Alberto Contador was a worthy, if unspectacular, winner of the Giro d?Italia. As expected, there were no last day fireworks. For that, Riccardo Ricco would have need a two-minute cushion over the Spaniard going into the final time trial.

After two viciously hard, you could almost say excessively difficult, stages in the mountains there were some very, very tired legs on Sunday and the 28.5 kilometres to Milan must have felt like ten times that.

How long is it since one of the top ten overall failed to make the top ten of a time trial stage in a grand tour? Contador was the best of them, finishing 11th. You have to drop down to Denis Menchov, in a very modest 25th, to find the next of the overall leaders.

That in itself meant it was an interesting climax to the race. Weather conditions did not change significantly throughout the afternoon, it was simply that the riders who had taken it relatively easy in the mountain stages were a little bit fresher.

Here we look back at the 2008 Giro d?Italia, assessing some of the best stages, rounding off the first grand tour of the year with a look at some interesting trivia and admitting where we went wrong when it came to predicting the top ten?

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THE FINAL TOP 10

1. Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana in 89-56-49
2. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval at 1-57
3. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy) Lampre at 2-54
4. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 2-56
5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 3-37
6. Emanuele Sella (Italy) CSF Group Navigare at 4-31
7. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium) Silence-Lotto at 6-30
8. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes at 7-15
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy) CSF Group Navigare at 7-53
10. Gilberto Simoni (Italy) Serramenti PVC at 11-03

EIGHT OF THE BEST

Was it a vintage Giro d?Italia? It was certainly intriguing at times but for all the talk about the Gavia and the Mortirolo, the Queen Stage of the race failed to ignite.

Truth was the route persuaded cautious riding from the favourites. Riccardo Ricco would have had more of a chance in the final two mountain stages if they had been around 180 kilometres long instead of in the 220s.

They were ludicrously demanding and it is no real surprise that each of the big mountain stages was characterised by attacks from well down the general classification ? or failing that, from Emanuele Sella.

In a way it was as if the clock had been turned back 20 years. The racing was more interesting because there was more going on. The inevitable increase in pace on the final climbs did not materialise, the escapees were not all swallowed up.

Here we look at the eight most entertaining stages ? the ones even Sean Kelly raised his voice above a restrained, authoritative whisper for. The rest, well, Dave Harmon, Kelly?s Eurosport colleague, tried his best, but it just wasn?t happening, was it.

Best for Brits ? stage four
Mark Cavendish grabbed his first grand tour stage in Catanzaro-Lungomare

Last-gasp drama ? stage five
David Millar?s chain snapped 1,100 metres from the line at Contursi Termi when he was in a five-man break set to contest victory. Pavel Brutt won

Another calamitous finish ? stage 11
Three men headed to the finish. Fortunato Baliani lost control and fell as he cornered on the cobbles, Pablo Lastras crashed into the back of him. Alessandro Bertolini, the leader of the trio, heard the noise and bolted like a horse that sensed a chance for freedom

Bennati?s photo finish win ? stage 12
The Italian took the racing line round the final bend while Cavendish lost ground. The Brit turned on the gas and almost got past. It required a photo finish to decide it.

Sella?s first ? stage 14
A break got clear and then Sella attacked alone to win by 4-38 from Kiriyenka. Among the favourites, Denis Menchov looked impressive but for all his effort gained only a handful of seconds.

Freak show on the Plan de Corones ? stage 16
It didn?t do much for the credibility of the race as it was more of a gimmick than a serious time trial. Pellizotti?s win was impressive, denying Sella three-in-a-row, but it ended the Giro for six riders who missed the time cut on a 12.6-kilometre stage. Stupid.

Voigt?s win on the Worlds course ? stage 18
The German was part of a very strong group, including Paolo Bettini, Giovanni Visconti, but attacked and soloed in from 36 kilometres out.

Kiriyenka finally wins, Di Luca and Ricco gain time ? stage 19
The best stage of the race. It was, in fact, two races in one. Again a break went clear and gained a huge lead. Vasili Kiriyenka finally won after two second places in earlier in the race. Di Luca attacked hard on the final climb and Ricco gained time on Contador. At the end of the day the Spaniard led Ricco by just four seconds and Di Luca by 21. Epic stuff. By comparison, the following day ? the headline stage featuring the Gavia and Mortirolo ? was tame. It was a case of too much of a good thing.

NOTES AND TRIVIA

? Less than five minutes separated the top six but there?s a big gap between Pozzovivo in ninth (at 7-53) and Simoni in tenth (at 11-03). Then there?s an even bigger gap to the next man, 11th-placed Vincenzo Nibali at 20-14. Mauricio Ardila was 20th, at 47-43.

? Alberto Contador became only the second Spanish winner of the Giro after Miguel Indurain (1992, 1993).

? He’s the first foreign winner since 1996.

? Contador is the first Giro champion to win the race without taking one of its stages since Paolo Savoldelli in 2002. The previous two times times the champion has failed to win were: 1999 Ivan Gotti ? although that was the year Marco Pantani won the three mountain stages and held the pink jersey before being kicked out with a high haematocrit level ? and 1971 Gosta Pettersson.

? The 2008 Giro was the 11th grand tour victory for the team manager Johan Bruyneel ? that?s eight Tour de France wins (Armstrong 7, Contador 1), two Giro d?Italia wins (Savoldelli, Contador ) and one Vuelta a Espana win (Heras) since 1999.

? Six British riders started ? and all six finished. That’s a record number of British riders finishing a single grand tour.

WHO WON THE STAGES?

One of the trends of this Giro was that the smaller teams had their day. Of the 21 stages, nine were won by teams from outside the ProTour. Okay, so we know the ProTour is dead but it?s still an indication of the biggest teams with the biggest budgets.

ProTour teams ? 12
Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) ? stages 2, 8
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) ? stages 3, 9, 12
Mark Cavendish (High Road) ? stages 4, 13
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) ? stage 10
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) ? stage 16
Andrei Greipel (High Road) ? stage 17
Jens Voigt (CSC) ? stage 18
Marco Pinotti (High Road) ? stage 21

Non ProTour teams ? 9
Slipstream ? stage 1
Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) ? stage 5
Matteo Priamo (CSF Group Navigare) ? stage 6
Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) ? stage 7
Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) ? stage 11
Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) ? stages 14, 15, 20
Vasili Kiriyenka (Tinkoff) ? stage 19

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AND WHO HELD THE JERSEYS?

Pink jersey
Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream) ? stage 1
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) ? stages 2-5
Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) ? stages 6-13
Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) ? stage 14
Alberto Contador (Astana) ? stages 15-21

Purple jersey (points competition)
Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) ? stage 2, stage 8
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) ? stages 3-7, 9-21

Green jersey (king of the mountains)
Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) ? stage 2-21

White jersey (best young rider)
Chris Anker Sorensen (CSC) ? stage 1-2
Morris Possoni (High Road) ? stage 3-5
Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) ? stages 6-13
Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) ? stages 14-21

HOW CYCLING WEEKLY?S FAVOURITES DID

At the start of the Giro we tried to predict how the top ten would turn out in Milan. Madness, we know, but we never shy away from making predictions [are you sure you don?t mean ?guessing?? ? Ed].

If you can just gloss over Andreas Klöden and stop sniggering you?ll see we picked six ? count them ? of the eventual top ten. And perhaps we should get an extra half point for Nibali, who was 11th.

1 Andreas Klöden (Germany / Astana)
Did not finish stage 20
Let?s skip on shall we? No? Okay then. Our justification was this. With Contador having not raced since early April, the German was the most likely leader for an Astana team called up at the last minute. Won the Tour of Romandie so was in form. We worried he?d suffer in the big mountains, which he did, and as soon as his team-mate got the lead we knew that was the end of his top ten chances. He got ill towards the end of the race, with a fever and breathing difficulties apparently, and quit midway through Saturday?s penultimate stage.

2 Danilo Di Luca (Italy / LPR)
8th at 7-15
Jumped about like a pea on a drum in the first fortnight and when he grabbed back so much time on Friday?s stage, to get within 21 seconds of the pink jersey, a place on the podium looked on the cards. But he blew up big time on the Mortirolo and lost more than two minutes. Cut a very weary figure in the final time trial and slipped to eighth.

3 Gilberto Simoni (Italy / Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni)
10th at 7-53
Looked all set for an eighth podium appearance in the Giro until he cracked on stage 19 and lost seven minutes. Tried in vain to win the following day but couldn?t close the gap on Sella. A good final Giro for the veteran.

4 Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Liquigas)
11th at 20-14
Of the young pretenders, we thought Nibali stood more of a chance than Ricco. However his inexperience in the big mountains and against the clock counted against him. He?ll be back next year and will be stronger. An outsider for the podium in 12 months’ time.

5 Riccardo Ricco (Italy / Saunier Duval)
2nd at 1-57
For all the posturing and posing, the ridiculous sunglasses, earring and dodgy highlights, Ricco is an exciting rider to watch. You don?t have to like him, though, and part of the pleasure in watching him is waiting to see him get his come-uppance. He had a point when he criticised Astana?s last-minute inclusion. Without Contador, he?d have won at a canter.

6 Franco Pellizotti (Italy / Liquigas)
4th at 2-56
Almost grabbed third place with a superb final time trial performance as the tiring Marzio Bruseghin pedalled through treacle to the finish line in Milan. An impressive three weeks for a man who has in the past given the look of someone who knows his place is in the bottom half of the top ten.

7 Alberto Contador (Spain / Astana)
1st
A fairytale win for the Tour de France champion. It wasn?t a victory blessed with brilliance. He didn?t win a stage and he never looked like he was about to dance away on the climbs like he did at the Tour, but even coming into the race at 80 per cent he was too good for the rest.

8 Denis Menchov (Russia / Rabobank)
5th at 3-37
Stick a quid on him to make the podium at the Tour de France. The Russian showed flashes without being absolutely on it. And he always goes better in his second grand tour of the year.

9 Juan Manuel Garate (Spain / Quick Step)
37th at 1-19-47
If his team-mate Giovanni Visconti had not been in the pink jersey, Garate would have been able to ride for himself and would have finished much higher up. That?s our story and we?re sticking to it.

10 Evgeni Petrov (Russia / Tinkoff)
29th at 1-05-04
Petrov? Did we say Petrov? We meant Sella, of course. Yes, Emanuele Sella. We all saw that happening.

THE SURPRISE PACKAGES

Nothing escapes CW?s talent-o-meter (except these four).

imageMarzio Bruseghin ?3rd at 2-54
We had thought last year?s eighth place would be about his limit but he rode out of his skin to make the podium, even if the big mountains clearly pushed him to the maximum. A weary final time trial performance was not a surprise but he hung onto third place.

Emanuele Sella ? 6th at 4-31
It?s a little unfair to say he?s the revelation of the Giro. He was 11th last year and 10th in 2005. Sella won three mountain stages ? almost four but for a narrow defeat in the Plan de Corones time trial ? and was the only rider to wear the green mountains jersey all race. The crash on stage 11 where he lost 15 minutes to the favourites both wrecked his Giro and made it in equal measure.

Jurgen Van den Broeck ? 7th at 6-30
The true new face on the block. The former Discovery Channel rider is rangy but he can clearly climb. At 25 he?s likely to get better too. We can hear the cry from Brussels already: ?He?s the new Eddy Merckx.? Let?s not get carried away.

Domenico Pozzovivo ? 9th at 7-53
CSF Group Navigare ? ghastly, garish green and orange strip, like Queens Park Rangers on acid, packed full of brilliant climbers who mysteriously can?t get a job with a big team. Pozzovivo is 25 years old and probably won?t have to type up his CV [resumé for any American readers] because the big teams will be calling him.

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: CW COVERAGE INDEX
Giro 2008: CW coverage index – who won what, where and when

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage 21 ITT: Contador seals win in final time trial
Stage 20: Contador sets up Giro victory
Stage 19: Contador hangs on to race lead
Stage 18: Voigt wins Giro d’Italia ‘Worlds’ stage in Varese
Stage 17: Cav gifts Greipel the stage
Stage 16: Pellizotti wins mountain time trial
Stage 15: Sella strikes again in the mountains
Stage 14: Sella wins first Giro mountains stage
Stage 13: Easy victory for super-fast Cavendish
Stage 12: Bennati gets photo finish verdict over Cavendish
Stage 11: Bertolini wins hilly stage
Stage 10: Bruseghin wins Giro d’Italia time trial
Stage nine: Cavendish misses out in sprint
Stage eight: Ricco wins again
Stage seven: Di Luca, Ricco and Contador gain time on rivals
Stage six: Italians clean up
Stage five: Millar denied by snapped chain
Stage four: Cavendish wins
Stage three: Bennati romps home
Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
Contador’s Giro win big boost for Spanish cycling
Ricco and Di Luca talk tough [stage 19]
Contador, Ricco and Simoni to face off in final Giro d’Italia mountains
Six Brits finish mountain time trial [stage 16]
Cavendish disappointed after missing out in Giro sprint
Can Cavendish win the Giro today? [stage 12]
Aggressive Cummings comes away empty handed [stage six]
Millar speaks out after missing out in Giro [stage five]
Reaction to Cavendish’s Giro stage win
Cav hits back at Pozzato’s snipe
Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week three
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week two
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week one.

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
Five days to go, what’s in store?
Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)
Cycling Weekly’s all-time list of British pro winners
Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)
Rest day 1: How the favourites are doing
Giro Britannia part two: From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia
Tuesday Comment (May 13): Why Cavendish is a bona fide world-class star
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule