Giro d’Italia stage 21: Millar wins stage, Contador wins overall – at least for now

Stage 21: Milan, 26km individual time trial

Britain’s David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) claimed victory in the final stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, an individual time trial in Milan. Alberto Contador took no risks in finishing third to secure overall victory by more than six minutes. It was his second Giro win in his first participation since taking the maglia rosa in 2008 but – unsatisfactorily – can only be regarded as a provisional victory until his hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is concluded.

Millar, the 56th out of 159 riders to set off on the shortened and largely straight 26km course, recorded a time of 30:13 to finish seven seconds ahead of Alex Rasmussen. The 26-year old Dane had been the fifth man to ride the course, but proved HTC-Highroad‘s strength in depth when it comes to time-trialling, despite the absence of specialists Marco Pinotti (retired, stage 19) and Tony Martin (not present).

The quality of the pair’s times was underlined as rider after rider failed to get close to the top of the timesheets – indeed, only four other men would record times within 60 seconds of Millar’s benchmark. Contador’s Saxo Bank Sungard teammate Richie Porte, who wore the maglia rosa last year, managed 30:56, while RadioShack‘s Yaroslav Popovych was a further 12 seconds behind. But only Contador himself, the last man off the start ramp, seriously threatened to displace Millar. The champion-elect was a second faster at the first checkpoint, but lost time steadily after that as he refused to take any unnecessary chances and eventually slotted into third spot, 36 seconds behind.

Millar's victory was his first individual Giro win

It confirmed Millar’s first individual stage win at the Giro (he also won the team time trial in 2008), and his ninth at a Grand Tour.

The other key point of interest was whether Vincenzo Nibali could overhaul a 56-second deficit to Michele Scarponi to snatch second spot. It always looked like a tall order – Nibali is considered to be a better time-trialist, but not by that much – and Scarponi was able to pace himself to manage the gap comfortably. In the end, he conceded just ten seconds of his buffer, and was a deserving runner-up. Depending on the outcome at CAS, he could yet be declared the overall winner.

Other than that, there was little change at the top of the general classification. Fourth and fifth-placed men John Gardet and Joaquim Rodríquez were known to be mediocre performers against the clock on flat courses, but had enough of an advantage over those behind them to preserve their positions, despite finisging 71st (2:51 down) and 40th (2:14) respectively.

However, José Rujano, the comeback story of this year’s Giro, conceded sixth to Roman Kreuziger after his 15-second overnight advantage proved to be nowhere near sufficient. And Mikel Nieve also slipped out of the top ten, swapping places with Kanstantsin Sivtsov, one of the stars of the first half of the race.

Contador won both the overall and the points competition (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

In addition to winning the overall classification, Contador won the points competition (by an enormous margin over Scarponi), while 2000 overall winner Stefano Garzelli had already confirmed his second mountains title in three years.

Overall the quality of the racing has been good, although it was a shame that the vast majority of the big Tour de France contenders elected to miss the Giro. The opening week saw the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt in a crash on stage three, and much of the final week largely became an exercise in watching Movistar constantly placing riders in breaks in the hope of gaining a win to dedicate to Xavier Tondó, which was finally achieved in last-gasp fashion with Vasil Kiryienka‘s victory yesterday (Saturday). But the middle portion of the race during which the overall result was shaped featured some incredible spectacles on a succession of some of the toughest climbs anywhere on the cycling calendar. And there can be no argument whatsoever that the strongest rider finished in the maglia rosa.

So now we wait. Contador dominated the opposition on the road – winning two stages and finishing second four times, gifting wins to others on two of those occasions – but it remains to be seen whether his victory will be allowed to stand. His CAS hearing, originally scheduled for mid-June, will not be concluded until after the Tour, which he should now be eligible to compete in. Regardless of the result of the hearing, it is a hugely unsatisfactory state of affairs from a fan’s point of view, particularly when you consider the alleged doping offence occurred more than ten months ago. And it is a sad reflection on the state of the sport that the level of dominance which Contador exhibited over his rivals must inevitably be tainted with suspicion. In cycling, seeing isn’t necessarily believing.

In the meantime, the Tour de France is now only five weeks away. There is plenty of great racing to be seen between now and then – the Dauphiné kicks off next weekend, for starters – so we can but hope that racing rather than doping attracts the greater attention between now and then.

Stage 21 result:

1. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) 30:13

2. Alex Rasmussen (HTC-Highroad) +0:07

3. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) +0:36

4. Richie Porte (Saxo Bank Sungard) +0:43

5. Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) +0:55

General classification:

1. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) 84:05:14

2. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) +6:10

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +6:56

4. John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) +10:04

5. Joaquim Rodríquez (Katusha) +11:05

6. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +11:28

7. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) +12:12

8. Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) +12:18

9. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) +13:51

10. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) +14:10

Points classification:

1. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) 202 pts

2. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) 122

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 121

4. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) 107

5. John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) 97

Mountains classification:

1. Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) 67 pts

2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) 58

3. José Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) 43

4. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 39

5. Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago-CSF Inox) 29

Links: Giro d’Italia official

Giro d’Italia recaps

Stage 1: Pinotti swaps red, white and green for pink

Stage 2: Petacchi celebrates, Cavendish remonstrates in ham-fisted Parma finish

Stage 3: Weylandt’s death casts a long shadow

Stage 4: Peloton rides in tribute to Weylandt

Stage 5: Weening takes maglia rosa as Millar bites the dust

Stage 6: Ale-Jet runs out of gas as Ventoso wins uphill drag

Stage 7: De Clercq claims first professional win by a whisker

Stage 8: Gatto gets the cream as Contador shows his claws

Stage 9: Explosive Contador erupts on Etna

Stage 10: No tow required as Cavendish opens Giro account

Stage 11: Gadret times his finish to perfection

Stage 12: Cavendish doubles up and retires from the Giro

Stage 13: Contador’s gift leaves Rujano singing in the rain

Stage 14: All pain, few gain as Antón triumphs on the ascent to Hell

Stage 15: Nieve wins marathon stage, Contador sails serenely on

Stage 16: Contador victory confirms Giro rivals are racing for second

Stage 17: Ulissi wins, Visconti relegated when push comes to shove

Stage 18: Capecchi finally puts Liquigas in the winner’s circle

Stage 19: Rain cannot dampen Tiralongo’s day in the sun

Stage 20: Victorious Kiryienka pays tribute to Tondó


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

3 Responses to Giro d’Italia stage 21: Millar wins stage, Contador wins overall – at least for now

  1. Sheree says:


    Thanks, I haven’t had time to watch much of this weeks’ Giro but have instead been sustained by your recaps.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Sheree. To be honest, the final week was a bit of an anti-climax after the mountain TT. Nibali didn’t seem to have the legs and/or the will to have a go at Scarponi. Still, at least Movistar got their stage win for Tondo.

  2. Pingback: Giro d’Italia review: Six talking points « The armchair sports fan

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