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Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
Italian leads mountains classification with five days to race
Franco Pellizotti is happy with his decision to focus on a stage win and the climber's polka dot jersey of the Tour de France instead of general classification, he said after Tuesday's stage 16.
"It would have been too difficult and I could have only achieved a top five. I preferred to aim for this jersey and I hope to take it all the way to Paris. Taking it to Paris is the same as a top five finish for me," he said.
Italy's Pellizotti (Liquigas) gained many of his points in the mountains classification in last Sunday's stage to Tarbes. He narrowly took over the lead from Spaniard Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) after Friday's wet stage to Colmar.
He gained 50 more points today thanks to being part of an escape group that formed on the first of two climbs, the Col du Grand-St-Bernard. He attacked the group with Russian Vladimir Karpets (Team Katusha) and topped the climb first.
"I attacked from the escape because there were too many of us and only a few were contributing to the work. I took off and then Vladimir Karpets joined me, he was aiming for the classification and so it was a good alliance."
A chase group caught the duo, but Pellizotti found a new partner in Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto). Pellizotti topped the Petit-St-Bernard climb first and took maximum points.
Martínez failed to gain any points on the two climbs, losing 50 points to Pellizotti today. Pellizotti leads the classification by 58 points over Martínez and 62 points over Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom).
Pellizotti missed winning the stage despite today being the third time he has been in an escape. He lacked the power to respond to the race-winning move by Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and finished seventh.
There are two more high-mountain stags, tomorrow's stage to Le Grand-Bornand and Saturday's stage to Mont Ventoux. There are five climbs in the 169.5 kilometres to Le Grand-Bornand.
"There are some very hard climbs. I would like to go in an escape again, but the last two climbs, Romme and Colombière, will be stomping grounds for the classification riders."
Pellizotti decided against riding for the classification in the Tour de France after a successful Giro d'Italia in May. He place third overall in the race behind Denis Menchov and Danilo Di Luca.
He is currently 40th overall in the Tour. His teammates Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger are sixth and 12th, respectively.
The Tour de France ends with a flat stage to Paris on Sunday.