Rodriguez and Basso accept their defeat at Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia leader Joaquim Rodriguez and race favorite Ivan Basso have made the same comment at the end of stage 19: "We were supposed to drop Ryder Hesjedal but it's been the opposite."

Rodriguez added: "Hesjedal gave us a lesson. He has surprised me, really. I was on his wheel when he attacked and I preferred to follow the more regular rhythm of [Domenico] Pozzovivo. That was hard enough. It's going to be difficult to beat Hesjedal for the overall win. Now the Giro is in his hands. If he doesn't make any mistake tomorrow, he'll be the winner."

"Hesjedal has shown he is the strongest," Basso echoed. "When someone is the strongest, we only have to congratulate him. When I understood my limits for today, I went at my own rhythm. [Michele] Scarponi's three attacks have put me in difficulty. I haven't managed to make the difference that I wanted. As I couldn't do what I planned this morning, it shows the merit of my adversaries."

Basso is now fourth at 1:45. Seventeen seconds are obviously not enough of a margin for "Purito" over Hesjedal prior to the closing time trial in Milan on Sunday. Saturday's stage features the Mortirolo prior to the final ascent to the Stelvio at 2757 metres of altitude. "I still have the pink jersey," Rodriguez reminded. "I'm still up there, so are Scarponi and Basso who haven't lost all chance to win the Giro. Anything can happen on the Stelvio. That final climb will make a difference. It's going to be difficult to recover some time over Hesjedal but the Mortirolo has put some big champions into troubles before. [Miguel] Indurain was one of them."

In 1994, Indurain didn't manage to follow Marco Pantani who was a new climber in the game. After winning the Giro in 1992 and 1993, the Spaniard lost the corsa rosa to Evgeni Berzin. At the age of 15, Rodriguez was a big fan of his compatriot. He knows how the Mortirolo can change the face of a Giro d'Italia.

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