The Stage Eighteen individual time trial from Mori to Polsa presented a test for the leaders, a hard tempo climb for the rest of the field. The 20.6km (12.8mi) test has a 5% average gradient for the length of the time trial, though the race really resembles two long hills at 6.6%. The gradient is steep enough to slow down the heaviest time trialists, but not give an advantage to the specialist climbers.
This means that none of the top riders for the overall had a distinct advantage. It also meant that an aspiring rider like Cannondale Pro Cycling's Damiano Caruso had a chance to move up a bit on his immediate competition, if not a chance to make up a little ground on the top riders of the race.
Starting off ahead of the general classification contenders, Caruso found his rhythm fast, posted the second-fastest, up to that point, intermediate split, and roared into the finish with the fastest time set thusfar.
In the hot seat, he was quickly displaced by Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez. But his second place held as the better riders came in, and the weather deteriorated. The dark skies decided to rain on the last riders.
Word came from the intermediate point that Pink Jersey Vincenzo Nibali was clearly the fastest, with Lampre's Michele Scarponi second fastest. Second-placed overall Cadel Evans of BMC was 1:31 down on Nibali and 34 seconds slower than Caruso.
At the finish, the second half of the time trial hurt just about everybody. Caruso's second stood as Scarponi and Evans came in. Race leader Nibali, on an inspired ride, crossed the line first, pushing Caruso down another place to third, 1:20 down on Nibali.
A great ride, Caruso can take more than just satisfaction from the effort. "The key to my performance was the approach. I wasn't stressed or under pressure, so I had the chance to concentrate in the best way. I didn't expect to be on the podium today. The feeling was good during the warm up, and finishing right behind the Pink Jersey, Nibali and the (former) Olympic champion, Sanchez, is a big result. During the final stages of a Grand Tour all the riders are tired and the mental approach can often be the difference. A time trial race is a test of one's condition. So I'm more than happy for this placing because it tells me I should aim for good results during the next two stages."
Tomorrow's Stage Nineteen trek through the high mountains, 139km (86.37mi) from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello could be a highlight of the Giro. The course, as laid out, celebrates the 1988 Giro victory of Andy Hampsten, the first American to win the race. It is set to ride over the Passo Gavia and then the Passo dello Stelvio, two brutal climbs, and finishes atop the Val Martello, the easiest climb of the day, but still a category one monster. What is hanging over the race is weather. There could be more rain and snow, and snow will force the stage to be re-routed on lower roads. That the conditions could be bad are striking; what made Hampsten's victory so special was the bad weather the race faced on that day; rain turned to snow on the Gavia, upending the race. Cannondale Pro Cycling's Caruso has the form to be among the leaders. If his legs are as good tomorrow as they were today, he'll be attacking on the Martello.
Giro d'Italia 2013
Mori to Polsa (ITT) 20.6km
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team in 0:44:29
2. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 0:00:58
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:01:20
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:01:21
5. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:25
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
110. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 0:06:01
112. Elia Viviani (Ita) 0:06:05
123. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:06:24
129. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 0:06:37
130. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:06:39
153. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:07:53
164. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:08:47
168. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 0:09:33
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:55:58
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:02
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:12
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:05:14
5. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:06:09
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
23. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:29:38
67. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 1:55:08
91. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 2:22:06
94. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 2:24:23
103. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 2:29:22
116. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 2:44:15
117. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 2:44:36
118. Elia Viviani (Ita) 2:45:11
130. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 2:58:51