ROME — A breathtaking start in Venice. A rider protest in Milan. An epic time trial along the scenic coastal area known as Cinque Terre. A gruelling mountain stage in 37C heat. A climb up the Mount Vesuvius volcano.
The 100th-anniversary edition of the Giro d’Italia had it all, and the most dramatic moment came with just 800 meters to go in the 3,453-kilometre race.
Overall leader Denis Menchov fell on rain-slicked cobblestones within sight of the Colosseum that marked the finish of the final stage individual time trial through the streets of Rome.
The Russian got right back up, ran ahead to his bike but then opted to take a spare bike provided by a team member and still finished the race 41 seconds in front of runner-up Danilo Di Luca.
“It was a very spectacular Giro in every aspect,” Menchov said.
When he finally did make it to the finish, the usually taciturn Menchov let out an emotional scream and thrust his arms to the air in triumph.
“All the tension, stress, everything came out,” he said. “It’s the most important victory of my career by a long shot.”
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong took few risks on the slick roads and finished 53rd in the race against the clock, 1:19 behind, and concluded the race 12th overall, 15:59 behind Menchov.
Armstrong’s Astana teammate, Levi Leipheimer, finished sixth overall, 5:28 back.
Toronto’s Michael Barry, who rides for Team Columbia-Highroad, finished 37th in the stage, 1:04 back of Konovalovas.
Menchov won two of the race’s key stages, the mountaintop finish at Alpe di Siusi in stage 5 and the marathon-like 60-kilometre individual time trial along the Cinque Terre in stage 12.
“The time trial was my proudest moment, and I think today was the most dramatic moment,” he said. “It’s something I can tell my kids about some day.”
Menchov slid on the cobblestones for about nine meters, dirtying the overall leader’s pink jersey and opening a cut on his right hip.
Menchov entered the final stage with a 20-second lead on Di Luca and was already comfortably ahead of the Italian at the final checkpoint before falling.