The not-so-small matter of 28.5km against the clock tonight stood between Alberto Contador and Giro d'Italia victory, so it's no wonder that the Spaniard's press conference in Tirano was a fairly brisk affair. Procycling's Daniel Friebe was there...
After Saturday's 20th stage, the Astana rider retains a four-second lead over Riccardo Riccò, and two minutes over Marzio Bruseghin, who today replaced Danilo Di Luca on the virtual Giro podium.
As you can tell from this complete transcript of Contador's press conference, the Spaniard is quietly confident of holding off both Riccò and Bruseghin on a flat course heading into Milan tomorrow.
Alberto, a lot's been made of your lack of preparation for this race, and even you were very sceptical about what you could achieve when you started the race. Now, though, with one day to go, surely even you think that you can win the Giro?
Alberto Contador: Yeah, as you say, I can win tomorrow the Giro. I never thought it was possible. I could never have imagined it. I was at home when the team called me … The team wanted me to come here and I wasn't at all convinced that it was the right thing to do. A few people have helped me and my pride helped me push every day, but i still can't believe I'm here in the pink jersey one day from the end of the the Giro, in contention to win the race outright...
Has the difference between you and Riccò been your respective teams?
Contador: Yes, there's a big difference. My team didn't have great form, simply because it's not normal to be invited a week ahead a grand tour. If we'd had more time to prepare for this race, like in normal conditions, instead of having one domestique at the front today (the Spaniard Colom), we could have had three or four.
What's been the hardest day or moment?
Contador: The hardest day was the stage before the Marmolada to Alpe di Pampeago. That did my sensations were very bad: I got cold on the descent [off the Passo Manghen] and felt bad on the final climb. I began to believe in my chances the day after the Marmolada. I had the maglia rosa and I began to think that I could fight for the win. But every day has been an important step forward. Yesterday, for example, was very hard for me; there were more kilometres than they said in the roadbook, which is incredible considering that these are the decisive stages...But tomorrow is just another day. Let's see if I can win this race now...
Who are you most worried about ahead of tomorrow? Riccò?
Contador: I don't have any reason to worry about tomorrow's stage. Anything can happen on the 21st stage if the last day is different. All I have to do is concentrate on having good legs. There's no reason to fear anyone.
Tell us about some of the attacks you had to stave off today.
Contador: The other riders gave me a hard time on the Mortirolo, but it was very different to yesterday. That was a really delicate moment - I had to really use my head or I could have lost it all. Di Luca was two minutes ahead, I had Riccò on my wheel and all of the others were waiting to attack me. I could have blown up...Today I just had to stay with Riccò on the Mortirolo. I had good legs, plus I rode with my head.
You won't be going to the Tour, but you could win the Giro and the Vuelta. That would make it a magic year...
Contador: I have to win the Giro first. When we heard that we weren't going to race the Tour, I was forced to switch plans. So, yeah, I'd rather win the Giro and the Vuelta in the same season than the Tour."
How important was it to keep the maglia rosa today, and that Riccò didn't get any finish-line bonuses which would have given him the lead going into Sunday's time trial?
Contador: It was very important, without a doubt. It was a big blow for Di Luca and Riccò, and a big boost for me, that I kept the jersey even yesterday. Today, with the three riders up the road, it was just luck – they went ahead for their own interest. They were going to try to win the stage. For us it just so happened to be a perfect situation...
Last year we saw you winning the Tour in very aggressive fashion. In this Giro we've seen a much more defensive Contador...
Contador: The way I'm racing here is not my usual style. You mustn't forget that I came to the Giro without any preparation. I didn't climb one mountain before I came here. I had to try to do the best I could with the form I had . I had to ride defensively and use my head. I'm just very happy to be where I am now.
Tune in to live coverage of Stage 21 of the 2008 Giro d'Italia on Cyclingnews.com Sunday.