Italy's Ivan Basso officially won the Giro d'Italia bike race Sunday, wearing the overall leader's pink jersey for the past 14 days.
This was no squeaker; Basso won by 9-minutes 18-seconds over his closest challenger Jose Gutierrez of Phonak. Gerolsteiner cyclist Robert Forster won the final stage in Milan in a bunch sprint at the finish.
This is Basso's first Giro victory, and commentators drew many comparisons with Lance Armstrong. Basso has adopted a high-cadence pedaling style on the bicycle and attacked on the first difficult mountain stage of the race so his competitors would be saddled with the task of catching up.
Another similarity noted at the end of the race is personality. Basso dropped third-place challenger Gilberto Simoni on the final climb Saturday after Simoni had waited up for him on the previous descent. What did Armstrong used to say? “No gifts.” (On Sunday, Simoni made the strange accusation that Basso offered to let Simoni win the stage for money. Basso denied it.)
You could also compare Basso's Team CSC, managed by former Tour de France champion Bjarne Riis, favorably with Armstrong's former team. The CSC cyclists selflessly protected Basso's lead in the final two weeks of the three-week classic.
While there are plenty of other cyclists who could win the Tour de France, which starts in a month, you can understand why the buzz will be about Basso, who finished second last year.
The top 10 finishers in the 2006 Giro were:
1. Ivan Basso
2. Jose Gutierrez (Phonak) 9:18 behind
3. Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) 11:59 behind
4. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) 18:16 behind
5. Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery) 19:22 behind
6. Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) 23:53 behind
7. Juan Garate (QuickStep) 24:26 behind
8. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) 25:57 behind
9. Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak) 26:27 behind
10. Francisco Vila (Lampre) 27:34 behind
As for the Americans, Bobby Julich of Team CSC finished in 92nd overall, Jonathan McCarty of Phonak 113th, Jason McCartney of Discovery in 135th, and Aaron Olsen of Saunier Duval in 148th.
Tom Danielson, the up and coming Discovery cyclist, didn't start on Saturday because of sinusitis and had a fever, according to Tour de France 2006 blog. Sitting in 16th place, Danielson is the likely leader of the Discovery team for the Vuelta d'Espana in September.
Results for top sprinters, top team, top mountain finishers are available at CyclingNews and VeloNews. Also, OLN broadcasts Giro d'Italia highlights from 5-7 p.m. (ET) Sunday and 3-5 p.m. (ET) Monday. See local listings.