Italian Ivan Basso claimed his second Tour of Italy title as Swede Gustav Erik Larsson won the 21st and final stage of the race, a 15km time-trial around Verona on Sunday.
Surprise package Spaniard David Arroyo comfortably held onto second place in the overall standings while Basso’s Liquigas team-mate Vincenzo Nibali edged out Italian compatriot Michele Scarponi for the final place on the podium.
But the day belonged to Basso who came home 15th fastest but still earned his second win in his home Tour following his success in 2006.
“I’m delighted, it was a really tough Giro. This victory is something fantastic, it was a spectacular Giro that was tense right to the end,” said the jubilant winner.
The victory completed a remarkable turnaround for Basso who was banned for two years in 2006 for his involvement in the Operation Puerto scandal.
He finished 1min 51sec ahead of Arroyo who had so thrilled fans with his valiant attempts to hold onto the leader’s pink jersey in the mountains.
Following the last two gruelling days in the mountains it was little surprise that the top riders were not involved in the battle for the stage victory.
Saxo Bank’s Larsson posted the fastest time of 20min 19sec on the course, just two seconds quicker than Italian time-trial champions Marco Pinotti, who had led by 12sec at the one and only time check.
Veteran Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov – another to have served a doping ban – put in a good effort to finish third on the day, 17sec down, to leapfrog Australia’s Richie Porte and take sixth place overall from the winner of the Young Rider’s competition.
Larsson, a team-mate of Porte’s, said he was happy to have been able to ride for himself.
“The race went well for me today. I just rode as steady as I could. Yesterday (Saturday) after helping Richie (Porte) to get back on in the climb to Livigno, I tried to take it easy on the Gavia to preserve myself for today,” he said.
“When I watched (Briton Bradley) Wiggins at half way, I knew I had nothing to fear from him because he would never go faster than me downhill but later on I was really afraid of Pinotti.
“He was 12 seconds ahead of me at half way. But unlike many riders, I got better in the last couple of days in the Giro.
“I don’t know what it represents to win such a prestigious stage here. I’m just doing the one thing I’m good at.”
The main interest for the day was the battle for third place as Nibali started one second ahead of Scarponi.
They reached the time check at the end of the Torricelle climb neck and neck but Nibali is known to be a better descender.
And so it proved as he came to the line 12sec quicker than Scarponi managed to complete an excellent Tour.
Fifth place went to Australian world road race champion Cadel Evans who had an outside chance of a podium finish at the start of the day but simply could not make up enough time on the two Italians ahead of him.