Fabio Aru (Astana) soloed to his second consecutive stage victory on stage 20 of the Giro d’Italia, but the Italian could not prevent Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) all-but-sealing the maglia rosa.
Aru and third-placed team-mate Mikel Landa both distanced Contador on the day’s penultimate climb, the gravel-laden Colle delle Finestre, but the two minutes clawed back was not enough to threaten the Tinkoff-Saxo man’s overall lead.
And with just the largely processional final stage to come, the Contador is on the brink of back-to-back Grand Tour wins after last season’s Vuelta a Espana triumph.
Aru, however, in the white jersey, does have the consolation of two stage wins as he bounced back well in the final few days, his second earned thanks to another show of strength from he and Astana team-mate Landa.
The Kazakh-based team was on the front when the race hit the Finestre, with only Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) up the road.
Without support, Contador was put to the sword as Landa accelerated on the muddy slope to catch Zakarin by the support, while Aru also burst clear from the chasing group.
The gap never became too big a threat for Contador, however, and the Spaniard even clawed back the leaders on the steady rise of the day’s final climb.
Landa and Zakarin failed to work well together up the road, further boosting Contador’s hopes, before Aru, Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) bridged to the leading duo.
With the overall lead seemingly insurmountable, Contador remained a safe distance behind as stage honours were contested for the final time between the climbers up the road.
Aru – with Landa working for him – attacked, with Hesjedal and Uran both following the move but being unable to accelerate away with the Italian.
Aru powered away from the Colombian – who has finally found form in the final week – to celebrate a fine end to the race, sealing second place overall in the process.
But Contador, who rolled in sixth at 2’25”, knows he is on the brink of yet another Grand Tour victory, with his lead still more than two minutes to Aru overall.
Giro d’Italia 2015: stage 20 – result
1) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana – 5.12.25hrs
2) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Cannondale-Garmin +18”
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep +24”
4) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana – ST
5) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +34”
6) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +2.25
7) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana +2.28
8) Franco Pellizotti (ITA) – Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec – ST
9) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team Sky
10) Diego Rosa (ITA) – Astana
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 84.03.30hrs
2) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +2.02
3) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana +3.14
4) Andrey Amador (CRC) – Movistar +8.19
5) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Cannondale-Garmin +9.52
6) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team Sky +10.50
7) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +11.02
8) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing +12.17
9) Alexandre Geniez (FRA) – FDJ +16.00
10) Yuri Trofimov (RUS) – Katusha +16.23