his late puncture. Millar duly stepped up to the plate and shaded him for top spot soon afterwards, but from there it was a long wait for Contador et al to see if anybody could threaten his time.

The primary suspense of the final day ought to have been provided by the battle between Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi, the latter beginning the stage with a 56-second advantage. With a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing still hanging over Contador, there remains the possibility that he could be stripped of his overall win at a later date, and so the Scarponi-Nibali dual was lent an additional, albeit unspoken, significance.

Officially, of course, their race was for second place on the podium and the honour of being the highest-placed Italian in Milan, but in spite of a defiant start by Nibali, the outcome was already apparent by the midway point of the time trial.

In the opening 6km, Nibali opened up a 13-second lead on Scarponi, and it briefly looked as though the Sicilian might upset the applecart and overturn his deficit. However, Scarponi had appeared the fresher of the two in recent days, and that impression was borne out over the following kilometres.

It was soon evident that the flagging Nibali was riding on borrowed legs by this stage and he was visibly struggling to keep the big gear turning as he grinded his way to the line in 11th place, 1:18 down on Millar. For his part, Scarponi refused to be thrown by Nibali's opening salvo and he rallied to storm to more or less break even with his rival thereafter, eventually ceding just 10 seconds of his cushion and avenging his defeat to Nibali in the battle for the third step of the podium on the corresponding stage in Verona last year.

Kreuziger pips Rujano

The main change in the overall standings came about thanks to José Rujano's (Androni Giocattoli) relative weakness against the watch, although to the Venezuelan's credit, he dropped only one place on the day, with white jersey Roman Kreuziger (Astana) the beneficiary. The Czech had his share of difficult moments in this Giro, but tactically he was irreproachable throughout, and he was good value for his best-ever Grand Tour placing of 6th.

With Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) having an off-day against the watch, Rujano just about escaped falling any further and his 7th place puts the seal on what has been a hugely successful return to form for the prodigal son of Gianni Savio's Androni set-up.

Elsewhere, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) managed to put his Vuelta a España time trial nightmare behind him by holding on to 5th place overall, while John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) enjoyed an incident-free ride to seal 4th, and the only other change at the business end of proceedings was Kanstantin Sivtsov's leapfrog over Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) into 10th place.

Contador for the ages - but for how long?

The day belonged to Alberto Contador, however, and as he clambered atop the podium, he was feted as a champion by Italian hosts who had been rather more circumspect in their welcome at the start in Turin three weeks ago.

Contador has dominated this Giro from start to finish, on all terrains. Stronger, faster and tactically more astute than his rivals, the Spaniard has been in a race all of his own ever since he ripped clear of the peloton on the seemingly innocuous stage to Tropea at the end of week one. Since that moment, the Giro has been a procession, with one superlative tripping over the next in praise of Contador's other-worldly performances.

And yet, for all the spettacolo that Contador has given en route to his sixth Grand Tour win out of seven attempts, the story of his Giro has not necessarily ended with a pink jersey in Milan, a bottle of champagne and a kiss from the podium girls.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide - sooner or later - whether the Spaniard is to be sanctioned for his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year's Tour de France, and until a verdict has been announced, there is an overwhelming lack of finality about this Giro and an understandable hesitancy over what place this performance will occupy in history.

As Contador signed off with his "pistolero" celebration in the shadow of the Duomo on Sunday afternoon, he did so believing that he had put the finishing touches to a Giro for the ages. But the lingering question remains as to whether that feat will survive in the record books.

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Full Results
1David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:30:13
2Alex Rasmussen (Den) HTC-Highroad0:00:07
3Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard0:00:36
4Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard0:00:43
5Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team RadioShack0:00:55
6Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:02
7Cameron Meyer (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:01:04
8Patrick Gretsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad0:01:08
9Tiago Machado (Por) Team RadioShack0:01:12
10Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad0:01:16
11Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:18
12Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:19
13Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team0:01:22
14Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team0:01:24
15Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:01:26
16Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team AstanaRow 15 - Cell 2
17Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:01:28
18Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 17 - Cell 2
19Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team0:01:30
20Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:31
21Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:32
22Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:35
23Philip Deignan (Irl) Team RadioShack0:01:36
24Maxim Belkov (Rus) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:01:38
25Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:01:40
26Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:42
27Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 26 - Cell 2
28Bart De Clercq (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:01:43
29Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Pro Team Astana0:01:44
30Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team0:01:47
31Alan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:52
32Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:01:55
33Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Pro Team Astana0:02:01
34Michael Mørkøv (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard0:02:02
35Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC0:02:03
36Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team RadioShackRow 35 - Cell 2
37Bjorn Selander (USA) Team RadioShack0:02:04
38Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Pro Team Astana0:02:07
39Dario David Cioni (Ita) Sky ProcyclingRow 38 - Cell 2
40Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team0:02:14
41Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha Team0:02:15
42Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 41 - Cell 2
43Michael Barry (Can) Sky Procycling0:02:21
44Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:02:24
45Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 44 - Cell 2
46José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Androni Giocattoli0:02:25
47Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:02:27
48Johann Tschopp (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 47 - Cell 2
49Giairo Ermeti (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 48 - Cell 2
50Simon Zahner (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:02:29
51Emanuele Sella (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:02:30
52Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Androni Giocattoli0:02:33
53Davide Ricci Bitti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:02:34
54Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:02:36
55Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 54 - Cell 2
56Maxim Gourov (Kaz) Pro Team AstanaRow 55 - Cell 2
57Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox0:02:37
58Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:02:38
59Marco Frapporti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox0:02:40
60Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 59 - Cell 2
61Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:02:41
62Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 61 - Cell 2
63Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Geox-TMC0:02:43
64Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 63 - Cell 2
65Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Pro Team AstanaRow 64 - Cell 2
66Elia Favilli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:02:44
67Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team RadioShackRow 66 - Cell 2
68Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling0:02:45
69Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:02:49
70Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Movistar TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:02:51
72Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:02:52
73Russell Downing (GBr) Sky Procycling0:02:58
74Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:03:00
75Carlos Oyarzun (Chi) Movistar TeamRow 74 - Cell 2
76Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 75 - Cell 2
77Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:03:01
78Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 77 - Cell 2
79Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre - ISD0:03:04
80Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:08
81Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Saxo Bank SungardRow 80 - Cell 2
82Leonardo Giordani (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:03:09
83David Blanco Rodriguez (Spa) Geox-TMC0:03:13
84Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 83 - Cell 2
85Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
86Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:03:14
87Kjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Procycling0:03:15
88Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 87 - Cell 2
89Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:17
90Sergio Pardilla Belllón (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 89 - Cell 2
91Peter Stetina (USA) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 90 - Cell 2
92Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:03:18
93Federico Canuti (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox0:03:19
94Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-HighroadRow 93 - Cell 2
95Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:20
96Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Pro Team Astana0:03:25
97Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 96 - Cell 2
98Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha Team0:03:26
99Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:03:28
100Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team0:03:31
101Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:35
102David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:36
103Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Androni Giocattoli0:03:38
104Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:03:40
105Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Team Garmin-CerveloRow 104 - Cell 2
106Juan Horrach Rippoll (Spa) Katusha Team0:03:41
107Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard0:03:42
108Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank Sungard0:03:43
109Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:03:44
110Josep Jufre Pou (Spa) Pro Team AstanaRow 109 - Cell 2
111Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 110 - Cell 2
112Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone0:03:45
113Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:03:46
114Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:03:47
115Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Procycling0:03:48
116Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 115 - Cell 2
117Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox0:03:49
118Daniel Sesma (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 117 - Cell 2
119Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:51
120Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 119 - Cell 2
121Francesco Reda (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team0:03:52
122Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 121 - Cell 2
123Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha Team0:03:53
124Pierre Cazaux (Fra) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 123 - Cell 2
125Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale0:03:54
126Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team0:03:56
127Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Saxo Bank Sungard0:03:58
128Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team0:04:00
129Carlos Alberto Betancourt Gomez (Col) Acqua & SaponeRow 128 - Cell 2
130Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:04:02
131Miguel Minguez Ayala (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:04:05
132Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:04:06
133Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:04:07
134Morris Possoni (Ita) Sky Procycling0:04:08
135Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:04:09
136Marcel Wyss (Swi) Geox-TMC0:04:13
137Chad Beyer (USA) BMC Racing Team0:04:14
138Gert Dockx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:04:16
139Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:04:17
140Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 139 - Cell 2
141Carlos José Ochoa (Ven) Androni Giocattoli0:04:23
142Claudio Corioni (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:04:24
143Laurent Didier (Lux) Saxo Bank Sungard0:04:26
144Jesús Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard0:04:28
145Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:04:34
146Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Acqua & Sapone0:04:44
147Simone Stortoni (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox0:04:45
148Alexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC Racing TeamRow 147 - Cell 2
149Giampaolo Cheula (Ita) Geox-TMC0:04:50
150Addy Engels (Ned) Quickstep Cycling Team0:04:54
151Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quickstep Cycling TeamRow 150 - Cell 2
152Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:04:57
153Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli0:04:58
154Fabio Taborre (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:04:59
155Mauricio Ardila Cano (Col) Geox-TMC0:05:02
156Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Geox-TMC0:05:16
157Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha Team0:05:21
158Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre - ISD0:05:25
159Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Katusha Team0:05:40
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Points
1David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo25pts
2Alex Rasmussen (Den) HTC-Highroad20Row 1 - Cell 3
3Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard16Row 2 - Cell 3
4Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard14Row 3 - Cell 3
5Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team RadioShack12Row 4 - Cell 3
6Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team10Row 5 - Cell 3
7Cameron Meyer (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo9Row 6 - Cell 3
8Patrick Gretsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad8Row 7 - Cell 3
9Tiago Machado (Por) Team RadioShack7Row 8 - Cell 3
10Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad6Row 9 - Cell 3
11Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale5Row 10 - Cell 3
12Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale4Row 11 - Cell 3
13Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team3Row 12 - Cell 3
14Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team2Row 13 - Cell 3
15Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto1Row 14 - Cell 3
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Azzurri d'Italia
1David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo4pts
2Alex Rasmussen (Den) HTC-Highroad2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Most combative
1David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo6pts
2Alex Rasmussen (Den) HTC-Highroad5Row 1 - Cell 3
3Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard4Row 2 - Cell 3
4Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard3Row 3 - Cell 3
5Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team RadioShack2Row 4 - Cell 3
6Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team1Row 5 - Cell 3
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Teams
1HTC-Highroad1:33:10
2Saxo Bank Sungard0:00:50
3Team RadioShack0:01:12
4Team Garmin-Cervelo0:01:13
5Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:30
6Pro Team Astana0:02:40
7AG2R La Mondiale0:02:47
8Omega Pharma-Lotto0:02:53
9Movistar Team0:03:10
10Liquigas-Cannondale0:03:20
11Lampre - ISD0:03:43
12Androni Giocattoli0:04:01
13Quickstep Cycling Team0:04:32
14Sky Procycling0:04:42
15Farnese Vini - Neri SottoliRow 14 - Cell 2
16Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:04:45
17BMC Racing Team0:05:17
18Katusha Team0:05:24
19Geox-TMC0:05:28
20Colnago - CSF Inox0:06:05
21Acqua & Sapone0:07:08
22Euskaltel-Euskadi0:07:54
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Super teams
1HTC-Highroad43pts
2Saxo Bank Sungard35Row 1 - Cell 3
3Team Garmin-Cervelo34Row 2 - Cell 3
4Team RadioShack28Row 3 - Cell 3
5Rabobank Cycling Team19Row 4 - Cell 3
6Liquigas-Cannondale10Row 5 - Cell 3
7Movistar Team10Row 6 - Cell 3
8AG2R La Mondiale9Row 7 - Cell 3
9Quickstep Cycling Team7Row 8 - Cell 3
10Omega Pharma-Lotto6Row 9 - Cell 3
11Pro Team Astana5Row 10 - Cell 3
12Lampre - ISD4Row 11 - Cell 3
13Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 12 - Cell 2 Row 12 - Cell 3
14Androni GiocattoliRow 13 - Cell 2 Row 13 - Cell 3
15Farnese Vini - Neri SottoliRow 14 - Cell 2 Row 14 - Cell 3
16Geox-TMCRow 15 - Cell 2 Row 15 - Cell 3
17Sky ProcyclingRow 16 - Cell 2 Row 16 - Cell 3
18Katusha TeamRow 17 - Cell 2 Row 17 - Cell 3
19BMC Racing TeamRow 18 - Cell 2 Row 18 - Cell 3
20Acqua & SaponeRow 19 - Cell 2 Row 19 - Cell 3
21Colnago - CSF InoxRow 20 - Cell 2 Row 20 - Cell 3
22Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 21 - Cell 2 Row 21 - Cell 3
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Final general classification
1Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard84:05:14
2Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:06:10
3Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:06:56
4John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:10:04
5Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team0:11:05
6Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana0:11:28
7José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Androni Giocattoli0:12:12
8Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC0:12:18
9Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:13:51
10Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad0:14:10
11Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:16:08
12Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:18:06