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 d’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 trio—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.
Saturday’s stage appears to be the hardest of this year’s race—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 Tonale—the 5th summit finish the race has seen this week. But the Tonale’s not the worst part of Saturday’s stage; the infamous Gavia is the penultimate climb of the day—and the highest point of this year’s race.
Liquigas did itself a favor by taking the pink jersey today, giving themselves the chance to ride defensively Saturday. They don’t need to attack; they must only control the race, preventing dangerous escapes from threatening Basso’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 Friday’s Stage 19. If Scarponi wants a spot on the final podium he has a better chance of dislodging Arroyo than Nibali—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.
There’s a better chance we’ll see a breakaway distance itself early with perhaps a rider or two from the day’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 shouldn’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 second—especially if Arroyo loses more time Saturday. And don’t forget Vino and Evans; if they’re within seconds of a higher GC-placing, look for them post impressive rides—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. Here’s how I see things turning-out:
1st Place: Ivan Basso
2nd Place: Vincenzo Nibali
3rd Place: Michele Scarponi
Enjoy the weekend—and share your picks below.