May 31, 2009

(Photo: Roberto Bettini)

Russian rider Denis Menchov won the Tour of Italy here on Sunday despite suffering a dramatic fall in the last kilometer of the final stage, a 14.4km time-trial round. The Rabobank cyclist, who is the third Russian to win the race, added the title to his two Tour of Spain victories in 2005 and 2007.

The 31-year-old beat Italian 2007 champion Danilo Di Luca into second at 41sec with his compatriot Franco Pellizzoti rounding off the podium finishers a further 1min 18sec adrift. Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas of the Cervélo team won the final stage in a time of 18:42 with Briton Bradley Wiggins only a second back and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen in third. Menchov finished 10th on the stage with Di Luca 16th. "I have nothing to regret," said Di Luca. "I attacked each time I could, whenever it was possible. "I can take a lot away from this race: two stage wins, seven days in the pink jersey, and the final points jersey. It's been the greatest race of my life."

The Russian had a 20sec lead coming into the final day in one of the closest ever finishes to a Giro, in its centenary year.   Di Luca briefly looked to be on the brink of a famous victory when he got to the first time-check fastest of all and 5sec up on Menchov. But the LPR rider had blasted out too fast, gradually fading from there and he was 14sec down on Menchov at the next time check. When he came over the line, Di Luca had lost 45sec to Konovalovas whereas Menchov, who had won the 12th stage time-trial to take over the pink jersey last Thursday, was getting stronger. The Russian looked like he may even win the final time-trial as well but with rain spitting down drama unfolded in the final kilometre.

Riding in a straight line but on a cobbled section, Menchov suddenly crashed with just 1km left to ride, but quick thinking from his mechanic may have secured him the victory. As Menchov was still sliding along the wet surface, his mechanic had already jumped out of the team car and was unloading another bike from the roof. Menchov went to pick up his splayed bike but received a shout from the mechanic and instead jumped straight onto the new one and was back on his way, courtesy of a push from the mechanic as well.
He had been going so well, though, that he still had time to spare on Di Luca and despite the crash he gained a further 21sec on his rival. Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre finished fourth and seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong came in 12th. Sastre said the race had left a "bitter-sweet taste". "I came with an ambition different from what I achieved," he said. "I won two stages but I missed out on the podium. For three weeks we haven't had a quiet stage. It's been a really tough course."

92nd Giro d'Italia
Italy, May 9-31, 2009
Stage 21: Sunday May 31: Roma (ITT), 14.4km
1. Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU/CTT) 18.42 (46.203 km/h)
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/GAR) @ 0.01
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/COL) @ 0.07
4. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR/AST) @ 0.11
5. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA/LAM) @ 0.16
6. Giovanni Visconti (ITA/ISD) @ 0.18
7. Dries Devenyns (BEL/STP) @ 0.20
8. Maarten Tjallingii (NED/RAB) @ 0.21
9. Stefano Garzelli (ITA/ASA) @ 0.23
10. Denis Menchov (RUS/RAB) @ 0.24

Final Giro Overall Standings
1. Denis Menchov (RUS/RAB) 3,453.5 km in 86hr 03min 11sec
2. Danilo Di Luca (ITA/LPR) @ 0:41
3. Franco Pellizotti (ITA/LIQ) @ 1:59
4. Carlos Sastre (ESP/CTT) @ 3:46
5. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) @ 3:59
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA/AST) @ 5:28
7. Stefano Garzelli (ITA/ASA) @ 8:43
8. Michael Rogers (AUS/THR) @ 10:01
9. Tadej Valjavec (SLO/ALM) @ 11:13
10. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA/LAM) @11:28

12. Lance Armstrong (USA/AST) @ 15:59
15. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR/AST) @ 16:15
18. Janez Brajkovic (SLO/AST) @ 28:07
19. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) @ 28:39

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