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Alessandro Petacchi's definitive sprint victory in Sunday's finale was fitting closure to the wide-open 88th Giro d'Italia that ended Sunday on the hot streets of Milan. There was a collective sense of relief among the 153 finishers to arrive in Milano for the 119km 20th stage of the 2005 corsa rosa.
"Of the three times I've been on the Giro podium, this has been the most satisfying because the level of racing was higher," said Paolo Savoldelli, who dodged a bullet in Saturday's epic climbing stage over the Colle delle Finestre.
Il Falco hung on to win his second maglia rosa in four years in a race that few pundits picked the man from Bergamo with much of a shot for victory. Pre-race favourites Ivan Basso (CSC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita) tumbled to the wayside, leaving the road wide open for any takers.
"Discovery signed me to race the Giro because they knew they wouldn't be able to bring a big team like they do during the Tour," Savoldelli continued. "I didn't have any pressure to win. The team told me to think about the podium and not stress about anything else."
Gilberto Simoni fell 28 seconds short of his third Giro victory and chastised defending Giro champion Cunego for letting him down. "I couldn't make up the time I lost to Savoldelli in the time trials. He was strong enough when he needed to be," Simoni said. "I am disappointed that Cunego wasn't there to help me in the mountains. With him by my side, we would have been able to make a different race."
Jos Rujano (Colombia-Selle Italia) was all smiles in Milan, yet another day of getting kisses from the towering podium girls after winning the King of the Mountains jersey, a stage and taking third overall. "This Giro has been better than anything I could have dreamed," Rujano said, down 45 seconds in the GC. "Now I dream about coming back next year to win."
For Petacchi, his victory in Milan lifted his Giro tally to four. Not quite on track with his record-setting nine from last year, but not a bad haul after his first win didn't come until the second week.
"Now I will take a break and not race the Tour," said Petacchi, who held off Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) in the sprint. "It's not worth doing a week of the Tour because I would have to train hard. I need to rest and build up for my goals in the second half of the season, above all the Worlds in Madrid."
Stage 20, Albese con Cassano-Milan
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 119km in 3.24.08 (35.33kph)
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile
3 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
4 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Domina Vacanze
5 Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
6 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria
7 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Illes Balears
8 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Francaise des Jeux
9 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval
10 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
Final overall standings
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 91.25.51
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.28
3 Jos Rujano (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia 0.45
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 2.42
5 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval 3.11
6 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze 4.22
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears 11.15
8 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crdit Agricole 11.38
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 11.40
10 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Panaria 12.33
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