By Jean-François Quénet in Sutrio
The wearers of the leaders' jerseys increased their advantage on the Zoncolan Wednesday during stage 17. Danilo Di Luca had 1'51" advantage on runner-up Eddy Mazzoleni before the day; he now has 2'24" on Andy Schleck, who also extended his own lead in the white jersey competition from 43 seconds over Riccardo Riccò to 2'55". Finally, Leonardo Piepoli secured the green king of the mountains jersey. Of all the leaders, Schleck was again the most improved rider of the day.
"Today Schleck has impressed me a lot," Di Luca said. "I didn't think he could climb at such a high rhythm. He's really a phenomenon." The Luxembourger is the new runner-up in the Giro, a move he's made step by step. The next major battle in the general classification will come Saturday in a 43-kilometre individual time trial from Bardolino to Verona. "I gained 30 seconds over him in the hilly time trial," Di Luca said. "The next course will suit him better, but 2'24" is a good advantage."
The Maglia Rosa reckons he has an "80 percent chance of winning the Giro now. ... This is already a high percentage." He continued, "I feel much more secure now that Mazzoleni is two minutes further [back] than before this stage. Until Saturday evening, it's impossible to say more."
Di Luca has been known for suffering in the third week of a Grand Tour, but such a thing seems a part of the past. "I was also classified as someone who couldn't win the Classics because I was limited to 200 kilometres, and I've won a few [Giro di Lombardia, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège]," Di Luca said.
"Maybe after this Giro, people will say that I'm not good for the fifth week of a stage race...?"