For a few minutes today, it looked as if David Arroyo just might have retained his maglia rosa as the leader of the 2010 Giro dâ€™Italia. After the descent of the Mortirolo, he sat less than a minute behind a 3-man breakaway containing Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali, and Michele Scarponi. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off for the Spaniard on the final ascent to Aprica; he lost over three minutes to the leading trioâ€”and the maglia rosa.
The race now heads into its final weekend with Ivan Basso as overall leader. Arroyo sits second and Nibali third, at 0:51 and 2:30 respectively. Only Scarponi remains within shouting distance of the podium, 2:49 behind Basso. Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, and Alexandre Vinokourov all sit over 4-minutes from the lead.
Saturdayâ€™s stage appears to be the hardest of this yearâ€™s raceâ€”and quite possibly one of the hardest days of racing this season. The riders face 5 categorized climbs during a 178-kilometer day that ends with a 12-kilomter climb up the Passo Tonaleâ€”the 5th summit finish the race has seen this week. But the Tonaleâ€™s not the worst part of Saturdayâ€™s stage; the infamous Gavia is the penultimate climb of the dayâ€”and the highest point of this yearâ€™s race.
Liquigas did itself a favor by taking the pink jersey today, giving themselves the chance to ride defensively Saturday. They donâ€™t need to attack; they must only control the race, preventing dangerous escapes from threatening Bassoâ€™s lead. At this point, Arroyo is probably more concerned with maintaining his spot on the podium than re-taking the maglia rosa.
Look for the real race tomorrow to take place between Scarponi and Arroyo. Arroyo looked quite cooked by the end of Fridayâ€™s Stage 19. If Scarponi wants a spot on the final podium he has a better chance of dislodging Arroyo than Nibaliâ€”look for him to try and isolate Arroyo on the Gavia, possibly taking Nibali and Basso with him to replicate the finish we saw today.
Thereâ€™s a better chance weâ€™ll see a breakaway distance itself early with perhaps a rider or two from the dayâ€™s early move holding-on for the win. Look for someone like Cunego, Garzelli, or Samoliau to be given a bit of latitude to take the last road stage of the race.
As for Sunday, the 15-kilometer time trial around Verona shouldnâ€™t reveal too many surprises. Richie Porte has enjoyed a fantastic Giro and could cap it with a win. Marco Pinotti would also love to end his race with a stage win in front of his home crowd. Nibali might use the stage to vault himself into secondâ€”especially if Arroyo loses more time Saturday. And donâ€™t forget Vino and Evans; if theyâ€™re within seconds of a higher GC-placing, look for them post impressive ridesâ€”if they have anything left after Saturday, that is.
All in all, while Friday stole a bit of the show, the final two days will prove to be anything but meaningless. Hereâ€™s how I see things turning-out:
1st Place: Ivan Basso
2nd Place: Vincenzo Nibali
3rd Place: Michele Scarponi
Enjoy the weekendâ€”and share your picks below.