The final mountain stage of the 2012 Giro d’Italia is over, but the true significance of it won’t be known until the dust settles after tomorrow’s time trial. 

With Thomas De Gendt sneaking his way back into the GC picture on the glory of a dramatic stage win, the stage also saw Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi bow out from contention. Already long shots and looking for time on the day, they lost precious seconds to the riders ahead of them overall. Scarponi put in an attack late, but much too little and without any gain. Ryder Hesjedal looked almost vulnerable, but only just. After an unbelievable ride from Christian VandeVelde to keep the pace high. It worked, as none of the other contenders could offer up any aggression. When a John Gadret attack ended VandeVelde’s turn, Ryder was left in the company of Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao until Michele Scarponi finally took a dig. It broke the race up, with almost the entirety of the top ten riding to the summit on their own. A miraculous recovery by Joaquim Rodriguez put the Spaniard ahead of Hesjedal on the stage and kept him ahead on the GC with a 31″ margin. It’s a two man race between the men featured in the photo above.

Rodriquez himself has said he needed at least two minutes buffer ahead of the Canadian in order to have a chance of winning. The 30km time trial tomorrow is definitely an advantage to Ryder, who has historically beat Rodriquez by a couple of minutes in similar time trials in the past. But Joaquim is still in the maglia rosa, and if he’s shown anything over the past three weeks, it is that he is the last rider in the race to give up without putting everything on the line.