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Menchov "confident" of Giro win

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) intends to uncork one last bottle on Sunday

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) intends to uncork one last bottle on Sunday (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Russian Denis Menchov is positioned to win the Centennial Giro d'Italia Sunday in Rome after he managed the final mountains battle up Vesuvio on Friday.

Menchov of team Rabobank leads Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) by 18 seconds in the overall classification. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) is in third at 1:39.

"I am confident and I have to be satisfied with this situation. I know that I am in good shape right now and that I can do a good time trial, this situation is better for me," said Menchov.

Menchov successfully defended the overall lead he took last Thursday when he won the Cinque Terre time trial. He faced the last mountain test on Monte Vesuvio, a 13-kilometre climb at the end of the 164-kilometre stage near Napoli.

The 31-year-old fought with Di Luca, who attacked five times on the climb. Pre-race favourite Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) escaped for the win with 7.5 kilometres remaining and moved from fifth to fourth overall, but he did not affect Menchov's lead. Franco Pellizotti finished in second.

Di Luca sprinted ahead of Menchov near the volcano's top to take third and the eight-second time bonus. The Italian moved eight seconds closer to Menchov in the overall classification.

"Sure, I would have liked to have won those eight seconds instead of lose them. I didn't win the sprint today because I couldn't," said Menchov.

Di Luca will have another chance to grab seconds at the end of Saturday's stage to Anagni. The slight uphill finish suites him and could give him a two-second lead in the overall if he wins. Di Luca says, though, that he needs near a 40-second lead prior to the final stage on Sunday, a 14.4-kilometre time trial.

"You have to respect your rivals - he's doing a great job - until the final arrival in Rome you cannot confirm anything. We are playing this Giro with seconds."

The arrival in Rome could see the first Russian to win the Giro d'Italia since Pavel Tonkov in 1996. Menchov already has won two Grand Tours to his name, the 2005 and 2007 Vuelta a España.

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