Spanish climber Iban Mayo gave Saunier Duval their fourth Giro stage victory with four different riders on Friday, winning the rain-soaked hilly stage from Treviso to Terme di Comano.
Mayo was part of the decisive break of the stage that went clear after 27km and then attacked again on the descent of the Pian delle Fugazze climb. He was joined by five other riders but dropped them on the final climb despite admitting still being five kilos above his best racing weight. While Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff) crashed twice on the twisting descent, Mayo took things more carefully and won alone, 43 seconds ahead of Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) and 1-04 ahead of Marco Marzano (Lampre).
The overall contenders suffered in the rain but first Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) and then Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana) both tried attacks on the very last major climb of the Giro. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) counter-attacked Piepoli to show he was not scared and then did not panic when Mazzoleni attacked. His Liquigas team quickly got organised and lead the chase.
Di Luca and all the overall leaders finished together, 3-13 behind Mayo, who finally seems to be back to his best after two years of poor results.
?After winning the stage to Alpe d?Huez in the 2003 Tour de France I had some high and lows. I injured my shoulder and my knee and then I had some bad years,? Mayo said.
?I changed teams this year and left Euskaltel for Saunier Duval. I?m happy because the change gave me new motivation and there?s a good atmosphere in this team. I?m happy to have given the team another win after those by Piepoli, Ricco and Simoni in the mountains. We?ve shown the strength in depth of our team. This is my first Giro d?Italia, my first ever win in Italy and my first win of the year. I just hope it?s not the last.?
?Today the team worked very well and I then went on the attack. It was a hard day in the rain but I?m very happy to have won. We?ve won four stages with four different riders and we?re very happy with our Giro. Hopefully, Simoni will finish on the final podium as well.?
Di Luca was cold and wet after the rain-sokaed stage but was confident of retaining his pink jersey in Saturday?s 43km time trial from Bardolino to Verona near Lake Garda.
?There?s only 24 hours to go before the Giro is decided and so we?re almost there,? he said.
?I?m not afraid of the time trial but I?m not going to under estimate anyone and I?m going to give it everything. I know that 2:24 on Schleck is a good advantage and starting last will also be a big help. I?ll know the time gaps on my rivals and can judge my ride.?
?I?ll study the time trial course a few hours before my ride. There are two short climbs but it?s a very fast course and the average speed will be high. I hope it doesn?t rain because that will be an extra problem. It?s never nice to ride an important time trial in the rain.?
The course for the 43km time trial is very similar to that used in the 2004 world time trial championships. David Zabriskie (CSC) finished fifth behind Australia?s Michael Rogers in 2004 and is favourite to win Saturday?s stage because he is the only time trial specialist left in the Giro.
The Giro ends on Sunday with a flat stage to Milan.
GIRO D’ITALIA: STAGE 19 RESULTS
1 Iban Mayo (Esp) Saunier Duval ? Prodir 179km in 4-34-49
2 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step at 0-43
3 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre at 1-04
4 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank at 1-08
5 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 1-08
6 Mario Aerts (Bel) Predictor Lotto at 2-54
7 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) T-Mobile at 2-58
8 Maximillian Richeze (Arg) Panaria at 3-13
9 Lilian Jergou (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 3-13
10 Josep Jufre Pou (Esp) Predictor Lotto at 3-13
84 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 23-08
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 19
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 86-46-28
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 2-24
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval ? Prodir at 2-28
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 3-29
5 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana at 3-46
6 Riccardo Ricco? (Ita) Saunier Duval ? Prodir at 5-19
7 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 8-20
8 David Arroyo (Esp) Caisse d?Epargne at 10-00
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 10-39
10 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 10-55
110 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 2-50-42