Giro d'Italia - Basso completes Giro victory

Eurosport - Sun, 30 May 18:31:00 2010

Italy's Ivan Basso won his second Giro d'Italia after avoiding any mishaps on the final time trial in Verona.

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The Italian Liquigas rider, winner in 2006 before a two-year ban for attempted doping, finished 15th behind Gustav Erik Larsson in the concluding 15km individual time trial through the ancient streets of Verona.

"It's a fantastic day for me," Basso, said after finishing his 87 hours 44 minutes and one second journey.

"The Giro has been spectacular and uncertain and the fans have enjoyed themselves. I thank my team who have been exceptional. It's been really difficult."

Roared on by throngs of compatriots who lined the route through the city of Romeo and Juliet, Basso reaffirmed his love for the world's second biggest stage race by unleashing a huge smile as he crossed the line.

The 32-year-old then entered Verona's Arena, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world, to be greeted by thousands more screaming fans and his two small children.

There he went up a specially-constructed pink carpet to claim his pink winner's jersey and complete a cycling resurrection few other drug-haunted riders have managed.

Basso was banned for two years in 2007 for his involvement in Spain's Operacion Puerto doping scandal, the latest in a series to rock the troubled sport.

He said he had not actually doped but had intended to do so and acknowledged he should therefore receive a suspension.

A low-key return to the Giro last year may have lulled his rivals into a false sense of security and this time he seized his chance at the perfect moment having recovered from a crash on stage seven and the bad weather of a topsy-turvy race.

The Giro was blown apart by a surprise breakaway on stage 11 when opposing teams failed to properly communicate and favourites like previous leader Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana were left well back.

With top names Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong skipping the Giro to concentrate on July's Tour de France, Basso kept himself well-positioned before snatching the leader's jersey off unheralded Spaniard David Arroyo with two stages to go.

Some exceptional performances in the mountains meant he finished 1 minute 51 seconds in front of second-placed Arroyo of Caisse d'Epargne and 2:37 ahead of team-mate Vincenzo Nibali overall.

Nibali, a late call-up for the Giro after Franco Pellizotti was withdrawn after a doping probe, held on to third overall.

Nibali started the stage just one second ahead of Michele Scarponi but added another 12 seconds to his advantage over the Androni rider.

Australian world champion Cadel Evans was fifth while Vinokourov leapfrogged young Australian Richie Porte for sixth place.

Porte did have the consolation of winning the white jersey as the best young rider while Evans claimed the red jersey of the points classification and another of their compatriots, Matthew Lloyd, became the first Australian to win the green mountains jersey.

World time trial championship silver medallist Larsson of Saxo Bank posted a winning time of 20:19.

That was two seconds quicker than Columbia-HTC's Marco Pinotti although the Italian did improve to ninth in the final GC with that performance.

Vinokourov, Evans and Ignatas Konovalovas completed the top five on the day. Bradley Wiggins was unable to replicate his victory in the opening time trial in Amsterdam as the British rider finished in seventh place, 29 seconds behind Larsson.

But it was Basso who took the plaudits as he became the 15th Italian to win the Giro d’Italia at least twice.

Lee Walker / Eurosport

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