Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win one of cycling's three major tour races on Sunday, when he overhauled Spanish leader Joaquin Rodriguez on the final stage to take the 95th Giro d'Italia.

Hesjedal started the 21st stage in Milan a full 31 seconds behind Rodriguez, but finished 16 seconds ahead of him in the overall standings. He took 34 minutes, 15 seconds to complete Sunday's 28.2-kilometre individual time trial, placing sixth - 20 places ahead of his Spanish rival.

"It's just been an unreal experience from day one, what the team was able to do. It's unbelievable,'' said Hesjedal, who finished the overall race in 91 hours, 39 minutes, 2 seconds.

"This is incredible. It's a dream come true.”

The 32-year-old Hesjedal, only the third non-Italian to win the Giro in the past 15 years, thanked everyone who had helped him over the previous weeks.

"I couldn't have done it without the team,'' he said.

"I knew I was good when I came into the race. I stayed focused and took every opportunity. The support, the fans at home, it's all unreal. I'd like to thank everyone.''

Marco Pinotti won the final stage in 33:06, 39 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas.

Falling short

Hesjedal and Rodriguez were the last two riders to start. Although Rodriguez had worn the pink jersey for 10 days over the course of the race and gave it his all on Sunday, he ended the stage in 35:02.

Thomas De Gendt, who rode to a memorable solo win atop the Stelvio Pass on Saturday, put in another good performance to finish third overall, 1:39 behind Hesjedal. The Belgium had been 5:40 behind Rodriguez at the start of stage 20.

Defending champion Michele Scarponi was fourth. It is the first time since 1995 that an Italian has not finished on the podium in the Giro, one of the sport's top three races with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta.

Two-time Giro winner Ivan Basso was fifth, 3:44 off the pace.

Taylor Phinney, who won the opening time trial in Denmark, was one of the favourites to claim another stage win. However, the American - who started the day third last in the general classification - followed a race bike instead of taking a right turn and was forced to turn around. Nevertheless, he finished the stage 16th in 34:37.

The final stage was shortened by more than a kilometre due to roadworks.

Source: AP