Denis Menchov won the Centenary Giro not through spectacular performances.
He won through consistency. Consistency on the flat, consistency in the mountains, and consistency in the time trial.
perhaps consistency is not the right word, because consistency implies
ordinariness, and over the past three weeks, Menchov was far from that.
Russian possesses legs strong as a weightlifter's, a natural calm that
allows him to relax and recover Ã¢â¬â even when wearing the maglia rosa, which he held on to since the twelfth stage - and a mind that is almost impossible to crack.
the mercurial Lance Armstrong, he doesn't seems bothered by what the
press say about him. But maybe that's because there isn't much to write.
each of the last nine stages he held onto the race lead, Menchov said
little. And it wasn't because of his inability to converse: at the
press conferences, he answered questions in Spanish (he lives in Spain
with his wife and kids), Italian and English.
dramatic, eleventh-hour moment outside Rome's majestic Colosseum,
where, with just 900 metres left to race and going in a straight line,
the maglia rosa toppled over his machine and slid on the oil-slicked cobbles, Menchov remained as laconic as ever.
he hadn't broken any bones, his victory was not in jeopardy. At the
point he crashed, he was up half a minute on arch-rival Danilo Di Luca.
His manager driving the car metres behind him, former professional Erik
Breukink Ã¢â¬â winner of that epic, snow-stormed stage to Bormio at the '88
Giro Ã¢â¬â kept repeating to him, 'don't take risks, don't risk anything,
Menchov luckily got away with just a ripped
skinsuit, and with a lightning-fast bike change, rode those last metres
full of adrenalin, emotion and satisfaction. His victory cry was
beautiful: eyes raging, blood pumping and tongue wagging while he
yelled as loud as he could.
But until that moment, he remained cooler than the interior of an esky filled to the brim with ice-cold beers.
what did Di Luca's head in. The 2007 Giro champion just couldn't crack
him, and on those mountain stages in the final week, if he were to
launch an 80s-style, all-or-nothing attack with the intention of
placing Menchov into difficulty or at least panic, he may well have
lost his second place overall.
And for a guy on the comeback
trail after his oddly-named ties to the 'Oil for drugs' affair and a
separate investigation by Italian Olympic Committee CONI in 2007, which
didn't see him at his best last year where he finished eighth to
Alberto Contador, it was just too much risk to take.
"From the very first stages, it was clear Di Luca was ready to win. The most important thing was to follow him," said Menchov.
SoÃ¢â¬¦ can he win the Tour?
the Centenary Giro, Menchov never had a bad day on the bike. Even after
3,456.5 kilometres and close to 90 hours' racing, he said in Rome he
felt physically and mentally fresh. If there's a year where he can do
it, it's probably 2009.
But he'll need to count on some
implosion within Astana and a bad day or two from defending champion
Carlos Sastre, who ostensibly lost his chances of winning this year's
Giro on the seventeenth stage to Blockhaus.
"This Giro is a very
important win for me. It's great, it's hugeÃ¢â¬¦ I think I'm one of the
best in the world, but you need a lot of things to win a three-week
race," said Menchov.
"I know I'm able to win the Tour de France, but I don't know when I'm able to do it."