Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert won the 20th stage of the Giro d’Italia with a powerful and decisive attack with 1.5 kilometres to go to the finish in Anagni.
But the battle for the final pink jersey will go right to the wire, with Danilo Di Luca now trailing Denis Menchov by 20 seconds going into Sunday’s time trial in Rome, after the Russian gained two seconds on his closest rival in an intermediate sprint.
On the final climb, Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) launched a searing attack, and was marked by Yaroslav Popovych (Astana) and Thomas Voeckler (BBOX Bouygues Telecom).
Voeckler got onto Gilbert’s wheel as they went under the kilometre to go banner, but Popovych struggled to get on terms.
Then Gilbert cranked it up again as they started the climb towards the finish line. Sprinting out of the saddle, he pulled away from Voeckler, who stayed seated and tried in vain to close the gap.
Much had been made of the uphill finish, and the possibility of Di Luca winning the stage and taking the time bonus to close the gap on overall leader Menchov.
But as three riders disappeared up the road, Di Luca and Menchov sat in the main bunch and came in together.
However, Menchov actually extended his grip on the pink jersey by two seconds after getting second place to Di Luca’s third at one of the intermediate sprints.
Di Luca missed a trick, allowing Menchov to pinch two crucial seconds and extend his overall lead back to 20. Di Luca’s team-mate won the sprint, but Menchov got second, just ahead of Di Luca.
So the pair go into tomorrow’s final time trial in Rome. Although only 14 kilometres long, the Giro d’Italia is not done and dusted yet.
Menchov is the better time triallist, but the shorter distance will narrow his advantage over Di Luca. And, with rain showers forecast for Rome tomorrow, the city centre course, with its many corners, could become technical.
If it is a test of bike-handling and pure nerve, Di Luca could still have a chance of overhauling the 20-second deficit tomorrow. It will be far from a procession for Menchov.
The early move of the day featured Britain’s Ben Swift (Katusha), Felix Cardenas (Barloworld), Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Francesco De Bonis (Diquigiovanni), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d’Epargne), Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R), Angel Gomez (Fuji) and Robert Forster (Milram), but they were shut down with 48 kilometres to go, as LPR eyed up the final intermediate sprint as an opportunity for Di Luca.
After that, there were a series of moves, the main one being Paolo Tiranlong (Lampre) and Bartosz Hurzarski (ISD), who were joined by Anthony Charteau (Caisse d’Epargne) and Marco Pinotti (Columbia). They were caught on the finishing circuit.
The bunch split up a bit on the run-in to Anagni, as the riders realised that they had all but completed the three-week tour. Lance Armstrong came home in a small group 1-38 down.
Britain’s Chris Froome (Barloworld) had another good day, finishing 20th on the stage in the same time as Menchov and Di Luca. Froome is the top placed Brit in the overall classification at 36th.
Stage 20: Napoli – Anagni, 203km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) Silence-Lotto in 4-30-07
2. Thomas Voeckler (France) BBOX Bouygues Telecom at 2sec
3. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Acqua & Sapone at 7sec
4. Allan Davis (Australia) Quick Step
5. Sebastien Hinault (France) AG2R
6. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) Columbia-Highroad
8. Giovanni Visconti (Italy) ISD
9. Simon Gerrans (Australia) Cervelo
10. Serge Pauwels (Belgium) Cervelo all at same time.
11. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 7sec
12. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes at 7sec
20. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 7sec
64. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-38
111. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 3-42
113. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 3-42
141. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 7-55
147. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 13-28
153. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 13-28
154. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 13-28
Overall classification after stage 20
1. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank in 85-44-05
2. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) Liquigas at 20sec
3. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 1-43
4. Carlos Sastre (Spain) Cervelo at 2-44
5. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas at 3-37
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 4-59
7. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Acqua & Sapone at 8-44
8. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad at 9-36
9. Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia) Ag2r at 10-46
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy) Lampre at 11-36
12. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 15-04
36. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 1-14-45
73. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 2-20-32
106. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 3-07-25
114. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 3-21-34
132. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 3-42-06
150. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 4-07-44
161. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 4-18-17
Britain’s Ben Swift was part of the day’s early break
Denis Menchov: barring disaster, he’s got the 2009 race sewn up
Philippe Gilbert takes his first grand tour stage win
|Find the pink jersey competition|
Find the jerseys throughout the Giro and you could win a £400 Parker International voucher.
18 pink jerseys will be hidden around the Cycling Weekly and Parker International websites over the course of the three week race – all you have to do is decipher the clues at the end of the stage reports to find them.
Saturday, May 30. Clue number 17:
Can you name every rider that started the 2008 Tour de France?
Today’s jersey is hidden on www.cyclingweekly.com
|Giro d’Italia 2009 links|
2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features
2008 Giro d’Italia archive