The sprints are exciting, but the mountains truly tell the tale at the Giro d' Italia.
This year's Giro, which ends Sunday, was played out today in the final few miles of the 117-mile stage between Salvigliano and Sestriere. Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Paolo Savoldelli lost, then earned back, the rights to the overall leader's pink jersey on the stage's mountaintop finish.
Savoldelli, the Italian who has worn the pink for six days, started the day 2 minutes and 8 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, former winner Gilberto Simoni. At one point during the last climb, Simoni had opened a 2 minute and 21 second gap over Savoldelli, but he couldn't sustain it.
In the end, Venezuelan Jose Rujano Guillen crossed the finish first (putting him third overall), followed 26 seconds later by Simoni (who ended up second overall, 28 seconds behind). Savoldelli finished in 7th place on the day, but he kept the leader's jersey.
It looked like Savoldelli was in the trouble near the beginning of the Colle Della Finestre, a route never before taken in the Giro. Almost 12 miles long, the climb averages a 9.2% slope; the last five miles is on gravel. A group containing Simoni, Guillen and Danilo Di Luca (4th overall) pressed Savoldelli on these slopes, but Savoldelli pushed back hard enough to stay in the lead.
Sunday's perfunctory stage is designed for the sprinters, downhill then a level 10 laps around Milan.