It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities was equally applicable on today’s penultimate leg of the 2012 Giro, as for once the queen stage lived up to its billing and provided an epic suffer-fest which offered us both elation and misery and left the fate of the maglia rosa still hanging delicately in the balance.
Indeed, the stage could have been subtitled A Tale of Two Races. Thomas De Gendt produced one of the most memorable solo victories of recent times to put himself within touching distance of the podium, while behind him overall leader Joaquim Rodriguez grabbed a few critical seconds and Ryder Hesjedal defended his position as favourite with great assertiveness and style. But for Michele Scarponi and Ivan Basso, the two most recent champions, the stage saw their hopes of victory effectively extinguished.