Giro d?Italia leader Danilo di Luca (Liquigas) has said he will attack on Monte Zoncolan on Wednesday in an attempt to extend his overall race lead before Saturday?s time trial stage to Verona.
Boosted by his strong performance on Sunday, when he attacked and gained time in the final four kilometres of the final climb to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Di Luca made it clear that he is ready to take the race to his rivals.
?If I feel good, on Wednesday I?ll attack again to gain more time,” he said on Monday after spinning on the rollers for 30 minutes instead of training in the rain on the second rest day of the Giro in the Dolomites.
?They say Monte Zoncolan is the hardest climb in Europe and so it?ll be a very important stage. It?s very steep but I think it suits me and I?m confident of my form.?
?Mazzoleni is now my closest rival and he?ll be very strong in the time trial to Verona on Saturday so I?ve got to drop him on the Zoncolan and gain as much time as possible.?
Mazzoleni moved up from ninth to second overall after his aggressive ride on Sunday. He is now 1-51 behind Di Luca, with Andy Schleck (CSC) third at 2-56. Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) is fourth overall at 3-19, Damiano Cunego (Lampre) is fifth at 3-23 and Sunday?s stage winner Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) is sixth at 3-39.
SAUNIER DUVAL TRIO READY FOR LAST ATTACK
The Saunier Duval team put Di Luca under pressure during Sunday?s difficult mountain stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Simoni, Piepoli and Ricco promised to take on Di Luca on the slopes of Monte Zoncolan during a press conference on the rest day.
?Di Luca has a good lead but the Giro isn?t over yet,? Simoni warned.
?There?s still a week of racing to go and I don?t feel beaten. Di Luca is very strong but he has to attack on Monte Zoncolan if he wants to win the Giro. Mazzoleni is a good time trial rider and so Di Luca will need at least three-minute advantage to be safe.?
?This is my last Giro as a team leader and I don?t want to have any regrets when we get to Milan. We?ve got a strong team and so we?ve got to try and benefit if Di Luca has a bad day. We?ll be all over him on the Zoncolan.?
?The new road up to the Zoncolan is much harder than the old one. It goes up steep all the way and there isn?t an easy section. It?s going to make a difference in the race.?
?Unfortunately, I?ve lost 30 seconds here and there and we had a bad team time trial and that gave Di Luca a clear advantage. He was in trouble on the stage to Bergamo but for some reason he got some help from Lampre. If they hadn?t helped him it could have been a completely different Giro??
After a wet rest day in the Dolomites, the Giro recommences on Tuesday with the 189km 16th stage from Agordo to Lienz in Austria. It includes the Passo di Campolongo and the Bannberg climb near the finish but a breakaway is expected to dominate the day as the overall contenders rest up before Wednesday?s 142km stage from Lienz to Monte Zoncolan.