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Greatest Grand Tour Ever?

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Giro_medium Maybe I should take a little time off before writing today's column... let off some steam, try to regain perspective. But even then, you're likely to get the same headline. So far this Giro d'Italia has been like a stunningly great book, growing more and more suspenseful and beautiful with each passing chapter, and we're down to the last 20 pages or so. With that in mind, I'll skip around through a few items.

Greatest Ever?

Hm, I can't really comprehend "ever" or anything before about 1985 for that matter. Was Roger Walkowiak's shocking Tour victory in 1956 as riveting as this? Anyway, Greg LeMond's Tour win in 1989 is generally regarded as the best of the modern Tours (outside of certain circles in Paris anyway), though last year's results and the action and circumstances in 2003 were comparable at least. Recall, when the dust and scandals subsided last July, Contador was in yellow by 0.23 over Evans, with Leipheimer third at 0.31. In the Centenary Tour, Lance held on in his two-man duel with Ullrich by a more cozy 1.01.

In the Giro, only 2005 saw a second-placed rider under a minute from glory: Savoldelli held off Simoni by 0.28 and Jose Rujano (not a typo) by 0.45. While there have been some good times, there have been just as many blowouts. Over at the Vuelta, scandals aside, the 2005 edition saw Menchov take the glory by a mere 18" on Sastre and 1.22 on Mancebo. The previous year, Heras beat Santi Perez by 30" and Isidro Nozal by 28" in 2003. These were fun years, but in retrospect it's hard to get excited, and before then the Vuelta was strictly second class.

Where this Giro places in history will remain to be seen, and there's always an argument that the talent level at the Giro places the "best-ever" title out of reach. Whatever. Either way, the similarities between this Giro and the great 1989 Tour are growing eerier by the day.

Stars of the Day

LPR's team tactics took an ordinary day and stood the race on its head. In honor of Lord Stanley, let's do this hockey style:

Third Star: Danilo DiLuca -- He's #1 in terms of benefit; more on that in a moment. If he gets to the top step, it will rank as one of the most impressive accomplishments in Cycling. This guy is NOT a mountain goat. In all likelihood reality will be waiting for him on the Mortirolo, but I wouldn't rule anything out.

Second Star: Paolo Savoldelli -- The two-time champ orchestrated some of the best team tactics you'll ever see. Actually, this award could go to all of LPR. But the sight of Savoldelli, the two-time winner, turning himself inside-out for a teammate, in his home region... I need to stop before my coworkers ask why I'm crying.

First Star: Vasil Kiryienka -- Did he really come from the Chernobyl region? No wonder a child of such tragedy would be undeterred by the bleakness of today's conditions. Anyway, the window opened for him, and he went right through it. TV coverage early was pretty spotty, so I'm at a loss for more details, but a victory is a victory.

Finally, because you asked...

A flowchart: