Stefano Garzelli of the Acqua & Sapone team made up for a series of disastrous mountain displays on the Tour of Italy by winning the 16th stage mountain time trial Tuesday.
Held over 12.9km, with the last 5km on a rustic, unasphalted road, Garzelli picked up his first win on the Giro since 2007 as Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans continued their respective bids for overall victory.
Spaniard David Arroyo, of Caisse d'Epargne, retained the race leader's pink jersey but saw his overall lead on Italian Basso reduced to 2min 27sec after the current race favourite finished sixth.
Arroyo said that it would be a battle royal right till the finish of the race this Sunday.
"Win the Giro? It is easier to say than to achieve," said Arroyo. "The most important thing at the moment is to be in the pink jersey. Lets take everything as it comes.
"Which rival do I fear the most? For me between Basso and Evans it is 50-50. I am ready to do battle with them to the bitter end."
Liquigas team leader Basso, who moved back into contention by winning an epic mountain stage to Zoncolan on Sunday, now sits ahead of two Australians - Richie Porte of Saxo Bank and Evans, who rides for BMC.
Basso was delighted with his performance.
"It has been a good day. I gained time on both (Carlos) Sastre and Arroyo," said Basso. "Competing in a mountain time-trial the day after a rest day is not ideal for me. I cycled well in the first half and gritted my teeth in the second part."
Evans boosted his own chances of winning the Giro by finishing an impressive second at 42sec behind Garzelli and 28secs ahead of Basso to move up from fifth to fourth.
"I gave my all, like I have been doing since the start of the race in The Netherlands," said Evans, the reigning road race world champion. "Garzelli was impressive. At Zoncolan (Sunday's stage), I followed the rhythm of the Liquigas team. However, Basso had the stronger legs.
"My team? They are giving the maximum. It is not a new situation. I have already been confronted by stronger teams, in the Tour de France for example."
Porte, who has been one of the sensations on what is his major Tour debut, finished over two minutes behind Garzelli to drop from second overall to third.
In the overall standings Porte is 2:36 behind Arroyo with Evans fourth at 3:09.
Third on the stage was French climbing specialist John Gadret, who surprised by finishing ahead of Italians Vincenzo Nibali, fourth, and Michele Scarponi, who was fifth.
One of the big losers of the day was 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, the Spaniard continuing to struggle in the mountains and eventually losing nearly two minutes to Evans.
Sastre was bemused by the end result of what he had thought during the stage had been a good effort.
"The result is not a good one, and for sure one I wasn't expecting," sighed 35-year-old Sastre. "But it is pointless to get demoralised after one has given one's all. Yet another day in the Giro which hasn't met my expectations."
Garzelli meanwhile will be holding his own celebrations.
At 36 years old the 2000 Giro champion's win will help make amends for him losing a massive 18 minutes on the climb to Asolo and over nine minutes on Sunday's summit finish at Zoncolan.
"After the stage of Monte Grappa, where I had a bad day, I decided that it was pointless to compete for the overall standings and just to go for stage wins," said Garzelli.
"But I was really thinking of Wednesday's stage rather than the time-trial.
"To win in this manner, at nearly 37 years of age! I can't believe it. However, I find stages that come after rest days revive me, I have seen this happen several times already."
© AFP 2010
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.