With his own team?s hopes of success over, Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel is convinced that Denis Menchov (Rabobank) can keep the maglia rosa all the way to Rome and win the centenary edition of the Giro d?Italia.

Lance Armstrong again refused to talk to the media after a 90-minute ride in the 30-degree heat but Bruyneel was happy to analyse Astana?s performance and name Menchov as his Giro winner.

?It?s Menchov. If everything goes right,? he said qualifying his prediction.

?Blockhaus could be a weird stage. It comes after a rest day and so something could go dramatically wrong. But I?ve seen that Menchov is strong and that he?s a smart racer. For example he didn?t react to Sastre because his closest rival is Di Luca and so he stayed with him and then beat him in the sprint. That?s the way to race.?

E for effort. Must try harder
Like a school teacher writing term reports, Bruyneel was not so happy with his own team. He scolded Leipheimer for cracking on the stage to Monte Petrano but was full of praise for Armstrong.

His thoughts were in line with the marks out of ten given by Italian paper Gazzetta dello Sport. Leipheimer got a four, while Armstrong got a seven and a pat on the head.

?Obviously we’re disappointed that the situation is what it is now,? the Belgian team manager said.

?We were hoping that everything could stay as it was and we hoped for a good day for Levi and a bad day for Menchov and the others. That’s what we calculated it would have taken for Levi to have a chance after the time trial.?

?Obviously yesterday he had a bad day, the last week is getting a little long for him. But that?s expected. If you look back on the season, he’s been there since February, since the Tour of California, on a very high level. He didn’t race that much, but he won every single race he did until now. So he came into the Giro real strong, which was good because the beginning was hard. But no matter (how) a big stage race is designed you always have to be strong the last week, and he’s going down a little bit now.”

?As a team we did everything we could. We rode a good race team-wise, strategy-wise but then if you don’t have the legs you don’t have the legs. That’s the way it is. There’s no regrets. Sastre was the best yesterday. Menchov is a solid leader, so obviously we lost all our options now for the Giro. The podium is also going to be difficult.”

His judgment of Armstrong, who is clearly the teacher?s pet, was much more favourable.

“It’s exactly what I hoped for,? Bruyneel said with his gloating big smile.

?I didn’t hope for a great result in the Giro. I didn’t expect him to be with the favorites all the time, but I?d hoped that he could be progressing or be close to the favorites in the last week and that’s a little bit what’s happening.?

Now we’ll see what happens in the next stages. The Blockhaus is a very short stage, it’s a very weird stage. And then there?s Vesuvio. I would like to see if we can continue this progression, or at least stay at the same level.”

Stage win for Lance?
But can Lance win a stage before Rome? Maybe not.

“It’s difficult to win a stage. If the opportunity is there, he will definitely try, but there’s a lot of other guys that want to win a stage, too,” Bruyneel conceded.

?He?s not yet on par with the other leaders and I think that’s unrealistic to expect. If he can get out of this Giro with a top 10 level, which I think is where he is right now ?I?d say he’s between fifth and seventh, that’s actually a lot better than we expected. Especially keeping in mind that six weeks before the Giro, he broke (his) collarbone and had surgery. There was talk about whether he would even be able to start the Giro, so that’s the good thing.”

Giro d’Italia 2009 links

Stage reports
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 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

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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