Frenchman and Spaniard in contention for top five
In the finale of stage 20 to Sestriere, two riders went on the attack because they had it in mind to gain some time over their adversaries, as they were well aware that they can only lose some during the final time trial. John Gadret accelerated to catch up with Joaquim Rodriguez who had attacked from the pink jersey group with ten kilometres remaining before reaching the ski resort that hosted the 2006 winter Olympics.
Rodriguez came home in third position as Vassil Kiryienka and José Rujano were unreachable. Gadret closed the stage in fifth 1.04 after the Spaniard from Katusha, who moved up from eighth to fifth overall as he passed Kanstantsin Sivtsov, Mikel Nieve and Roman Kreuziger. The Frenchman's action helped him to strengthen his fourth place on GC just slightly. He has 1.38 advantage over Rodriguez, 2.34 over Rujano, 2.49 over Kreuziger and 3.02 over Denis Menchov - who was Gadret's biggest threat until he lost 55 seconds on him on stage 19.
"Today I've attacked for losing the least time possible from Rodriguez," Gadret explained. "I had no hope of a top three finish, I'm realistic about that. I was only defending my fourth place. Time trial on flat roads is my weak point. Rodriguez and I are pretty much the same. I hope he won't gain that time on me in the time trial."
Gadret and Rodriguez are usually close to the bottom of the ranking in flat time trials. While the Frenchman seems to have enough of a margin to keep his fourth place, the Spaniard needs to complete the 26km course from Rho to the piazza Duomo in Milan with a deficit inferior to 1.11 from Kreuziger, who can reasonably target the top 5 overall. Menchov also remains in contention for the top 5 with 1.24 to close on Rodriguez. The Russian is only 13 seconds down on the Czech.
"I wanted to move up to fifth overall," Rodriguez said. "But I've suffered a lot during the first week of the Giro. After the Zoncolan (stage 14), I've reshuffled my goal and I've targeted a stage win instead of GC. I've had a few occasions but I didn't score."
"We have absolutely no chance of winning tomorrow," echoed his team-manager Andreï Tchmil. "For us at Katusha, a fourth week is missing at the Giro. We've ridden a beautiful race but we haven't won a stage. Rodriguez has been one of the very few riders who have dared to attack Contador. Today it was the first time that he wasn't followed by the pink jersey when he attacked."
Tchmil acknowledged that Filippo Pozzato didn't fit in their plan to have a team fully at the service of Rodriguez but his choice to leave the former Italian champion out of the final line up of Katusha also diminished their chances of winning a stage, as "Super Pippo" did last year.
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