I was 100% sure that I would have a heart attack today when Denis Menchov crashed in the last kilometer of the last stage, stage 21, of Giro d'Italia. I couldn't breath properly for five minutes, I was so shocked and nervous. But that crash surely made everything even more exciting. Denis Menchov lead the race with 20 seconds ahead of Danilo di Luca. Di Luca is not even close to being a time trial specialist so most people believed the Russian would win the race. Danilo di Luca decided to try to win, but it was easy to see from the first second that he would spend too much energy within five kilometers and he would be very tired, and he was. He lost time to the Russian in every check points except the first one. It started to rain during the stage and the Russian started to become nervous. He was leading di Luca and he had nothing to worry about, but still he crashed. It was terrible to see him. He was close in ruining his whole Giro d'Italia by that crash. He slipped out on the rain-soaked cobbles and slid down the road. He ran to catch his bike but received a new one from his mechanic. He was nervous as he started to race again but still he could easily ride to the finish line where he found out that he was the winner of the whole race. He hugged his mechanic, his managar, he screamed, pumped his fists in the air and he was so happy.
All the tension and stress of the Giro, everything came out," Menchov said. "This is the most beautiful victory of my career."
Menchov finished 10th on the day, 21 seconds faster than second overall Danilo Di Luca, who finished in 16th place.
Denis Menchov could possible have won the whole stage unless he had had that crash. Instead the lucky and surprised winner was the Lithuanian time trial champion, Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo TestTeam), who was one of the last riders to enjoy a dry course.
"I thought already at the start I could win. The time trail always goes for four hours and the conditions always change," Ignatas Konovalovas said. "Today you can be on bad conditions and maybe tomorrow good conditions. Of course the rain helped me, but you never know. We will see in the future."
He finished the course one second faster than Garmin-Slipstream's Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins didn't have an easy day at the course, but it rained plus he had to avoid a stopped Bouygues Telecom car, which was attending to Matthieu Sprick, in the approach to the line.
"I was looking at this time trial since midway through the Giro. The course was quite hairy, a bit unusual. After taking a look at it this morning, I was shocked at how dangerous it was," Wiggins said. "It was the same for everyone and I tried to stay positive, but then I took a shower in the rain in the last 5km ... that put an end my chances to win."
Konovalovas (pictured) lead the race from an early point in the race and he had nothing to worry about for most part of the race as nobody was even close to beating his time. It was only when the top riders on the general classification took to the course that somebody was close to winning.
"I can't really believe what I did today. I was dreaming of it, but it came so fast and there is no time to take in the emotions," Konovalovas said. "I am still young; the important thing is to discover my identity in this group. We will see how my body reacts in the future."
Team Columbia's Edvald Boasson Hagen finished third of the stage.
Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was one of the stage favourites but decided not to take any risks as the rain began to fall again. Danilo di Luca, who was second in the general classification before the stage had nothing to lose, so he tried to ride the time trial as if his life depended on it. He failed, but that crash of Denis Menchov still left the Italian hoping for a while that he could perhaps take the victory away of the Russian man.
"To fall like this wasn't beautiful, Denis (Menchov) was the strongest and he didn't deserve to suffer this setback", said Di Luca. "I have nothing to regret. I attacked every chance I had. I can take away a lot from this Giro - two stage victories, seven days in the maglia rosa and the points jersey. I can be very satisfied with this Giro."
Denis Menchov is the third Russian to win the Giro (Evgeni Berzin and Pavel Tonkov preceded him in the 1990s). Menchov has also been winning the Vuelta a España twice, but this was his first victory in the Giro d'Italia and that was great.