Giro d'Italia 2009 stage 19 photo gallery, by Graham Watson>>
Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) set the roads of the Giro d'Italia alight, providing an explosive finale to stage 19 up the legendary Vesuvius volcano.
In a virtual carbon copy of stage 16 which he won in similar style on Monte Petrano, Sastre launched a solo attack on the day's big climb, leaving the sparring duo of race leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) to indulge in their own scrap behind him.
It was crunch time for the Di Luca - today represented the last chance for him to claw back some time from race leader Menchov ahead of Sunday's final individual time trial in Rome. Being a weaker rider against the clock than Menchov, Di Luca reckoned he needed a minute in hand before Sunday to stand a chance of winning the 2009 race.
Starting the day 26 seconds adrift of Menchov in the overall classification, Di Luca was out to get every second he could - including a time bonus at the finish. Menchov knew he'd be in for a fight, and openly admitted - or should that be taunted - that he'd been studying the final Vesuvius climb carefully.
In the event, despite attacking repeatedly Di Luca could not shake off Menchov but he did gain a valuable bonus for his third place to cut his deficit to just 18 seconds. Unless the diminutive Italian miraculously gains more time tomorrow and then rides the time trial of his life on Sunday, the 2009 race belongs to Menchov.
Earlier in the stage, Mauro Facci (Quick Step) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r) faced a long, hot and lonely slog after escaping from the bunch after 16 kilometres. The peloton, driven by Di Luca's LPR Brakes' henchmen, kept the time gap in check.
With temperatures again touching 40 degrees centigrade, the weather provided as much of an obstacle as the 13 kilometre climb up Vesuvius. The escape duo saw their lead melt away on the baking roads, and were cruelly reeled in just as they reached the final climb.
As the peloton edged towards the base of Vesuvius, the big guns started to mass ominously at the front of the bunch. Everyone seemed to have an agenda.
Liquigas muscled to the front first, winding up the pace for Franco Pellizotti and Ivan Basso. Several attacks went up the road, but no one took much notice until Basso had a dig.
Then Carlos Satre (Cervelo), who had appeared to lose touch with the leaders, launched past the maglia rosa group and caught Basso. Stage 16 winner Sastre set the pace, with Basso clinging to his wheel and the two opened up a gap.
With five kilometres to go, Sastre put his foot on the accelerator and left Basso. Behind, the leaders group containing Pellizotti, Di Luca, Menchov and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) were occupied in their own battle of wits.
Di Luca kept attacking, but each time he moved he would look around to see the pink-clad Russian on his wheel. Pellizotti too, kept testing his companions on the climb - but he had a bigger worry in the shape of Sastre. Basso held back to help team-mate Pellozotti in an attempt to keep his third place overall from the grasp of Spaniard.
Sastre took the stage win unchallenged, but his effort didn't reward him with enough of a time gap over Pellizotti, second on the stage, to jump up to third overall. But it did see him usurp Basso in fourth.
Di Luca tried over and over to ditch Menchov, but could not lose him and the pair crossed the line in third and fourth. Basso came in fifth, with Leipheimer having a better day in the mountains to take sixth.
FINAL ROAD STAGE TOMORROW
Tomorrow's stage 20 will give the overall contenders a chance to rest up a little before Sunday's final time trial. It's a relatively flat 203km stage from Napoli to Anagni that features on nasty little climb about 20km from the finish.
Will Di Luca launch a late attack to try and gain more time on Menchov? Or will the remaining sprinters bring it together for one last bunch finish? Anything could happen.
Stage 19: Avellino - Vesuvio, 164km
1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) Cervelo
2. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 21sec
3. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes at 30sec
4. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at same time
5. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas at 35sec
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 53sec
7. Tadej Valjavec (Slovakia) Ag2r at 1-14
8. Serge Pauwels (Belgium) Cervelo at 1-15
9. Jose Serpa (Colombia) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni at same time
10. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Acqua & Sapone at same time
16. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-42
79. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 13-09
130. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 17-11
133. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 17-11
136. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 17-11
145. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 17-11
158. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 17-11
160. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 17-11
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank
2. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes at 18sec
3. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 1-39
4. Carlos Sastre (Spain) Cervelo at 2-40
5. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas at 3-33
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 4-55
7. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Acqua & Sapone at 8-48
8. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad at 9-32
9. Tadej Valjavec (Slovakia) Ag2r at 10-42
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy) Lampre at 11-32
36. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 1-14-41
69. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 2-12-40
British riders Bradley Wiggins and Jeremy Hunt
Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer
Stage 19 scenery
Carlos Sastre goes on the attack with his trademark grimace
Giro d'Italia stage 19 preview>>
|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.
Friday, May 29. Clue number 16:
How are your electrolytes? You're Nuun too wise if you don't take your drink with you
Today's jersey is hidden on www.parker-international.co.uk
Full details of CW's find the pink jersey competition>>
|Giro d'Italia 2009 links|
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
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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