Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) nearly has his first mountain jersey secured after 11 years of racing the Giro d'Italia. The Italian leads the classification with three more days remaining, including today's climb up to the rim of the Vesuvio volcano.
"The maglia verde ['green jersey' - ed.] is equal to a stage win," Garzelli told Cyclingnews. "I want to win it and I will do all I can to win it. I hope to arrive in Rome with this jersey."
Despite winning the overall Giro d'Italia in 2000, Garzelli's goal was a stage win prior to this year's Giro. He started concentrating on collecting as many points in the mountains classification after a long solo move in day 10 to Pinerolo.
"There are not too many mountains left, but I needed to keep an eye on Danilo Di Luca. That is why I made sure to finish ahead of him at Blockhaus."
Di Luca, who lives close to the Blockhaus climb in Abruzzo, had many supporters on top of the climb Wednesday. They booed Garzelli for sprinting ahead of Di Luca for second place behind winner Franco Pellizotti.
Di Luca needed a maximum of the top-three bonus seconds on offer for his fight in the Giro d'Italia overall classification, but Garzelli needed the mountain points on the climb to secure his lead.
"I was not thinking of Di Luca or anyone else, I was only thinking of taking the best place I could to get more points towards the maglia verde. I am friends with Di Luca, and we will stay friends. If he took second and I took third and then he wins on Vesuvio he will take the maglia verde from me by one point."
Garzelli leads with 22 points over Andriy Grivko and Di Luca. There are three more categorised climbs and a maximum 21 points on offer on stage 19. Garzelli only needs to finish the Giro d'Italia to win the jersey.
Garzelli first rode the Giro d'Italia in 1997. He helped teammate Marco Pantani win the 1998 Giro d'Italia and won his own in 2000.
Emanuele Sella won the green jersey last year.