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Ivan Basso won his second stage in as many days at the Giro this afternoon, beating Illes Balears' Vladimir Karpets and his own team-mate David Zabriskie in the 34km time trial into Turin over the Superga climb. The battle for the maglia rosa took another swing back towards Paolo Savoldelli as he reversed all the losses sustained to Gilberto Simoni yesterday to gain a buffer of just over two minutes going into tomorrow's vital stage to Sestriere.
"I think today's stage meant a lot for Paolo," said Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel. "My guess was he needed to take a minimum of one minute from Simoni and he did even better. I think it's a good sign for tomorrow. Even in the most difficult part of the stage he was faster than Simoni. It's definitely good for his confidence going into tomorrow. Having a 2-09 lead is great, but it's going to be hard tomorrow. It's a very tough stage and the second to last climb is just terrible. He will have to be conservative and if he gets in trouble, he will have to keep his own pace. I'm excited for him.
Tomorrow's final mountain stage takes in the climb of Sestriere twice, but also includes the Colle delle Finestre. The climb is 18.5km long with an average gradient of 9.2 per cent, with the final 8km on a gravel road.
"I'm convinced the Giro will be decided on the Colle delle Finestre climb," said Savoldelli. "It's the hardest climb of the stage, most suitable for attacks, and it is where time gaps will open. It's up to Simoni and [Jos] Rujano to attack me if they want to win the Giro. I'll ride on the defensive as I always do and try to lose as little time as possible."
"He's quietly confident," Discovery Channel DS Sean Yates said of Savoldelli. "Barring disaster, it should be enough. He's in a good position. The way it's panning out, Basso will try and win again tomorrow so CSC will do a hard tempo on the climbs and then it should be every man for himself in the last 30km. Simoni is a strong climber and Paolo isn't a pure climber like him. It's normal Paolo would expect to lose a bit of time on the climbs but he also knew he could pull some back in the time trial."
Stage 18, Chieri-Turin
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 34km in 45.05 (45.25kph)
2 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears 0.09
3 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 0.20
4 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.23
5 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.28
6 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze 0.40
7 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1.02
8 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval 1.25
9 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 1.28
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 1.34
14 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 1.55
16 Jos Rujano (Ven) Selle Italia 1.59
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 82.10.18
2 Simoni 2.09
3 Rujano 3.00
4 Di Luca 3.08
5 Garate 3.13
6 Honchar 4.22
7 Karpets 6.30
8 Cioni 6.52
9 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crdit Agricole 6.53
10 Bruseghin 8.21
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