Alberto Contador has made it safely through today’s 21st and concluding stage of the Giro d’Italia to win the race for the second time. In doing so, the Tinkoff-Saxo rider has completed the first half of what he hopes will be the first Giro and Tour de France double since the late Marco Pantani achieved it in 1998 - although he admitted afterwards he is tired.
Today’s final 185km stage from Turin was won by Etixx-Quickstep rider Iljo Kiesse, who had got away with Orica-GreenEdge’s Luke Durbridge on the second of seven laps of the closing circuit in Milan, the pair finishing 9 seconds ahead of the chasing peloton.
Keisse said afterwards that his team's initial plan had been for him and Fabio Sabatini to attack on the last bend, "because I'm a track rider so I corner pretty well.
"But then I saw that there was some hesitation at the start of the circuit, so I attacked. I had a pretty good partner in crime in Luke Durbridge.
"I did my last pull at 2.5km," he continued. "I heard we had 30 seconds so I knew we'd make it.
"I put pressure on him by saying I wasn't going to work, and I've seen how Cavendish does it so I used that experience today. It's been a very different Giro this year for the team.
"We haven't won a stage, after being very successful in the previous couple of years, so this win is very important.
"It's my best ever victory, and I'm so, so happy."
Behind Keisse and Durbridge, Trek Factory Racing’s Giacomo Nizzolo finished fifth on the tage to seal victory in the points competition, while Astana’s Fabio Aru won the best young rider’s jersey for the second year running.
Following back-to-back stage wins on Friday and Saturday, Aru was also on the overall podium as runner-up to Contador, 1 minute 53 seconds behind the Spaniard, with Astana team mate Mikel Landa third, 1 minute 12 seconds further back.
It’s the third time Contador has occupied the top step of the podium in Milan at the end of the three-week Grand Tour.
His first victory in the race came in 2008, when he was with Astana. He also won the Giro in 2011 following his move to Saxo Bank, but was stripped of that title the following year as a result of his positive test for clenbuterol in
Contador's race was not incident free, with the Spaniard dislocating his shoulder in a late crash during the firt week then temporarily surrendering the lead - the first time he has lost a Grand Tour leader's jersey - to Aru at the end of the second week after crashing again.
He said: "I thank the people of Italy for their affection. Everyone has been very special with me and I am very happy.
"During the three hard weeks of the Giro, everything imaginable has happened: I came here thinking about victory having prepared very carefully, but then I had my fall and a shoulder injury.
"There was the mythical climb of the Mortirolo, but then yesterday on the Colle delle Finestre I had bad legs.
"It has been a beautiful Giro, and a very special experience for me.
"I don't know how long it will take to recover. I'm tired, and I know it will take time.
"It has been an emotional Giro for me. I've said it will be my last, but you never know," he added. "As we say in Spanish, never say never."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.