The 2009 Giro d’Italia will almost certainly be decided during Friday’s final mountain stage on the slopes of the Mount Vesuvius volcano overlooking Naples.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) comfortably defended his pink jersey for yet another day on Thursday during the stage to Benevento and is more confident than ever that he can keep closest rival Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) in check and set up victory in the Giro before the final time trial stage in Rome.

“I’m relaxed and I feel strong. I’m confident. It’d be perfect not to lose any time before last time trial,” Menchov said after pulling on the pink jersey for a seventh time.

He revealed he has studied the 13km Vesuvius climb and was ready for Di Luca’s attacks.

“I’m not scared or worried about it,” he said, putting a dampener on the Italian media’s hopes of seeing a great finale to the Giro.

“It’s a special climb and has a special history but it’s only as important as the Monte Petrano or Blockhaus stages.”

“It’s difficult to sat what will happen. Maybe there will be a strange breakaway and so the other teams will have to work. It’s the last hard day of the Giro and last opportunity to gain time before the time trial.”

“I expect a hard day but I hope my team can help me. Teams like Liquigas showed their potential in the last few days and I expect that they’ll try to attack. They have two guys in the top and so I expect them to try something. Of course Di Luca will try something as well.”

Menchov did not want to consider what would happen if he cracked and lost time to Di Luca but admitted it would mean the end of his chances of winning the Giro.

“That’s a bad thing to think about. I feel strong and I don’t want to think about losing a minute or two minutes. Even if I’m just one minute down overall, it’s too much. You can’t do anything in short time trial.”

TROUBLE AHEAD?

Thursday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport reported the possible involvement of Menchov in the Humanplasma investigation with the headline of ‘Menchov, trouble looming’.

However, just like with Di Luca in the Giro, Menchov played things cool and insisted he was not worried about developments in the Austrian doping investigation.

The Rabobank team confirmed that they have been contacted by Austrian police but Menchov claimed the team has not told him anything, although he admitted he would be willing to travel to Austria as a witness.

“At the moment, I’m really focused on the race, I don’t know what’ll happen in future,” he said.

“Now the most important thing to finish this race. If it’s really necessary (to go to Austria), I will do it. It’s really not a very nice thing, but if they want to me to do it, I will. I don’t have any problem. After the race, we’ll find a time.”

DI LUCA READY TO ERUPT

Danilo Di Luca has tried to attack Denis Menchov whenever he could during the Giro d’Italia. He wore the pink jersey for the first half of the race but Menchov 1-54 out of him in the Cinque Terre time trial and the little LPR rider has been trying to pull back seconds ever since.

The finish on Mount Vesuvius is his last real chance and he knows it.

“Menchov is strong, he’s shown it time and timer again but I’m not going to throw in the towel. I’m going to try and win the Giro right to the end. I’m giving it everything and can’t do any more than that.”

“I’ve always believed I can win and still do. Menchov cracked a bit yesterday on the finish at Blockhaus. It wasn’t enough for me but who knows the same could happen again near the finish on Mount Vesuvius. I’ve got to be ready to take advantage if he cracks.”

“I know I’ve got to gain at least a minute on him if I want to win the Giro. I wouldn’t be happy with 30 seconds but at least I can go for it in Rome.”

The 164km stage starts in Avellino on the other side of the Vesuvius volcano and passes along the spectacular but nervous Amalfi coast before the 13km climb up to an altitude of 1000 metres. At the finish will almost certainly know who has won the 2009 Giro.

Cycling Weekly will be covering stage 19 in full, with report, results, photos, analysis and exclusive interviews


Giro d’Italia 2009 links

Stage reports

Stage 18: Second Giro stage win for Scarponi

Stage 17: Pellizotti wins on Blockhaus, Menchov remains in pink

Giro rest day review (May 26)

Stage 16: Sastre wins stage to Monte Petrano

Stage 15: Bertagnolli gifted stage win by Cervelo mix-up

Stage 14: Gerrans solos to win

Stage 13: Cavendish takes his third Giro win and prepares to head home

Stage 12: Menchov storms to Giro TT win and race lead

Stage 11: Cavendish romps to second Giro stage win

Stage 10: Di Luca lays down the gauntlet

Giro rest day review (May 18)

Stage nine: Cavendish blitzes rivals to win in Milan

Stage eight: Siutsou makes it two in a row for Columbia-Highroad

Stage seven: Boasson Hagen takes treacherous stage

Stage six: Scarponi wins longest stage with big break

Stage five: Menchov wins mountain battle as Di Luca grabs the pink jersey

Stage four: Di Luca denies Soler on the line; Lovkvist takes pink jersey

Stage three: Cavendish loses pink jersey after being caught behind late crash

Stage two: Petacchi denies Cavendish the stage win

Stage one: Cavendish in pink as Columbia prove their point to Garmin

Photo galleries

Stage 18 photo gallery

Stage 17 photo gallery

Stage 16 photo gallery

Stage 15 photo gallery

Stage 14 photo gallery

Stage 13 photo gallery

Stage 12 photo gallery

Stage 11 photo gallery

Stage 10 photo gallery

Stage nine photo gallery

Stage eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Desktop wallpaper photos

News

Wiggins getting ready for final Giro TT

Menchov brushes off boos and doping questions after the Blockhaus

Di Luca promises to fight to the end of the Giro

Garmin at the Giro: And then there were five

Stannard sees Rome after birthday pain

Di Luca out to topple Menchov on the Blockhaus

Bruyneel tips Menchov to win Giro

Giro Britannia: A long, hot slog in Italy

Leipheimer: Lance had to wait for me today (Stage 16)

Millar climbs off and heads home from Giro

Basso discovers he has few friends at the Giro (stage 15)

Froome agonisingly close to stage victory (stage 14)

Cavendish quits the Giro d’Italia

Cheeky Cipo sneaks a ride in the Giro

Cavendish: His most important Giro win yet (stage 13)

Comment: Lance vs the press, some things never change

Menchov’s first pink jersey (Stage 12)

Wiggins: ‘I went too hard at the start’ (Stage 12 TT)

Lance and Levi: Ready for Giro time trial

Cavendish: ‘Today brought back memories of San Remo’ (stage 11)

Is Di Luca trying too hard, too soon?

Wiggins loses time in the Giro (stage 10)

Armstrong and Basso say sorry for Giro protest

How are the Giro favourites doing?

Cavendish says ‘I’m addicted to winning’

Riders stage go-slow protest during Giro stage in Milan

Cavendish cool before Milan sprint

No sympathy for Armstrong from Giro boss

Boasson Hagen celebrates his birthday early

Cavendish overjoyed for Boasson Hagen

Armstrong ‘livid’ at dangerous Giro stage

Astana riders wear faded kit in protest over unpaid wages

Armstrong sees Leipheimer in pink

Giro news round-up: 14 May

Wiggins: ‘I can’t keep smashing away on the climbs’

Wiggins eyes top 20 finish overall

Armstrong after Giro stage 5: ‘That was hard’

Cavendish looking for Giro revenge

Armstrong happy with stage four performance

Lovkvist will fight to keep Giro lead

Giro could be last race for Armstrong’s team

Vande Velde crashes out of Giro

Petacchi claims he didn’t know of Cavendish crash

Cavendish struggles to find consolation in pink jersey

Petacchi: I’ve been working out how to beat Cav

I’m wearing pink on behalf of the team, says Cavendish

Wiggins ready to win Giro team time trial

Friday, May 8: Giro news round-up

Cavendish out to topple Garmin in Giro team time trial

Team time trial start times

Cycling Weekly’s Giro d’Italia top ten prediction

Brits in Venice for Giro presentation

Armstrong overshadows overall favourites at Giro presentation

Armstrong confident of finding new sponsor for Astana

Armstrong working to save Astana team

Wiggins in top form for Giro

Garmin Slipstream kitted out for Giro opener

Dan Lloyd gets late Giro call-up

Armstrong’s special Giro bikes unveiled

Daniel Lloyd overlooked for Giro ride

Cummings and Thomas not selected for Giro d’Italia

Cavendish tests Giro form at Tour of Romandie

David Millar confirms he’s riding in 2009 Giro

Bennati to take on Cavendish in Giro 2009 sprints

2009 Giro d’Italia to start in Venice

Evans and Silence-Lotto disagree on Giro 2009 ride

Armstrong to ride 2009 Giro

Tuttosport reveals 2009 Giro d’Italia route

Dolce & Gabbana design new Giro jersey

2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features

Find the pink jersey competition

Giro d’Italia 2009: The Big Preview

British riders to have led the grand tours

CW’s Giro top ten prediction

Brits in the Giro 2009

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

CW Classic: the 1987 Giro d’Italia


2008 Giro d’Italia archive

Giro d’Italia 2008 coverage index – race reports, photos, results

From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia

Giro 2008: The final word on this year’s race

Brits at the 2008 Giro: photo special

Five days to go, what’s in store?

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)

Giro d’Italia 2008 preview

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