Carlos Sastre erupted up the slopes of Mount Vesuvius to win the 19th stage of the 92nd Giro d’Italia on Friday.
It was his second hilltop win of the tour but maglia rosa Denis Menchov remained level-headed to look a dead cert for overall victory.
Sastre won the 164-kilometre stage between Avellino and Vesuvio in 4hr 33min 23sec .
‘It was two nice victories, but my goal in this Giro d’Italia was something more,’ Sastre told cyclingnews.com with typical honesty.
‘In [Stage 17 to] Blockhaus, I lost two important riders for the climbs – a teammate [Philip Deignan] crashed just before the climb and I lost another good rider two days before [in Volodymir Gustov]. Then I made a mistake when [Danilo] Di Luca attacked and I couldn’t follow. But, I’m happy – three big stages for our team.”
Menchov kept ice-cool. As he has done since he took the lead seven stages ago in the Cinque Terre time trial, the cold-faced Rabobank leader defended superbly, allowing those who did not threaten him to ride away – but never losing sight of arch-rival Di Luca of LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini, the pair ending the stage on the same time, a half-minute behind Sastre in third and fourth, respectively.
Throughout this race, Menchov never looked like he’d gone into the red – Friday told the same story. ‘From the very first stages, it was clear Di Luca was ready to win,” he told Cyclingnews.
‘The most important thing [after I took the race lead] was to follow him, so the situation now is perfect. To be in the race lead now, it’s shown I’ve performed well and almost achieved my number one goal,” said Menchov, whose lead to Di Luca narrowed to 18 seconds, courtesy of an eight-second time bonus awarded for third on the stage.
Back in the field Barloworld’s South Africans John-Lee Augustyn and Robbie Hunter placed 70th and 101st respectively (10:22 and 17:11 behind).
In the overall standings, Augustyn lies 76th (2:21:27 back) and Hunter 3:57:05 behind.