Italian rider Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas won the 16th stage of the Tour of Italy, a 12.9km time trial to Plan de Corones on Monday.
Spain's Tour de France champion Alberto Contador retained the leader's pink jersey after finishing fourth on the day, 22sec off Pellizotti's pace.
Specialist Italian climber Emanuele Sella finished second on the stage at 6sec, just ahead of a stunning performance from 37-year-old Italian veteran and former two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni, third at 17sec back.
Reigning Tour de France champion Contador extended his lead at the top of the overall standings, though, as second-placed Riccardo Ricco was fifth on the stage, 8sec behind Contador.
It was a bad day for two overall contenders, though, as Italian Marzio Bruseghin lost 42sec to Contador and Russian Tour of Spain champion Denis Menchov gave up almost 1min 30sec after coming to a virtual standstill in the steep last kilometre.
"When one sees the gaps in terms of time, it's been an interesting result," said Contador.
"It is very close with Simoni and Ricco. But (Danilo) Di Luca (the reigning Giro titleholder), Menchov and Bruseghin lost time. I am not fearful of taking my foot off the pedal in the final week as I was more wary of the first week of the Giro and the first stage in the mountains," added Contador, who is unable to defend his Tour de France title this year as his Astana team were not invited by the race organisers.
Ricco for his part said he had far from given up hope of overhauling Contador in what promises to be an enthralling climax to the race.
"I have 41 seconds to make up on Contador. It is not irredeemable, even if I will have to go on the attack. The other contenders all lost time, so it has been a good day all in all."
Pellizotti, who held the pink jersey for four days during the first week of the race, put in an incredible time trial to deny Sella what would have been a remarkable third-straight stage victory, following two mountain stage wins in the previous two days in the Dolomites.
It was the 30-year-old's second Giro stage success following a victory in 2006 and his first time trial win.
Contador now has a 41sec advantage over Ricco with Simoni third at 1min 21sec. Bruseghin has drifted out to 2min with Pellizotti at 2min 05sec with just five stages left.
Tuesday is a rest day.
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© AFP 2008