After a day of glory and promise following his stage win on Monte Petrano, Spaniard Carlos Sastre sent his Cervélo team to the front of the Giro d'Italia at the base of the Blockhaus climb with the intention of putting pressure on overall leader Denis Menchov. Instead, it was Sastre who lost time and slid from third to fifth in the overall rankings.
"I thought I could make a difference today, but I didn't make a difference – I lost," Sastre told Cyclingnews.
Cervélo TestTeam led the race with all of its men in the final kilometres of the short 83-kilometre stage, positioning Sastre well for the fight to the top of the mountain. Yet when Italian Franco Pellizotti attacked, he was able to put nearly two minutes into Sastre en route to the stage win.
"We played our cards and the team did a fantastic job," said Sastre. "All the riders were stronger than I was, they played their cards better than I did and they did really well. I was suffering after the attacks."
Pellizotti started the day 49 seconds behind Sastre in the overall classification, but at the end of the day he was 1:30 ahead of the 2008 Tour de France champion, and had taken over his place as third in the general classification.
In the chase, Sastre also lost more than a minute to Danilo Di Luca, Menchov and Ivan Basso over the final 10 kilometres, and slid to fifth overall after suffering to the finish in a chase group with Lance Armstrong, Gilberto Simoni and Sylvester Szmyd.
Sastre's podium hopes are not over yet. He still has four stages to make up the deficit to Pellizotti to regain third overall. Yet the dream of adding a Giro d'Italia title to his name is much more unlikely considering the 3:30 lead Menchov enjoys on the Spaniard. The race finishes Sunday in Rome with a 14.4-kilometre time trial, but the most decisive stage should be Friday's stage that finishes on top of the Vesuvio volcano.
"We have to be happy with our two wins, there are still two stages to go and I am sure he has not give up hope yet on the top three," said Sastre's teammate Simon Gerrans, winner of the stage to Bologna Sunday.
The bad luck for the Cervélo team started before the final climb as the squad was setting a furious pace to bring back an early breakaway. Ireland's Philip Deignan slid out at high speed on a tight right bend and crashed off the road.
"I was about three behind him when he lost his front wheel," Gerrans told Cyclingnews. Deignan got going again to finish the stage 16 minutes back with a group of about 70 riders.