In the end Alberto Contador won the Giro by a comfortable nearly-two minute margin.
Danilo Di Luca, Paolo Savoldelli and Riccardo Riccò did their best to remove the rose-coloured jersey from Contador's shoulders and they nearly succeeded. It was great racing. Contador looked like he was on the ropes, crumbling under the combined pressure of the Italian connection. 21 seconds separating the top three at the end of the stage. It doesn't get much closer than that.
But to Contador and his Astana team's credit, they held their own on Saturday's final mountain stage despite losing key lieutenant Andreas Klöden. That leg, over the Gavia and Mortirolo, saw another fruitful attack by the pocket rocket Emanuele Sella (where does he get it from?), as well as Gilberto Simoni's last hurrah which was just too late to put him in contention for the stage win. Sure, neither were ever going to threaten Contador on the GC, but it was amazing to watch them on the twisty wet descents. Riding downhill that fast takes a hell of a lot of skill.
From a fan's perspective, it was a pity that neither Riccò nor Di Luca had the juice to attack Contador on that stage. In fact, Di Luca paid big time for his stage 19 efforts, losing four minutes to the man in pink (he'd gained 1'45 on Friday). But at least it showed that they weren't superhuman, which is probably a good thing for the Credibility of the Sport. Contador kept a cool head and defended well; that's a tried and tested way to win a grand tour, especially when you've come into it from a holiday on the beach.
The last time trial into Milan could have been a thriller, but it turned out to be fairly tame. On paper, Contador was easily the best time trialist and the fact that over the course of 30 minutes, he put nearly two minutes into Riccò and three into Di Luca showed just how tired the latter were. Once again, they paid for their stage 19 bravery. Contador even bested TT specialists Denis Menchov and Marzio Bruseghin, who finished well down the stage rankings.
The other noteworthy thing about this time trial is that Contador, while being the best of the GC riders, still finished outside the top 10 in the stage. For me this was good to see, as the other riders who had been saving their legs for this stage were actually rewarded. Compare it to the final TT stage of the Tour de France last year, when the GC riders dominated and no-one else got a look in. I don't know why, but I like seeing the glory shared around.
There were plenty of other good Giro moments too. High Road sprinter Mark Cavendish coming of age with two grand tour stage wins and a gift to his teammate Andrei Greipel, as well as finishing the three week tour; Daniele Bennati continuing to strengthen his position as one of the next top sprinters, albeit at the expense of riders like Robbie McEwen; the David Millar bike throw (this will never lose its shine); Paolo Savoldelli's descending; more colourful words and antics from Riccardo Riccò; and Denis Menchov. Definitely Denis Menchov.
Maybe it wasn't the best Giro of recent years, but it's right up there.