Cycling: Basso basks in giro glory
Italian Ivan Basso sealed his second Giro d'Italia title yesterday, arriving at a packed Roman amphitheatre to a hero's welcome just three years after being banned in disgrace.
The Liquigas rider, winner in 2006, had another victory all but sealed and carefully negotiated the cobbled streets of Verona to ensure there were no late calamities on the final time trial of the three-week race.
"It's a fantastic day for me," Basso, 15th on the 21st and last stage, told reporters after finishing his 87-hour journey.
"I thank my team, who have been exceptional."
Basso was banned for two years in 2007 for his involvement in Spain's Operacion Puerto doping scandal.
He said he had not actually doped, but had intended to do so and acknowledged he should therefore receive a suspension.
With top names Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong skipping the Giro to concentrate on July's Tour de France, Basso kept himself well-positioned before snatching the leader's jersey off Spaniard David Arroyo with two stages left.
Some fine performances in the mountains meant he finished one minute and 51 seconds in front of second-placed Arroyo of Caisse d'Epargne and 2:37 ahead of team-mate Vincenzo Nibali.
Sweden's Gustav Larsson of Saxo Bank won the final time trial in 20:19.
Australian Cadel Evans, fifth overall, finished top of the points classification.
Ireland's Daniel Martin finished his first Grand Tour in 57th place after making up substantial time with an impressive ninth-place finish on the epic Monte Zoncolan stage last weekend.